Last week it was revealed that an English Heritage site in Bedfordshire, Wrest Park, had hosted trophy hunters from Scandinavia. Photographs emerged online of the trophy hunters posing with the muntjac deer they had shot.
English Heritage have a considerable reputation and manage sites across the country. Their list of sites includes castles and gardens, as well as prehistoric sites, all of which are extremely valued, and many people pay memberships to be able to visit.
Wrest Park in Bedfordshire is one of these 400 sites and has beautiful gardens, as well as wild muntjac deer. The English Heritage site promotes a welcoming environment for families and nature lovers and on social media posts images of 'cute' animals to market themselves.
The images of the 3 trophy hunters that appeared online last week understandably led to public outcry and offered a stark contrast to a usually friendly environment frequented by families. People took to social media to criticise English Heritage, who responded by saying they were 'shocked and saddened' and did not allow trophy hunting on any of their land.
Initially it seemed that English Heritage were panicking under the watchful eye of the public, however they have now announced they have cut ties with their gamekeepers and ended the contract they had in place with what they refer to as ‘independent specialists’ hired to control the deer population. This is a necessary step many will be pleased with, but doesn’t entirely negate any wrongdoing on their part, they were still arguably guilty of ignorance.
English Heritage are honest about the fact that deer culling takes place on their land. They told the BBC;
The muntjac deer are not native to England, they originally descended from China, having spread across England and Wales over the past 40 years. They are said to be among the most destructive animal pests in Britain, and because of this they are a regularly culled species. The muntjac deer also have an unusual breeding pattern that sees them produce offspring all-year round, which means they spread rapidly.
Nevertheless, whether culling is seen as ‘necessary’ or not, trophy hunting is barbaric, and it shouldn't have been allowed to slip through the net so easily. It appears that a legal cull was exploited by these gamekeepers and turned into a trophy hunt in the middle of Bedfordshire. The attitude of the gamekeepers was evidently to personally pocket from it, not taking into consideration the damage this could do to their jobs and the reputation of English Heritage, not to mention the cruelty.
As it stands, English Heritage have terminated their arrangement with these gamekeepers, and have now launched a full investigation. For some this may be too little too late. Speaking to Bedfordshire Live, a spokesperson for Bedfordshire Against Trophy Hunting criticised English Heritage’s response, saying 'we should expect better from them'. They suggested until a ban on the export of hunting trophies out of the UK can be achieved, no progress will be made, and the door is left wide open to those who wish to travel to the UK to continue this barbaric behaviour.
We will await the findings of the investigation.