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I shot a deer – and I still believe it was the ethical thing to do

6 236 469
19.02.2020

It was a protest against me. But I sympathised with the demonstrators, who gathered outside the theatre where I was speaking last week to call me a killer. I didn’t dispute their claim. I am a killer.

While making Apocalypse Cow, a film for Channel 4 about how we should feed ourselves without destroying the world, I shot a deer. If it helps (though it didn’t help the deer), I hated every minute of it, from picking up the rifle and learning to use it, to finding and stalking the innocent animal, then shooting it through the chest from 180 metres, watching it rear into the air, stumble, spasm and die. It was a gruesome, horrible experience.

I was seeking to demonstrate the realities of ecological restoration. If, I reasoned, we believe something is right, we should be prepared to do it ourselves. But do we really have the right to take another life?

The problem arises in this case because of humanity’s disastrous intervention in the ecology of the Scottish Highlands. By exterminating wolves and lynx, we released the deer from predation, and their numbers exploded. Because tree seedlings are highly nutritious, the deer selectively graze them out. A rich mosaic of habitats becomes a drab monotony of heather and rough grass. The deer I shot was one of thousands killed on the Glenfeshie estate in the Cairngorms. As a result of this cull, the trees are returning. The regenerating forests are full of birds and other mammals.

Surely, as the protesters insisted, there is an alternative? Some of us have campaigned for years for the return of wolves and lynx, but it cannot happen without widespread public consent, and this takes time. In the meantime, what should be done? The protesters’ favoured alternatives are contraception or fencing.

To fire a........

© The Guardian