Windermere geese cull: concerns over public safety, local authority secrecy and an ‘inexplicable’ lack of accountability

Posted on the 14th March 2012

Campaigners battling to save the lives of hundreds of Canada geese on Windermere have today expressed serious concern over public safety issues relating to the cull, the accountability of those driving it and the secrecy surrounding the entire proposal. Despite dozens of letters, emails and phone calls asking for information about the cull, details remain sparse and key questions – including ‘how exactly do you propose to kill the birds?’ – have been ignored.

When asked ‘who will carry out the cull?’ the Lake District National Park Authority’s (LDNPA) ranger, Steve Tatlock, replied simply: ‘The work will be carried out by an approved, insured and experienced contractor.’ In previous documents, plans showed that it would be the rangers themselves – after attending a one-day course on shooting – who would kill the geese. Another suggestion was that the Deer Initiative representative who surprisingly chose to sit on the Windermere Geese Management Group offered to approach some stalkers to see if they might be interested.

Of the safety issue, Kathy Musker from Respect for Wildlife says:

‘The fact that the LDNPA refuses to tell the public who will be shooting the geese fills us with dread. Is it going to be a ranger with just one day’s experience with guns? Or will it be a deer-stalker who has never shot a goose in his life? Who has approved these mysterious contractors? Is the public safe? Where are the risk assessments? On its website, the LDNPA states that it “is committed to conducting its affairs openly” but while we have so many questions, the answers remain unforthcoming. What has the LDNPA got to hide?’

It’s not just the suffering of geese and the threat to the public that concern the campaigners; it is also the lack of accountability of those driving the cull.

The LDNPA claims that it does not have the authority to call off the cull – despite concerns over its legality – because the decision to kill was made jointly by the Windermere Geese Management Group – an unelected group who have chosen to ‘manage’ geese for their own reasons. That such a group can force a public body into a course of action has been denounced by Animal Aid’s Head of Campaigns, Kate Fowler, as ‘inexplicable’.

Ms Fowler continues:

‘It is hard to imagine a less democratic process than an unelected group with vested interests forcing a public body into killing birds. What is this group? Where is its constitution? As far as we can ascertain, its membership is in constant flux and some ‘members’ turn out not to be members at all, including the local RSPB warden, who has since distanced himself from the group and who denies supporting the cull proposals. Why is the Deer Initiative represented? And why are there no welfare bodies represented? Or humane deterrence experts? Is it constitutional for the LDNPA to delegate responsibility for its decisions to such a group? Is it legal?’

The campaigners are today issuing a challenge to the LDNPA: ‘Abandon this bogus group and instead create an Advisory Group with a clear constitution that includes welfare bodies and humane wildlife deterrence experts such as those who successfully deterred Canada geese from Belfast airport. Continue oiling eggs, as the stable geese figures indicate that this approach is working. And make public the report by an unnamed ‘specialist wildlife company’ that carried out egg oiling in 2009. Withholding that report suggests there is something to hide. Together we can come up with a humane plan that will suit everyone. Until then, hold your fire.’

Notes to Editors

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