How FOI revealed a council’s duck slaughter

I’ve heard councillors accuse each other of developing God complexes before now, but never before seen a council decide to act like God.

And we only know Sandwell Council does thanks to Freedom of Information.

When Ian Carroll, a member of a group called Swan Watch, spotted a pest control company in the West Midlands borough rounding up dozens of geese in a council-run park, he decided to catch it on camera:

 

Mr Carroll was concerned about what was happening and asked what was going on. He says he was told rings were being put on the feet of the geese, but something still didn’t add up.

He told the Birmingham Mail:

“I spoke to the park ranger and he told me they were being taken to Sandwell Valley Country Park and he even sent me a picture of them supposedly being released at the park.”

And that would have been that, had Mr Carroll not then used the Freedom of Information Act to ask for some more details. After all, why would Sandwell Council use a pest control company to move geese?

The council then coughed up to the fact it had ‘humanely’ killed the 220 geese.

The reason? According to Sandwell Council, they want to encourage a different sort of duck in their parks.

The Mail reports:

Coun Maria Crompton, cabinet member for highways and environment, said a total of 150 geese were culled from Victoria Park and Dartmouth Park in 2013. Seventy geese were culled from Victoria Park this year.

 

“The geese were taken to a discrete place completely away from public view, in line with accepted methods,” she added. “Clearly, we wouldn’t have wanted people to see this happening in the park.

“No-one would want to have to do this – but unfortunately, as a responsible authority, we had no choice but to reduce the number of Canada Geese at these two parks.

 

“We’re trying to re-introduce more ornamental ducks back into the formal parks – but before we do, we need to control the numbers of Canada Geese to acceptable levels.”

 

You can read the councillor’s full response in a letter posted on this blog – which is then somewhat brought into question by the blog’s author, who clearly knows the subject, and is clearly angered by it.

Perhaps the tax payers of Sandwell should be grateful that the council at least doesn’t want to whack geese in public view.

But a council which apparently tries to cover up the mass cull of geese – and lets be honest, it’s not like there aren’t other places they could have been moved to, surely – and then says it’s been done so they can create a home for other types of duck … that feels like a council playing God to me.

Oddly enough, not a subject the council leader Darren Cooper found time to write about on his blog, or indeed on Twitter, where he is perhaps among the UK’s most active politicians.

Thank goodness for FOI.

2 comments

  1. Such culling of Geese is Illegal so why are the local authority not up before
    the courts ?!.
    No doubts there are few PA ‘s who would like to cull a few FOI campaigners?!
    At least this Goose campaigner was not declared Vexatious.

  2. It’s somewhat concerning when park rangers feel they have to lie to residents when implementing a policy presumably agreed by the council. No wonder people are suspicious of officials. Well done to Ian Carroll for following through on this.

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