POLICE have launched a major crackdown on deer poaching in the Forest of Dean over fears the animals are being killed on an ‘industrial scale’.
Officers are attempting to stop organised gangs visiting the area to hunt illegally.
Patrick Faulkner from The Deer Initiative which manages to the wild deer population in England and Wales welcomed the move.
“I want to point out about the legality of this and the actual meat going into the food chain, which is not in line with regulations,” he said.
“It is not the old family scene, of a day going out getting food for this family, this is now a industrial scale operation.
“For people now, it is all about making money by selling them on the black market without it being inspected. But those selling the meat properly will have the correct paperwork.
“From the meetings I go to there seems to be an increase of poaching in the forest area. But it is notoriously hard to catch people. Police could be waiting there for weeks and nobody would come.”
Ian Harvey, from the Forestry Commission in the Dean, said “ It is hard to tell if there is an increase or decrease in the area.”
He added: “Poaching could be due to the rise in the price of venison. A deer weighing 30kg could make someone £70.”
Sergeant Simon Clemett from Gloucestershire Police, said: “Getting any hard figures on the amount of deer poaching that goes on is difficult as most of the reports we get are of suspicious activity or the discovery of carcasses.
“However we do believe there are some organised crime groups entering the county and taking animals and we are stopping people where suspicious activity is reported.
“Our advice if you should encounter poachers or poaching is not to approach those involved but to remain in a safe place and call 999. If you can, observe and note down exactly what the poachers are doing and where, for instance if they are using torches to check fields systematically.
“Public awareness is key to this if we are to get a better understanding of the scale of the problem. We need people to report these incidents so I would ask people to pass on any information they hear to police, however insignificant they think it may be.
“I would also caution anyone against buying venison if you are not sure of the source - poached meat will not have been through the abattoir system and therefore will not have been subject to the stringent tests that ensure that legally slaughtered animals are fit for human consumption.
“As such, you may well be buying meat that is from a diseased animal, and whilst the cooking process may rectify some of that, would you want to feed condemned meat to friends and family?”