Animal rights campaigners have criticised the culling of deer in one of Ireland’s best known public parks.
A total of 34 deer were shot dead in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Wednesday following orders by the Office of Public Works (OPW).
It is understood the carcasses are then sold on to meat suppliers.
The OPW has previously said that culling prevents a rise in the fallow deer population which can lead to an increase in road traffic accidents in the popular park.
The Alliance for Animal Rights (AFAR), however, accused the Irish government of farming deer to make money.
“A humane alternative of contraception works on deer but is not used by the OPW as the killing alternative is more lucrative for their coffers,” a spokeswoman said.
“Shooters are devoid of any empathy for innocent, undefended animals.
“No animal is safe if money is to be made.
“Shooting deer in view of other deer is barbaric, all animals experience fear at seeing their friends killed.”
They called for the government to establish an alternative, humane way of tackling the issue of culling deer.
Phoenix Park was originally formed as a royal hunting park in the 1660s and opened to the public in 1747.
The park is home to Dublin Zoo and the residence of the president of Ireland Michael D Higgins.
The spokeswoman for AFAR added: “No animal is safe from human greed, an alternative exists here. With the growing opposition to violence towards animals, this policy of profit before respect must be stopped.
“AFAR are launching a campaign to stop this sad and unnecessary murder of innocents.”
A spokeswoman for the OPW said the deer cull was carried out as part of the “sustainable management” of the wild deer herd.
They said a total of 34 animals were culled while the carcasses were purchased by a Department of Agriculture approved game dealer.
The spokeswoman added: “The role of the wild fallow deer herd in the Phoenix Park as a valuable component of biodiversity must be recognised.
“However, this must be balanced with an equal recognition of the potential for deer to impact adversely on a range of other biodiversity values, particularly where other conservation habitats and their dependent species are concerned.
“Sustainable deer management must rely on sound, practical and applied scientific research, and any deer management policy must be cognisant of its application to practical deer management on the ground.
“An over-abundant deer population can result in an increasing incidence of road traffic accidents and increase the potential role of deer in the epidemiology of specific diseases.
“Deer management is most simply defined as the integrated management of deer populations in balance with the carrying capacity and land use objectives of land where deer exist.”
It said that deer culling in the Phoenix Park is carried out according to a “detailed protocol”.
The spokeswoman added: “Each cull is undertaken in consultation with the School of Biology and Environmental Science in University College Dublin and a vet expert in deer welfare.”