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The Emperor was - or perhaps still is - a formidable beast. Twelve feet tall, weighing 300 lbs, and canny. How else could he have survived and prospered on Exmoor for so long. But the Emperor was no longer at the peak of his game. Even the proudest of these beautiful creatures knows when their time is up. Now he is probably dead. And he was probably shot - not by a local acting in the cause of conservation, but at the hands of a rich incomer - someone who paid big bucks for the dubious privilege of killing this massive beast. There has been no sign of a corpse - and the Emperor had a substantial body, far too big for the boot of a car or even a van. Whoever killed him must have taken the body away on the back of a lorry. This story raises all sorts of questions.

I am less worried to find the answers to these questions than to defend the landscape and lifestyle of animals like the Emperor. No stag should be abruptly confined to oblivion by visiting marksmen who simply shoot for antler trophies and fun. The stags and red deer of Exmoor are too important for that. Culling is not meant to be a brutal act but part of the necessary cycle. It used to happen in an ordered way. Once the staghounds would pick out the weakest animals to be hunted down - it was near to nature's way - but then hunting was banned. Now we have incomers who don't know the land, or understand the animals or care about either - but they have money and they want to kill.  What a tragedy for the Emperor and for Exmoor.


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