I have considered the report to which the question refers, the conclusions of which were based on the limited monitoring that was possible in the circumstances under which it was undertaken in 1997.
Subsequent scientific investigations were carried out into the welfare of deer used for carted stag hunting. These developments provided a basis for discussions with the Ward Union hunt club and the development by the club of a hunting code of conduct, in consultation with officials of the then Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and of the Department of Agriculture and Food. At the conclusion of this process in September 1999, the Department of Agriculture and Food indicated to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands its satisfaction with the code of conduct, which the club had submitted in support of its licence application.
Subsequent licences issued to the club include a condition that the club should carry out its hunts in accordance with its approved code of practice and hunts have been monitored by conservation rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and veterinarians from the Department of Agriculture and Food. Prior to the issue of such annual licences, written reports from conservation rangers and the veterinary inspector are examined to establish that the club has satisfactorily complied with the hunting code of practice and that the hunt has been conducted in accordance with the conditions of the previous annual licence.
An annual inspection of the deer at the park is carried out at the end of the hunting season to ensure that the deer are healthy and sound and that the hunt records are complete. The last inspection was at the end of the 2002-03 season and showed no grounds for concern. Neither do the activities of the Ward Union Hunt club have a conservation impact on overall numbers of the deer species. I refer also to the reply to Questions Nos. 971 to 976, inclusive, of 27 January 2004.