Bowland gull cull 10 – update

Last week the RSPB published an interesting blog about the Forest of Bowland which included these passages:

‘The situation is complicated. Natural England have been attempting to tackle the historical culling consent granted to the Abbeystead Estate. As part of a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, the estate voluntarily agreed not to cull gulls using these previously agreed consents (although they remain in place). Natural England reciprocated by granting a one-year consent to Abbeystead, but also to Bleasdale, with limited culling on the Bowland Fells. There has never been a satisfactory explanation to justify this consent.

Then in 2017, Natural England took another retrograde step by producing a draft agreement that, once signed, would give consent for the unlimited killing of gulls outside of a number of sanctuary areas through to March 2021.  Once again, no justification was given for this consent.

To make matters worse, ahead of this agreement being signed between NE and the Estates, RSPB staff discovered Abbeystead gamekeepers culling gulls inside one of the proposed sanctuary areas, those areas that were supposed to be exempt from future culls. Natural England launched an investigation into this but have still to report their findings.  Therefore, the precise legal position of the 2017 culling remains unclear.’


What is NE doing in Bowland? And why won’t they come clean on what they’ve done? One has to wonder whether it is because coming clean and telling the truth would show what a shambles NE is.  But when NE gets around to answering my FoI requests we may learn some more – and every time they do not answer them then we learn something about the organisation anyway.  By my calculations I should expect my next response from NE a week on Friday (I’d guess at about 1630), that’s 4 May.  I’ll let you know.

The story so far:

Natural England continues not to come clean on Bowland gull cull9 April 2018

Smidgeons of information on gull culls from NE14 February 2018

Bowland gull cull licensing facts still kept secret by NE6 February 2018

FOI Bowland gull cullNovember 2017

Quick response from NE on Bowland gull cull7 September 2017

Any NE news on Bowland gull cull?5 September 2017

Response from NE on Bowland gull cull15 August 2017

Those gulls again10 July 2017

RSPB calls on Natural England to act7 July 2017


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10 Replies to “Bowland gull cull 10 – update”

  1. That is utterly shocking - perhaps even more shocking than anything to do with ravens or hen harrier brood meddling.
    Well done for keeping on their heels, Mark.
    "NE is not fit for purpose" is now a cliche, but an extremely accurate one.

  2. Wow. That is absolutely scandalous. No wonder NE are struggling to come up with a cover story in response to your FOIs. The tone of the RSPN blog is a little concerning - "the history is complicated" etc. It doesn't seem to be complicated, except in the sense that it involves a series of disgraceful decisions over several years. They - and we - should be calling not just for a reorientation of NE, but some way of holding it properly to account for its decisions. Kudos to you, Mark, for keeping this alive.

  3. What on earth has happened to our national conservation agencies? Have Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage been infiltrated or taken over by the Countryside Alliance? It seems that priority is now being afforded to killers of so-called 'vermin' as defined by Victorian values, rather than dedicated scientists and naturalists who take a defensive stand for genuine conservation. Grants to voluntary conservation bodies and Local Authorities have been slashed, but the reins are being liberally slackened for excessive 'control' of OUR natural heritage. Gamekeepers are almost taken seriously in their kid-on role as true conservationists. Who are they kidding? NE and SNH, apparently. Even Special Protection Areas don't provide sanctuary for Species of Conservation Concern any more. Not to mention Carrion Crows, Ravens, Foxes, Badgers, Roe Deer, even Hedgehogs and now gulls which are persecuted, often in the name of conservation or species protection. Threats to control certain raptors are even considered as serious options, and beware any of those foreign immigrants without passports, the non-native invasive species. Some inept scientists are even suggesting that Ring-necked Parakeets should be exterminated because they're higher in the pecking order at garden bird tables. Gulls, especially the big ones, are attacked from several directions for all sorts of spurious reasons, like being noisy or stealing babies from prams. It's time the human race stopped persecuting nature, and learned to appreciate the species with which we share this planet, including the beauty of a magpie and the elegance of a gull.

    1. It is entirely possible that Ring-necked Parakeets could adversely effect our own wildlife to such an extent that they have to be culled. I see no problem with that decision.

      But I agree with the rest of your comments completely.

  4. This should be subject to another complaint to the EU, about failure to follow EU Birds Directive.

  5. It's all very shameful. From what I can remember, the original pretext for culling was that because Bowland is a watershed for water supplies, this was in the name of public health. But then it has always been obvious that this was actually culling to protect the interests of driven shoots (mainly grouse, but also pheasant and partridge at lower levels).

    What we really need to know is the behind the scenes deals, lobbying and ministerial pressure which facilitates these "deals". This is part of a whole suite of actions by statutory conservation bodies, not just Natural England, where they appear to be compromising their duties and conservation aims in favour of vested interests. What we don't know is how is this decided. Why are certain vested interests given all sorts of favourable concessions, which you would't ordinarily expect. You wouldn't ordinarily expect a statutory conservation body to allow the mass culling of a declining species to protect someone's hobby and sport, in an area of great conservation interest.

    What we need to know is how NE have been pushed into going along with this.

    1. The whole thing is utterly scandalous and has been going on ever since Abbeystead estate was bought by the late Duke of Westminster. What the culling has done in what was the Tarnbrook Fell gull colony is not only reduce the birds from somewhere near 100,000 birds in the early seventies to what it is now but to escape persecution the colony has now spread to a new site where Bleasdale, Abbeystead and UU land meet.
      If you want to know how the influence works remember the name Abbeystead owned by the Dukes of Westminster, then do as most do, bow, scrape, be deferential and tug your forelock because that's how it works there.

    2. "What we need to know is how NE have been pushed into going along with this."

      I agree.

      Natural England's terms of reference were changed by Tony Blair's Government to give equal weight to 'economic development' and then its budgets have been cut (twice, drastically):

      From [a href=""]Natural England's Annual Reports:[/a]

      Year £millions expenditure

      2007 224
      2008 241
      2009 232
      2010 232
      2011 237
      2012 182
      2013 187
      2014 188
      2015 180
      2016 138
      2017 139


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