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U.K. Deer Cull Is Discussed as Solution to Exploding Herds

Advocates say some of the excess should go to the food banks that proliferated during the pandemic. City Harvest London supplied 300,000 meals in February 2020. A year later, it had provided over a million, some of them with venison.

Operating on an even larger scale is the Country Food Trust, which since its founding in 2015 has distributed over two million meals to more than 1,900 charities throughout Britain, often using cuts of meat from game dealers like Mr. Robinson and MC Kelly.

Since October, it has provided over 167,000 portions of venison Bolognese and a roughly equivalent amount of plain mincemeat. “The majority is prioritized towards children,” said Tim Woodward, the trust’s chief executive. “I would buy every bit of venison I could get my hands on now, because we have a never-ending need for it.”

Forestry England, which is part of the Forestry Commission, sells about 265 tons of venison annually — enough for 2.4 million meals — to game dealers, among them MC Kelly, who then sell it on.

As a starting point, Mr. Woodward of the Country Food Trust has been lobbying for the Forestry Commission to donate all deer carcasses to his group as a cost-effective way for the government to tackle food poverty quickly.

That would be a huge undertaking and would require major changes to distribution. But the effort is gathering momentum. One prominent supporter of the Country Food Trust is Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a longtime member of Parliament and the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Shooting and Conservation, which includes about 400 politicians.

In an interview, Mr. Clifton-Brown acknowledged that change could be slow, as Forestry England is an autonomous public body that is used to selling the deer, even at rock-bottom prices, rather than giving it away. “It’s a whole change of psyche for them to do this.”


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