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Saturday 21 October 2017

Bye bye Bambi: Phoenix Park deer ending up on dinner plates

A stag deer keeps watch in the Phoenix Park, Dublin
A stag deer keeps watch in the Phoenix Park, Dublin

Mike Hogan

CULLED deer from the Phoenix Park are ending up on dinner plates across the country.

The Office of Public Works makes nearly €4,000 a year by selling deer carcasses for human consumption, the Herald can reveal.

The park has been home to fallow deer since its creation in 1662 but dozens are culled each year in order  to keep the population at a manageable level.

The most recent cull of deer in the Phoenix Park was on February 26 last when 30 animals were shot and killed in a section of the grounds that is closed off to the public.

The UCD Zoological Department monitors the famous deer, which have become a major tourist attraction for the city.

They, along with park rangers, carry out the cull.

A spokesperson for the OPW told the Herald that said: “Culling is essential as it protects the health of the deer herd going forward.”

There are currently 500 deer in the park and the OPW spokesperson explained: “UCD Zoological Department carried out a study many years ago and found that 500 is the optimum amount of deer considering we have 15 million car journeys through the park every year.”

There has been much confusion over the years as to what happens to the unlucky deer whose lives are cut short.

Recent reports suggested that they are left in wooded areas of the park for other wild inhabitants to eat or that they are given to the Zoo.

The Herald can reveal that the carcasses are picked up by employees of Wild Irish Game Ltd, who are based in Glenmalure, Co Wicklow.

The company pays the OPW for the meat which is then processed for human consumption. In turn, Irish Game Ltd sell their product to some Super Valu outlets as well as upmarket shops and other wholesalers.

Venison retails at an average of €8 per kilo and is often sold in restaurants for in excess of €20.

The money allows the State to recuperate some of the cost for the upkeep of the deer.

Owner of the game processor Mick Healy said that said he has been purchasing Phoenix Park deer carcasses for the last 15 years. “As soon as the cull is finished we drive up with our refrigerated trucks and take them away,” he said. Mr Healy also says that he purchases culled deer from Coillte and private hunters.

The practice of culling deer has been criticised by the Head of (Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) John Carmody.

He told the Herald: “There are more humane ways of controlling the deer population of the park.

“We would be calling for the current deer to be neutered so that they don't have to be slaughtered every year.

“Culls are the lazy option.

“I am horrified that these deer which are photographed and admired by thousands end up on the plate. I would also call on any restaurant that serves these deer to stop”.

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