10 MAY 1930, Page 18


[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]

Sin,-.:-May I, as an Exmoor naturalist, who does not hunt, reply to some of your correspondents on this subject ?

In the Spectator for April 12th Mr. A. M. A. Yorke advises any who doubt the cruelty of stag hunting to read Mr. Lovat Fraser's speech when introducing the Bill for its abolition. 1 hope that all fair-minded peoplewho follow his advice will also read Sir Francis Aeland's article in defence of stag hunting in The Field for April 5th. Sir Francis says (inter alia) that the report of the hunt, quoted, in all good faith, in Mr. Fraser's speech, "contained in a few lines almost every con- ceivable error of fact and inference." To describe such an incident, Veven if it had been accurate, as typical is, to put it mildly, a gross misstatement, especially when, as Mr. Clarke should know, the humane killer is now used to dis- patch the deer.

Major J. C. Darling, in the Spectator for April 19th, relates how in the New Forest country a deer was found with a hind

leg broken by a rifle bullet ; the wound was septic, and the poor beast had probably been in that condition for about five weeks. It is estimated that there are at least six hundred deer on- Exmoor. The suggestion has been made that their numbers should be reduced to two hundred, and that this remnant should be confined in a reserve. In other words, four hundred should be slaughtered by shooting. What would he the result of this humanitarian holocaust the fate of this New Forest deer shows only too clearly.

From newspaper reports of Mr. Fraser's speech I see that his statement that stag hunting was a sport of the rich drew cheers from his supporters. The ludicrous inaccuracy of this remark can be tested by anyone who cares to attend a meet of the Devon and Somerset. The whole countryside, mounted and on foot, follows the chase with enthusiasm. Rightly or wrongly, the poor enjoy it as much as the rich ; to stir up class-hatred over this question may be good Socialism, but it is not cricket. Opponents of stag hunting might at any, rate try to be sportsmen. I have seen stag hunters described as sadistic. People who use this epithet are perhaps unaware of its true meaning. I would suggest that before they fling this very dirty mud about they should come .dovrn to Exmoor and learn some- thing about the deer and the people who hunt them. They would find that human nature is much the same on Exmoor as elsewhere, and would in time realize that the measures they in well-meaning, ignorance advocate would mean a cruelty infinitely greater than that involved in stag hunting.