Culled forest Venison, eco friendly and not too dear - Article in the Times by Will Humphries, countryside correspondent

Wild deer are roaming Britain in the largest numbers for a millennium, with an estimated 2 million threatening woodland and precious wildlife habitats.

Forestry England, which manages about 1,500 woodlands, is now selling the animals it culls directly to the public for the first time in an attempt to encourage environmentally-conscious meat eaters to turn to wild shot venison.

“Encouraging more people to eat wild venison is better for biodiversity and helps protect our future forests,” said Andrew Stringer, its head of environment.

“With more people becoming aware of the carbon footprint of farmed meat and the challenges around intensively farmed animals, wild venison is a perfect solution for those wanting to eat less but better meat.”

About 80 per cent of wild deer culled in the UK goes to restaurants or the hospitality trade but demand collapsed during the pandemic.

Wild deer herds can grow 30 per cent a year, with the population expanding by 600,000 between May and June. With stalkers not culling as many animals during the pandemic, it is feared that already large herds could eventually devastate woodland habitats for other species.

Hayley Coristine, from Forestry England, said that it was one of the first organisations in Britain to use lead-free ammunition and culled about 14,000 deer last year, up 15 per cent.

“They’re absolutely everywhere,” she said. “The deer population was about 400,000 in the 1990s and now we are up to about 2 million. Climate change is making winters milder and allowing more deer to survive.”

Forestry England has an arrangement with Highland Game, a wholesale meat supplier, to sell its wild shot venison from northern England and Scotland but that meat is not available to the public to buy online.

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