Sunday 8 March 2020

Ian Fleming, the conservationist

Ian Fleming seems an unlikely champion of animal rights, but the evidence is there in his writing. That he was an animal-lover is clear from his heartfelt descriptions of animals, particularly birds and fish, in his James Bond novels. Scotland's red deer were also close to his heart. 
Red deer hind (image: Charles J Sharp / CC BY-SA (
In his 'Atticus' column, published in the Sunday Times on 7th November 1954, Ian Fleming lamented the cruel and unnecessary killing of deer during the winter months, when the onset of snows forced the animals to lower pastures. There, Fleming told his readers, the stags and hinds made easy targets for farmers and poachers, 'who slaughter and wound them with whatever weapons they can muster.'

Fleming went on to refer to a parliamentary White Paper on the issue, which, while setting out the sad facts, had evidently failed to put a halt to the annual dispatch of deer. 'Eight months of cruelty to these beautiful animals has once again set in,' he concluded.

Unlike his brother Peter, Ian Fleming was no country-sports enthusiast. Once, as a boy, Ian was taken grouse-shooting near Glencoe in Scotland by his father Valentine, but he didn't enjoy the experience. On another occasion, at Black Mount also near Glencoe, Ian (aged 16) shot a stag, but he never made a habit of it, preferring to listen to records than going 'out of doors killing something.' 

Given Ian Fleming's concern for red deer, the depiction of a stag (itself presumably a nod to the stag shown on the Fleming family crest) on top of the gateway to James Bond's Scottish home in Skyfall (2012) seems entirely fitting. 

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