Deer in the Clogher Valley area are being shot with high powered rifles from the roadside at night and their meat is being sold illegally, police believe.

The “extremely dangerous” shootings are believed to have occurred near Favour Royal between Augher and Aughnacloy and have been described as “deeply concerning … irresponsible activity which must be thwarted.”

Last week, Dungannon and South Tyrone issued the following statement: “Police in Clogher Valley request public assistance with the illegal taking of deer. It is believed that deer are being shot with high powered rifles at night from the road side using strong vehicle mounted lamps and being sold for their meat. 

Impartial Reporter:

Favour Royal, between Augher and Aughnacloy

“Anyone involved in such activity should note that shooting from the road is illegal as is shooting deer during the hours of darkness.”

They added: “A high velocity bullet discharged into the darkness can travel in excess of a mile and the dangers are obvious. Anyone caught offending with firearms will not only face prosecution but will also have all of their firearms seized.”

Police are concerned that the illegal activity may increase over the next three weeks in advance of Burns night on January 25, when many Burns night suppers substitute haggis with venison.

DUP MLA Maurice Morrow hit out at the deer poachers, saying they are “dealing in the dangers of black-market flesh.”

He commented: “It would appear deer are being shot-to-order by skilled persons from vehicles with high-velocity weapons. 

“The discharging of a weapon from a vehicle in the hours of darkness is not only illegal it is extremely dangerous. The ammunition is being fired off at a high calibre and could travel some distance before coming to rest. This is dicing with death or very serious injury.”

Highlighting the danger of illegal meat entering the food chain, he warned that the meat has “no accountability or traceability [and there is] no health and safety supervision or track record of an animal’s origin.”

Lord Morrow called on people to alert police if the see or hear suspicious actively, “including gunfire in the hours of darkness or areas being lit with high voltage lamps being shone from vehicles.”

He concluded: “This is not some fun adventure in the dark. It is highly dangerous, irresponsible activity which must be thwarted. Shooters would need to bear in mind they may not only face criminal changes, they can have their weapons confiscated permanently, and reports indicate those being used in this matter are extremely costly. The dangers on many levels cannot be underestimated.”

UUP MLA Rosemary Barton voiced her alarm at the shooting of deer, saying: “These poachers are targeting deer indiscriminately showing no regard for the safety of the public or for the age or gender of the animal or the suffering that is caused if it is wounded.

“Standing by a roadside, in the dark using high velocity weapons poses a major risk to safety as those holding the gun are blind as to who or what may be in proximity to the animals. I therefore would urge the public to contact the PSNI if they see anything suspicious and further advise to only purchase venison from registered suppliers,” she said.

A spokeswoman from the Food Standards Agency told The Impartial Reporter: 
“Meat sold for human consumption must be from animals slaughtered in clean, hygienic premises, such as abattoirs, approved by the FSA. We ensure they meet the highest standards of hygiene and animal welfare. This involves checking documents and ID when animals are brought to slaughter and stamping carcasses fit for human consumption at the end of the slaughter process.”
She added: “Anyone eating illegal meat is putting their health at serious risk. It could contain harmful chemicals and bacteria, such as E.coli or campylobacter.

“Food businesses must ensure the food they are selling is safe and must be able to show where the food they are selling has come from. They must also meet strict hygiene regulations.”

Anyone with information, particularly vehicle registrations, are asked to contact police by dialling 101 and passing their message to Constable McMurray at Clogher Valley Neighbourhood team. An Garda Siochana have also been notified.