English Heritage has come under fire by animal activist groups and the general public for the recent images that have emerged online of trophy hunters posing with dead muntjac deer at an English Heritage property in Bedfordshire, Wrest Park. The images show the hunters posing with dead deer, some against a backdrop of Wrest Parks stately home, normally a pleasant environment for a walk and a tearoom visit. This revelation offers an alternative grotesque after-hours reality and rightly so, people are angry.

Scandinavian trophy hunters are said to have paid to come and shoot the deer during a cull at the park. They then photographed their ‘kills’ to show them off.  

Trophy Hunter with a muntjac deer at Wrest Park

This comes as a stark contrast to how English Heritage portray their land through social media as a family friendly nature-loving environment, as seen in their 'MONDAY CUTENESS ALERT' tweet. Clearly these chicks are cute enough to be allowed to live, but the muntjacs are not.

Bedfordshire Against Trophy Hunting report that over recent years Wrest Park has ‘not only hosted hare hunters, Trinity Foot and South Herts Beagles’ but now trophy hunters, and ‘the adjacent Home Farm, formerly part of the estate, also regularly blasts thousands of game birds from the skies every season too’. It seems clear that English Heritage have a lot less regard for wildlife than they make out, and their responses to some of the public outcry saying they are ‘shocked and saddened’ don’t quite cut the mustard.  

English Heritage have fired back against criticism on social media, claiming;

“We don’t allow hunting for sport at our sites. In accordance with relevant legislation, in some places we need to work with third parties to manage some animal populations. It’s important to us that this is done humanely and respectfully. We have started a full investigation.”

English Heritage have told the Telegraph that they allow wildlife to be killed on their land for culling purposes. What they condone is the taking of photos and posing with the wildlife once it has been killed as this is ‘disrespectful. What we would like to know is therefore how and why the Scandinavian trophy hunters came to be in Wrest Park in Bedfordshire, using a legal cull as a cover up for trophy hunting muntjac deers so they could then photograph these ‘trophies’ as seen in the circulated images?

No doubt the financial benefit to the estate removed any ethical issues initially faced; English Heritage will struggle to wriggle out of this when they have explicitly allowed (because they definitely didn’t prevent it) trophy hunters to come and hunt on their land.  

Muntjacs have inhabited England since the early 20th century and are known to be quite destructive to woodlands and plant growth due to their browsing. Because of this and their all-year round breeding cycle, muntjacs are the subject of regular culling. They can be comparable to foxes through the bad press they get due to their destructive eating habits and therefore are often wrongly categorised as ‘vermin’. Similarly to foxes, people seem to like to kill them.

We look forward to hearing the findings of English Heritage's full investigation.

Amy Schouwenburg

Head of Social Media