The chase is on

日期:2017-09-21 04:20:03 作者:吴鲒 阅读:

By Peter Aldhous SUPPORTERS of hunting with hounds are claiming scientific justification, now that a new study has questioned whether hunting deer is unacceptably cruel. Last year, Patrick Bateson of the University of Cambridge shocked Britain’s hunt supporters with his study, commissioned by the National Trust, suggesting that hunted red deer suffered severe stress (This Week, 19 April 1997, p 7). Bateson analysed blood from deer slaughtered after being overcome by hounds and concluded that a hunted deer’s muscles often run out of glycogen, their main energy store. Even after short chases, he argued, the animals’ red blood cells and muscles were breaking down, and deer that escaped after lengthy chases would be in such bad shape that they might die. The trust, one of Britain’s biggest landowners, responded by banning stag hunting on its land. But some of these conclusions are called into question by a study funded by pro-hunting groups and led by Roger Harris of the Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire and Douglas Wise of the University of Cambridge. The researchers took samples from 36 deer killed by hunting. Their blood analysis gave similar results to those found by Bateson, but Harris and Wise’s interpretation is different. Deer, says Harris, are “athletically superior” to hounds, and will easily sprint away from a chasing pack, often stopping to resume their normal activities until the hounds once again close in. Only when a deer’s glycogen is exhausted will it fail to escape. Just when that happens depends on the deer and the nature of the hunt. Bateson concluded that a hunted deer may be running on empty for 90 minutes, but Harris argues that this period will be just a few minutes. The study breaks new ground in analysing samples of muscle from hunted deer. According to Wise, Bateson’s finding that the blood of hunted deer contains creatine kinase, a muscle enzyme, was the most worrying—if an escaped stag’s muscles are severely damaged, it might indeed suffer a lingering death. However, in the deer studied by Harris and Wise’s team, only around 0.5 per cent of muscle fibres were damaged—less than the wear and tear suffered by some human athletes. “There was no evidence of extensive muscle damage,” says Harris. Bateson accepts there is no clear evidence of the muscle damage he predicted. “I have to be more open-minded,” he says. But he adds that damage could accumulate over time, so its true extent might emerge only if hunted deer were released, and then sampled a day or two later. In an attempt to thrash out a consensus, Bateson and the National Trust’s scientific advisers met last weekend with Harris, Wise and their team. Their statement calls on hunts “to find ways in which the suffering involved in hunting may be reduced while maintaining hunting”. Next month, the National Trust’s governing council will reconsider its ban on deer hunting. Bateson will brief the council on the results,