Amateur deer stalkers can pay up to £9,000 to shoot a ‘trophy’ deer at Woburn Abbey, it has been revealed.
The deer park describes itself as a conservation area giving “sanctuary” to nine different species.
Now it has refused to comment on advertising material from an overseas tour company that offers clients a chance to shoot one of Woburn’s “grade A” Père David’s deer for £6,965.
The species was saved from extinction when it was introduced to Woburn Park in 1985.
In a price list seen by the Guardian newspaper, the company, called Limpopo & Diana, also offers red deer stags that can be shot for £9,000.
“Woburn Park is ideal for this,” one client was told in an email seen by the Guardian.
Red deer stags are famed for their antlers, which can grown up to a metre long. Woburn Park prides itself on the “heavy weights of hard cut antler” in its herd.
This week staff at Woburn Abbey, which is controlled by the Duke of Bedford, did not deny the shoots were taking place.
They would only speak of the need for an “annual cull” necessary for the animals’ health and welfare.
A spokesman said: “The cull is overseen by trained professionals... It is based on continued census counts and aims to improve the age dynamics and diversity maintaining the population density at a level suitable to ensure the continued health and welfare of all the deer within the park.”
He added: “The culled animals are then sold as venison to local and national markets where it enters the food chain as a healthy and sustainable food product.”
He added: “Our key aim is to maintain a healthy population and ensure each of the nine deer species is cared for to the highest possible standards.”
But animal welfare groups are horrified that rare and exotic breeds are being hunted.
A spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports said: “It’s shameful that trophy hunting is alive and well in Woburn. People associate it with places like Africa, but it’s taking right on our doorstep.”
He added: “ “Breeding deer with giant antlers so they can be shot for money by hunters for ‘fun’ is something that most members of the public will find grotesque. The culling argument doesn’t stack up. They breed the deer – so if there’s too many, stop breeding them, it’s that simple.”