The furore over whether the ‘Emperor of Exmoor’ was alive or dead reached Westminster today with lobbying desperate to protect red deer from marksmen.
Five backbencher MPs signed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons in a bid to stop hunters preying on Britain’s wild animals all together.
The nine-foot stag – dubbed the country’s largest wild animal – was rumoured to have been gunned down by bounty-hunters after a £1,250 price-tag was placed on its head.
It disappeared more than two weeks ago in Rackenford, north Devon, and despite reports that the beast is still roaming the moor, has not been officially seen since.
The lobbyists branded the hunting practise ”senseless destruction” and are urging the Government to protect what they are calling ”special individual animals”.
David Crausby, Labour MP for Bolton North, said: ”It’s an absolute outrage in my opinion that people should take pleasure from shooting such a magnificent animal.
”I know there are some suggestions that the animal is still alive – but it’s the principle of the issue.
”I think some people actually think this kind of thing is acceptable, so we need the support of Parliament and the goodwill of the people to show them it is not.
”Hopefully we can put pressure on to make sure these animals survive.”
Labour’s Jim Dobbin and Michael Connarty, Bob Russell from the Liberal Democrats and Mark Durkan of the SDLP have also put pen to paper on the motion.
The document calls on Parliament to condemn the shooting of the stag and demands the Coalition protect individual animals – such as the Emperor – in danger.
It reads: ”This beautiful animal, standing nearly nine feet tall should have been spared to live out his life as a magnificent example of the giant red stag, the biggest wild land animal in the UK.”
The 12-year-old 300lbs creature is thought to have been killed by a licensed stalker, after witnesses reported hearing shots fired – and caught a glimpse of a huge stag’s body.
But the lack of hard evidence prompted some farmers across Exmoor to speculate that the Emperor’s death had been invented – to protect it from poachers.
Government figures show about 350,000 deer are culled each year in the UK.
Shooting stags is allowed in the season by stalkers armed with licensed rifles and with the permission of the landowner.
There was also support today for the practise.
Michael Yardley, from the Shooting Sports Trust, said: ”A deer past this age may properly be shot, and, indeed, should be shot, to allow younger fitter beasts into the harem.
”Also, it may well die of starvation as its incisors deteriorate.”