So you like deer stalking, Cameron? Hunted animals feel no less pain than Larry, the Downing Street cat

The PM is in a unique position to demonstrate understanding of animals' intelligence, but he ignores this so he can treat other species as living targets

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It has been reported that the Prime Minister, who enjoys blasting pheasants out of the sky, has also become an expert deerstalker since being introduced to the sport as a young man.

Although he refrains from talking about it in public for obvious reasons – the Prime Minister has been hunting down and killing animals for more than 20 years. Apparently he is one of the few marksmen skilled enough to shoot two stags in one go.

The fact remains that hunting is cruel and causes animals unnecessary suffering. It's appalling that our country's leader indulges in killing for the sheer fun of it – a show of baseless, old-fashioned machismo better fitted to Mr Putin.

For animals such as deer, who live in close-knit herds, hunting can devastate entire communities. Young animals can starve when their mothers are killed, and hunting leaves wounded but unrecovered animals to die slowly and wretchedly from blood loss or infection. The animals whose lives are so callously snuffed out have precisely the same capacity to feel pain and to suffer as Larry, the Downing Street cat.

The Prime Minister is in a unique position to demonstrate his awareness of advances in our understanding of animals' intelligence, emotions, relationships with one another and capacity to suffer. But he chooses to ignore all these things and continues to treat other species as nothing more than living targets to be destroyed on a whim.

Cameron has called deer stalking “probably one of the most defendable” blood sports, a ludicrous statement to any compassionate person. A true sport is one in which all participants are willing. Hunting is just cruelty to animals, plain and simple. If he was shooting dogs and cats for fun, we wouldn't be calling it “sport”. We'd call it abuse, and that's exactly what it is when it happens to deer. 

Not only is it cruel but, contrary to the population control myth that hunters try to peddle, hunting actually creates conditions that favour accelerated reproduction. Statistics demonstrate that biological and environmental factors naturally self-limit growth. The size of deer populations is determined by the amounts of available food, not by the number of hunters. Hunting causes a temporary drop in deer populations, followed by an increase in the availability of food, which means that the numbers of deer will go up again.

It's been shown that in hunted deer populations, does are more likely to have twins rather than single fawns and are more likely to reproduce at a young age. With a surplus of food, the surviving deer are better nourished, which can lead to a higher reproductive rate and lower neonatal mortality.

Natural predators, who truly have no choice but to kill, help keep prey species strong by killing mainly sick and weak individuals. Human hunters, on the other hand, kill whichever animals they come across or, in many cases, whichever animals they think would look best mounted above the fireplace.

If Mr Cameron wants to enjoy the deer on the island of Jura, why not take up quietly watching their majestic, gentle-natured, harmless and environmentally sound way of life from afar? Why not shoot them with a camera instead of a gun?

When animal cruelty is portrayed by some as a 'sport', it debases society and perpetuates unacceptable animal cruelty. Blood sports have no place in an ethically developed society. That is why polls repeatedly show that the vast majority of Britons oppose such gratuitous violence. We expect our elected politicians to protect the vulnerable and helpless, not to destroy them – much less to derive pleasure from it.

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