Queen guitarist and badger saviour Brian May was forced to defend himself against accusations of hypocrisy yesterday, after he admitted that he allowed deer to be culled on his West estate.
The man who spearheaded the so-far successful campaign against the Government’s planned cull of badgers to fight against bovine TB said he continued a prior arrangement of culling when he bought and moved onto his estate in Dorset, but scrapped the cull after a year.
Mr May said he had been advised that the presence of a licensed and limited cull would help the environment and reduce the threat of poachers, but after 12 months he stopped any killing of deer on his land.
Last night, farmers in Gloucestershire who supported the badger cull accused the musician of hypocrisy, particularly after Mr May was one of the most vocal to speak out against the shooting of a huge Exmoor Stag known as ‘Emperor’, back in 2010.
Mr May admitted that at the time he described that killing as a ‘despicable act’ that ‘belonged in the Dark Ages’, a stalker was shooting 23 mainly healthy young deer on his Dorset estate.
“I inherited culling of deer on the land I bought in Dorset a few years ago, and was initially advised that I ought to keep it up because having a gamekeeper discouraged poachers, and improved the health of the deer population,” said Mr May.
“I had my doubts, but was new to forest management and realised I had much to learn. I decided to let it continue for a short period, observe for a while, and then take what action I felt was right,” he added.
“A couple of years ago, having studied the effects, I decided to stop the culling.”
That was in 2010, and earlier this year Mr May’s high profile backing of a petition against the badger cull in the Forest of Dean and in west Somerset sparked a debate in parliament and the postponement of the cull until next autumn.
The RSPCA, of which Mr May is vice-president, said there was a difference between culling deer and culling badgers. “We understand that no culling of deer is taking place on Brian’s land,” a spokesman said.
“There is strong scientific evidence that deer culling is humane and effective in certain circumstances. The recently postponed cull of badgers does not accord with those circumstances,” he added.
But Jan Rowe, a dairy farmer from Gloucestershire who helped set up a company to organise the badger cull, said Mr May was being ‘utterly hypocritical’.
“On the one hand he is understanding the need to manage species that are over-populated but not applying the same principle to badgers, which in many parts of the country are significantly over-populated, one of the reasons why they are carrying TB at such high levels,” he said.