Thursday, 3 December 2009

Gassing rabbits on golf courses could see Brighton Council facing criminal charges

It turns out a controversial decision to gas rabbits to protect Waterhall Golf Course could have been illegal - and see Brighton Council facing criminal charges for breaking laws designed to protect wildlife.

The council has a duty to control rabbit numbers - and golfers had reported an increasing number of rabbit-related damage up at Waterhall.

So, without any effective consultation, it was decided to kill 'em all with poison gas.

Trouble is, the use of aluminium phosphate gas, the council's toxin of choice, is indiscriminate - and could have killed protected badgers - and other wildlife - too.

According to guidance from the British Pest Control Association: 

"Gassing of badgers and foxes is illegal.  As they may live in close proximity to rabbits, care must be taken that gassing does not affect badgers, foxes or any other species that might be at risk.  If in doubt, do not gas." 

Today Caroline Lucas MEP, who is a Vice President of the RSPCA as well as my counterpart Green Party parliamentary candidate in neighbouring Brighton Pavilion, wrote to Brighton Council leader boss Mary Mears, to express her concern at the blunder.

She expressed particular concern about whether there was adequate consideration of humane alternatives, and of the effects on other wildlife. 

"It's unclear if alternatives to gassing were looked into," she said.

"A site assessment was offered by a local expert in humane deterrence, and this wasn't taken up."

"Was there local notice given before the operation took place, and were there measures taken to ensure no badgers or other species were present? The council could be breaching the law if badger setts are harmed? Finally, do the council have a plan to prevent rabbits re-colonising the site?" 

"I would ask the Council to reconsider this action and liaise with local wildlife and animal welfare groups to establish a better long-term preventative and more humane solution to the problem. The killing of wild rabbits in this way can only ever be a temporary solution, as the rabbit population will re-emerge naturally."

Or, put another way, Vote Green or the bunny gets it, I reckon... 

I don't know what Mears has to say in reply: I guess she's saving it for the magistrate.

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