An open letter to Aberdeen City Council from Animal Aid

Posted on the 3rd March 2011

2nd March 2011
Animal Aid is appalled by the inhumane and shortsighted attitude of Aberdeen City Council towards the roe deer of Tullos Hill, and condemns the Council’s ultimatum to animal lovers: cough up the £225,000 for tree guards or we will kill the deer.

The Council has objected to tree guards, reportedly claiming that the visual impact would be ‘high’ and that they would not be sufficient to protect the trees. But now that people are objecting to its cull plans, the Council has changed its mind and accepts that tree guards are the answer – as long as someone else pays for them.

In almost all correspondence, the Council acknowledges a local problem – vandalism. It has said that fences are likely to be deliberately damaged and that gorse bushes in the area have been set on fire. How, then, does the Council think that saplings are going to survive, either with or without tree guards? They burn like gorse, and can easily be uprooted. Spending huge amounts of money on planting trees that are likely to be vandalised is self evidently a waste of valuable conservation resources.

All trees – no matter where they are planted – require care in the first few years. It is normal practice to protect them with guards, and any organisation planning to spend large sums of money would do well to protect them as best they can. If this project is to be successful, such protection should be part of the planting plan. Without it, it is doomed to fail.

In another ultimatum, the Council says: you can either have a forest and deer will be killed, or you can’t have a forest at all. This is nothing short of emotional blackmail. If the citizens of Aberdeen had to see deer being shot in front of their eyes, they would surely choose ‘no forest at all’.

There is, however, a practical and humane solution: partially plant the area with saplings and use the remaining money to protect those saplings from deer and vandals in the early years. It is well known that naturally-seeded forests grow quicker and more robustly in the long-term than those planted by man. The original trees, if properly protected, will grow, produce seeds and help a natural, organic forest to form. The trees will be protected, the forest will grow and no deer need be killed.

The question is: can the Council drop its bullying stance and do the right and sensible thing?

Kate Fowler
Head of Campaigns, Animal Aid, The Old Chapel, Bradford Street, Tonbridge Kent TN9 1AW

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