To you who shot the stag…

  • 30 October, 2011


You have probably seen or heard in the news last week that a 250lb, 19 point-antler stag was shot dead by a poacher or trophy hunter on Exmoor. The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus,) nicknamed the Goodleigh Giant, stood nearly 9ft tall and was thought to be destined to grow into one of the largest wild animals in Britain. It took 3 bullets to the back and belly, almost certainly dying slowly and in pain.

What is it that blinds some people to the natural power, beauty and wonder of such a beast? Or rather, what is it that must be possessed of that power by Killing?

It cannot be doubted that the magnificence of the animal was recognized or it simply wouldn’t have been worth the trophy.

There is some doubt surrounding the motive, but whether this was a bungled poaching incident or trophy killing. Either way there is little doubt that it would have been done for the money.

With thousands of pounds being attributed to the head of one of these animals for sport, it’s not so much about whether this is legal (as with the permission of the land owner and the correct calibre bullet it is, even in the rutting season). For me this is about whether, simply, it is right.

With no natural predator since the extinction of wolves from our island in the 18th century (apart from foxes, wild cats and eagles that will occasionally take a young calf), the culling of deer is essential to keep down their numbers so as not to out-grow the food supply. Culling also removes the sick, the weak and old individuals so that the herd is made up of strong and healthy animals.

The animals need to rut to pass on their genes and in the words of Peter Green, a veterinary advisor to the British Deer Society, The Royal Parks of London, and the National Trust, “There is nothing wrong with the shooting of a mature stag that is older and in decline, since he will already have left his genes in the population and he will no longer be able to compete with the more vigorous stags that are a year or two younger than him – but the indiscriminate shooting simply for trophies is reprehensible.”

I’m glad that I don’t fully understand the kudos gained from slaying a beast such as this stag but if I am able to move aside my indignation, then I feel that I need to probe this a little.

Human beings are at once capable of extreme, seemingly irrational, acts of compassion, kindness, bravery, malice and cruelty. Destruction is, it would appear, a very human trait in the desire for war and harm.

I am fascinated, that we are fascinated by, murder.

The T.V is choc-a-bloc with it. I like Poirot and Miss Marple with the best of them, but it worries me that we are culturally obsessed by violence.

There is a statistic (though all statistics are so hopelessly open to interpretation and manipulation that it serves only to loosely illustrate my point ) that by the age of 12, most children will have seen something in the region of 8000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on T.V alone.

Why are we cramming ourselves and our children with this?

I don’t have a T.V. Not to be self-righteous, but because I’ve got used to it and now prefer it that way (for all sorts of reasons which I would be digressing even further should I go into now).

But I do watch DVDs, and prefer the pansier end of T.V and film.

I’ll give you a couple of examples: if I’m hung-over I watch Shrek, if I’m feeling really miserable I watch The Darling Buds Of May. Yes, I know! But it fills me with fabulous, fluffy, fantasy feelings that everything is going to be alright.

I also love foreign film – almost anything as long as it’s atmospheric.

I don’t watch horror because it’s scary.

I like pretty much anything from HBO, violent or not.

I live in the country on my boat and the only reason that I have time to write this is because I have run out of diesel – or rather, after carting diesel to the boat, my batteries had a stab at turning the engine over and then died. This leaves me with no power. So no electricity and no lights, though I have gas to cook on.

This all comes, by the way, after having to leave two bags of shopping in the supermarket because I have nothing in my account at that moment.

I found myself being weirdly philosophical about it and realised that I quite enjoy times of what one may call hardship: it offers me simplicity.

I do have a bottle of wine which is beside me now; I have wood, coal and candles and I can easily cobble up some food from what I have in the cupboards.

I have bought a lottery ticket recently, not to win £200 million or whatever it was that a couple won last week, but to win £70 or £80 quid. That would be nice I reckon. A lovely little surprise that would both help and feel, relative.

I was talking to my friends today and they were saying, probably quite naturally, well if you don’t want it give it to me.

But my anxiety is that I’d want it too much. If I have won £20 million on last Wednesday’s lottery, I feel sure that I wouldn’t be able to bare diminishing it to £18 million or I’d start to panic.

This is my irrationality.

I would prefer to be poor. I don’t like debt, (although I have some) but I would rather be forced into relative poverty and simplicity rather than be forced to deal with my own feelings of greed.

I don’t like it when I desire objects as when I do I always seem to be jinxed into running out of cash. The more I desire, the less well-off I seem to be: it has a peculiarly addictive quality to it. I do, though, love objects and design, however, I guess I dislike for myself the desire felt in the need to possess that object.

I say poverty. Of course it is not poverty. I have a home; I can eat and stay warm and dry.

I am not poor: I am rich. It takes situations like this to remind me.

All I need now is for it to be raining, because I am rarely more satisfied than when I am at home with food, fire and protection from the elements that I can hear tapping on my roof.

Am I saying that this fool poacher/trophy hunter watched too much T.V? Or was too greedy?

I’m not sure that I am. Of course T.V has much to offer in terms of entertainment and information, and by no means is it all aggressive.

I do worry though, that repeated negative reinforcements, along with a society with a culture based largely on an inclination to possess, and our development of manufactured and mass produced foods, may draw us away from the natural cycle of life and from an awareness that we should be part of the food chain of which we have removed ourselves.

Natural harmony for humans as an animal like any other is now, in most parts of the world, largely just a theoretical concept. In so many ways the ‘un-civilised’ are more civil than ‘civilised’.

I have to say, many people were reportedly trying to protect the location of this animal as they were worried by the inevitability of something like this happening should news of such a good specimen get carried into the less scrupulous hunting circles. I am, for the most part, not at all faithless in my fellow human-kind as there are a wealth of good and caring people in the world, however…

What is missing from a person’s life that they need to prove themselves by killing a majestic animal?

I have much sympathy for hunting wild food and foraging and for those that narrow the detachment that we have from the source of our food. But this animal was not shot for food. It was left.

So, to you who shot the stag: I have this to say…

If you want to prove yourself then don’t hide behind a telescopic sighted shot gun. Go and look at the animal in the eye and challenge it. Take it on hand to horn. Actually, I don’t want you to try to master the beast at all, but if you have to then please have the decency to do it on a level playing field.

You are not powerful.

This was not a trophy.

You are not brave.

You need to come to terms with your powerlessness in a less destructive way.


P.S. I did not win the lottery but I did get paid.