FOI Bowland Gull Cull 6

I asked NE in July and September, about their role in the Bowland gull cull and I did again in early November. This time I got a sensible answer about whether I would get an answer eventually. Such is how we now measure responses from our statutory nature conservation organisation.


What I sent:

Further to my requests of  10 July and 5 September I ask for the following information:

Has NE consented culling of Lesser Black-backed Gull in the Bowland Fells SSSI for this year?

Was an appropriate assessment made of the impact on the conservation interest of the Bowland Fells SPA before any consent was issued?

Please may I see the appropriate assessment if it exists?

Your previous responses have said that an investigation is ongoing – but have not indicated when it may be concluded nor made any promise to reply to this enquiry when the information is available. You’ve had plenty of time to conclude an investigation by now.

What I  got back a week later:

Thank you for your email.

I have been in contact with the Area Team and they have confirmed that the investigation is ongoing and moving to its final stages. Although a timescale cannot be confirmed at this point in time.

They will respond to your questions once the investigation is concluded.


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12 Replies to “FOI Bowland Gull Cull 6”

  1. I have this mental picture of the "Area Team" slumped over their table in the "Hark to Bounty" dribbling into their beer!

  2. Many thanks to you for continuing to chase this, Mark. I look forward to your sharing what will surely be an especially finely-wrought piece of corporate obfuscation, eventually.

  3. Mark, Natural England are reasonably effective when it comes to dealing with issues that have an adverse impact on the Forest of Bowland's wildlife. From my extensive experience working in Bowland I have found these benefits suit the estates their gamekeepers and red grouse rather than anything else. Several years ago someone told me that Natural England was one of the best organisations he knew for knitting Scottish mist. Their lack of action throughout the last 2 decades has no doubt allowed gamekeepers to act with impunity destroying raptor nests, their content along with the elimination of the hen harrier, hawks, falcons (all but two nesting pairs) and any owl that gets in their way That is why today Bowland has been degraded by their duplicity into a 'Raptor Free Zone', the 'dodo' replacing the hen harrier as the symbol of this Lancashire AONB.

  4. I'd like to know what the alleged 'problem' is with the Lesser Black-backed Gulls. I have no knowledge of the Bowland colony, but the situation with similar moorland colonies in Scotland is that the gulls fly significant distances to pastures on lower ground to collect food for their young, occasionally to waste disposal sites or to the coast if it is nearby. Very little foraging takes place on the moors themselves, the birds merely using them as (relatively) secure nesting areas. Except where grouse shooting takes priority, of course. We all know that the Lesser Black-backed Gull is an amber-listed Species of Conservation Concern, so what can possibly be the justification for slaughtering their chicks? Despite the raised awareness of persecution of birds like the Hen Harrier, I despair at the culling culture which not only seems to have pervaded throughout society, but has also contaminated the conservation organisations themselves, due to an over-indulgence in scientists focusing on so-called 'problems.' To my mind they create as many problems as they solve. Sad to say (sorry Mark!), I predicted that the Ruddy Duck cull would lead to this unfortunate culture shift, and I'm increasingly convinced I got it right.

    1. Years ago the late Geoff Macfarland worked on the Whitfield LBB colony which also held 500+ Black headed Gulls around the lough. He claimed the LBBs were like you say bringing food from a far and all nesting birds like Red Grouse, Redshank and Curlew nesting in the colony were able to bring up their young in peace.

      Away from here I have witnessed LBB taking Curlew eggs and Red Grouse on Geltsdale and many local farmers shot them for taking afterbirth from the field as they thought they were taking lamb's eyes. The whole colony was removed from the moor during a certain well known agent's time for the moor along with the Black headed Gulls. A recent visit to the moor showed only Canada Geese nesting here with the rare breeding Wigeon also gone as they love to nest with the Black heads.

    2. Where is your evidence of this "culture shift" on culling? It's certainly not amongst conservationists nor, anecdotally, amongst the public who enjoy nature. There are hard decisions sometimes and the Ruddy Duck cull was the right decision then and it still is (was). This is a completely different scenario and doesn't bear comparison, quite apart from the fact that shouting "I told you so" form the sidelines doesn't really help matters.

      1. I think quite a few of the public are keen on getting rid of creatures they perceive to be in their way - gulls stealing ice creams, foxes, ants, grey squirrels.

  5. Good for you. And surely most of your questions could be answered before an investigation is concluded couldn't they? Just have to look in the file for the assessment etc. - ha, ha.

  6. They're probably hard at it re-writing the Appropriate Assessment retrospectively. That's what investigations are usually for - to buy time.

  7. Mark, thank you for persisting with this. And my points before were not that Natural England should not be criticised. Rather my point is that this deferential attitude to powerful landowners is deeply embedded in our system. As you're aware NE is hardly the only official body, or even NGO that has this absurd deferential attitude and blind spot when it comes to dealing with certain powerful people etc.

    The point I was trying to make before about your point that NE "is not fit for purpose", is that we have to be very careful that we don't just replace it with another organization, or organizational structure that just displays the same blind spot i.e. they adopt entirely different standards when dealing with certain people, estates, interests, than they apply elsewhere. It's something deeply embedded in the system in this country. What I was suggesting is that we focus more on the specific problem, rather than individual instance and organizations which display this out of date deferential attitude.


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