DRINKS giant Diageo has been secretly killing a herd of deer – while continuing talks with campaigners desperate to save them.
Bosses hired hitmen to start slaughtering the creatures despite giving hope to animal lovers that other options were still being explored.
The roe deer, including hinds, bucks and year-old fawns, have been in the grounds of the bottling plant in Leven, Fife, for over a decade.
Last night the multi-national booze firm refused to say how many of the ‘Drambis’ are still alive. But campaigners are furious their efforts – including a 2,000-signature petition – look to have been in vain and called for a boycott of Diageo products.
TV wildlife expert Les Stocker, who runs the famous St Tiggywinkles rescue centre in Buckinghamshire, slammed the decision.
He said: “They don’t need to be shot. We can move them quite comfortably and release them.”
John Patrick, of Scotland for Animals, said he has had emails from all over the world in support of saving the deer. He added: “The deer should be saved because there is no practical reason to cull them.
“They could be set free from the site with no problem and they have an offer of a new home they could be moved to. The fact that Diageo has gone ahead with the cull is completely unjustified.”
And the Scottish SPCA added: “Any further options for the remaining herd should be properly explored.”
The deer are being shot at night so the land can be reclaimed for an extension to the plant, creating 400 new jobs.
They were caught over a decade ago when a huge security fence was put up. Then-owners DCL fed them and brought a vet in to give them annual health checks.
Locals hoped Diageo, which sparked a furore over the closure of historic plants in Kilmarnock and Glasgow with massive job losses, would agree to the herd being moved so they could still visit them.
But the company announced at the beginning of the month that a cull was the only way forward.
Then on Tuesday, chief executive Paul Walsh told campaigners he was ordering a full review – which took just 24 hours. And last night a Diageo spokesman admitted: “The cull started as soon as the decision, on the recommendation of deer experts, had been made at the beginning of the month.
“We consulted with the Deer Commission, the Deer Association and the Scottish SPCA. Fife Constabulary advised us to keep the detail around the operation as confidential as it can be for health and safety reasons. If we gave you that sort of detail we’d then get people out counting the deer so it’s being done as quietly as possible.
“The cull is being supervised by vets and police and is being done by professionals.
“Unfortunately Mr Walsh did not have all the information to hand. However he kept his promise and a review was completed in 24 hours. Unfortunately the outcome was the same.”
The Scottish SPCA was reluctantly in favour of a partial cull so enough grazing would be left available for a smaller herd.
Opening up the fence and letting the deer join their original herd was ruled out because of road safety concerns from the police.
And tranquilising the deer and moving them to a nearby farm was rejected because the Deer Commisssion ruled they might be injured or die. John Robins, of Animal Concern, who stepped in to try to preserve the creatures, said: “We offered Diageo a good new home for the deer.
“Instead of saving the deer they believed misinformation spouted by organisations who think animal welfare is dispensed from the barrel of a gun. I am angry and disgusted.”
Today locals will present a petition to Diageo with more than 2,000 signatures calling for the deer to be saved.
One of the organisers, Marylyn Melbourne, of Rosyth, said: “We’ve had so much support. A farmer has offered to put them on his land – we don’t see why they can’t be moved there.”
Please contact Diageo to urge them not to go ahead with the proposal (sample letter below)
Diageo Banbeath Industrial Estate
Leven, Fife KY8 5HD
01333 424 000
Dear Mr. Walsh,
I write concerning plans by your Company to kill a small herd of roe deer which have lived on land at your bottling plant on the Banbeath Industrial Estate, Leven in Fife for the last ten years or more. The land in question has been left wild but is now required for development to increase the capacity of your facility.
There are other options available to humanely remove and release these animals but simply allowing them to move off the site of their own accord would be the easiest and best option.
I ask Diageo to immediately cancel any plans to cull these deer and to look again at the available non-lethal options for dealing with this situation.