A request for action and an official report of complaint
10 More reasons to call off the Deer Cull
Suzanne Kelly, 20 May 2011
To Valerie Watt, the entire Aberdeen City Council, Ms MacDonald (Complaints) and to the Aberdeen Freedom of Information Officer(s).
Please consider this report to be a summary of my complaints against the actions of Aileen Malone, Peter Leonard, and those involved in planning the cull of the Tullos Hill Roe Deer behind closed doors. Please would the Freedom of Information Officer consider the questions contained in this report as constituting a formal Freedom of Information Request. Please could Ms Macdonald consider this report to be a summary of my main complaints against the aforementioned, to clarify our previous email communications. If anyone of these addressees needs further information, please contact me. (Suzanne Kelly, 204 Victoria Road, Aberdeen AB11 9NP)
At its last meeting in May 2011 Aberdeen Housing & Environment Committee two people requested to make deputations – they wanted to speak on the subject of the controversial deer cull the committee had proposed. Despite new information coming out (as shown in the remainder of this document), despite Community Councils being excluded from the process from the start – the Lib-Dem dominated Committee refused to hear the speakers. What were the grounds for refusing this request? There was no paper report on the deer cull – only a verbal report. The verbal report said that only £51 in funds had been offered of a £225,000 figure which the Committee had previously demanded from animal lovers. The surprise was that any money had been pledged at all: up and down the city and country, animal lovers reacted in anger to the demand for money for the lives of the deer – calling it nothing short of blackmail. The new information was never heard, and the cull is still being planned. Here are 10 reasons why the cull must be stopped now – well, if this were a democratic, fair society anyway.
1. The £225,000 ransom demand was based on a 10 year figure
In an email exchange between the Aberdeen Voice editor and head of the Housing Committee Aileen Malone, Malone admits the £225,000 arbitrarily demanded is for a ten-year period. A total of 10 weeks was given by Housing & Environment for people opposed to the cull to raise this monumental sum. I would like to ask: is it true that the Council owes a sum for previous, failed planting? I was told that £44,000 approximately is owed by the City in this regard – please clarify.
Recommended Action: Since nothing like this amount of money is needed immediately to save the deer, whoever decided this sum was needed should be called to account for themselves. If a more reasonable amount of money was required for fencing, it might have been possible to raise. But this brings up another flaw in this deer cull scheme.
2. Despite the demand for £225,000, Pete Leonard, Head of Housing (check) has written to say that a cull would still be required.
In an email to Suzanne Kelly, Pete Leonard has stated it is SNH’s position that a cull would still be required. Therefore, the demand for money made by a committee to its electorate is shown to be completely misleading.
Recommended Action: Leonard should be asked to explain why money was demanded to save deer that he said would still have to be culled. The demand for money was highly unusual to start with, but that it was demanded under a completely false pretext is further grounds for halting the cull and demanding a full investigation now be started into the ‘Tree for Every Citizen’ Scheme and the related deer cull.
3. The Cull is not scientifically supported, would continue for years, and other deer would simply move into the area
The Scottish SPCA, Animal Concern, and other animal experts have stated the obvious: even if the City shoots some deer this year, others will move into the area. The shooting will have to go on for a period of years. This should be wholly unacceptable.
Recommended Action: Animal agencies and charities have resoundingly condemned the cull for a variety of reasons – but for this one reason alone, the cull should be halted.
4. The Housing & Environment Committee / Pete Leonard responded to pertinent questions far too late for either any challenges to be made to the logic behind the cull or for any relevant grant/funding opportunities to be found.
I, Suzanne Kelly, first sent questions in at the end of February which would have enabled me to see if any grants or funding opportunities to save the deer could be found. I chased my request –initially sent to all of the Housing Committee on 8 March. It was only on 29 April that Pete Leonard deigned to send a reply. This was far too late for the arbitrary 10 May deadline imposed by Housing to find funds to save the deer. The reply also left a good deal to be desired.
Likewise John Robins of Animal Concern quickly contacted the Housing Committee. He had offered them the services of an expert – totally free of charge – to give them ways to plant the trees without killing a single deer. Not only did anyone reply to him in a timely offer or even take up the offer, Pete Leonard went so far as to deny that any animal agencies or charities had approached the Council whatsoever. Robins has lodged a formal complaint on the matter with the Council.
Recommended Action: An inquiry should be held into these failures. It is one thing to impose an arbitrary deadline which we have seen has no basis in science or in finance. It is quite another to deny people the means to find funding, to offer other solutions, and to deny there was an offer of other solutions. No cull should take place at least until the facts and decision-making process of the poor handling of the situation are fully brought to light and investigated.
5. Alternatives to killing the deer exist and plentiful, are affordable – and are what the electorate demands
There are some three dozen species of tree which deer will not eat: plant a mix of these instead
Use chemical spray deterrents on the young trees to prevent deer from eating them
Plant cheap, alternative sources of food for the deer
Use the Animal Concern offer of expert help to identify the correct options for Tullos Hill – if indeed trees should be planted there at all.
Recommended Action: Determine who, under whose instructions, and why someone from the council briefed Scottish Natural Heritage away from the non-lethal methods of tree planting. As witnessed by the 25 November 2010 letter, this is precisely what happened. The letter makes no mention of the non-lethal measures listed above – and goes so far as to reject tree guards on the grounds they have visual impact. Such guards are in use all over the city – this objection went against the city’s practice elsewhere and against any democratic decision-making system.
6. The Public Phase 2 Consultation omitted the cull – which was already being discussed. This omission was a gross violation of the public’s right to know the facts behind any consultation.
The consultation closed at the end of January 2011 – the veritable conspiracy to sway the SNH towards a cull being the only solution was in full force in November 2010. I personally knew about the consultation; I read it, and found nothing untoward in what it said. Had I known the cull was being planned and should have been mentioned (rabbits were mentioned –leading me to think all animals had been considered), I would have lodged an objection and started an anti-tree-planting campaign immediately. The person or persons who should have mentioned the cull are the same ones undoubtedly who seem to want to stop at nothing for the tree planting. It is not too far a leap to wonder if they wanted the public kept in the dark. I am told in a recent email that Pete Leonard would have had ultimate responsibility for this document, which can be found on the Aberdeen City website.
Recommended Action: A full investigation is required to find out how such a misleading consultation was written, approved and launched. No cull should take place as the public were virtually robbed of the right to protest against it. A report needs to be issued into how and why this consultation was so extremely flawed and slanted.
7. Is Tullos Hill suitable for the tree plantation being the epicentre of decades of Arson? No.
On Tuesday 16 May two more fires broke out in the area – they were part of a lengthy history of fires in the area. We know many of these fires to have been deliberately raised. The fire-fighting cost over the year is in the tens of thousands. As the area is mainly scrub brush (as well as rare wildflowers and orchids as per the Council’s own publications it should be noted) the fires can be handled far more readily than if the area were forest. The area surrounding Tullos hill includes a school, community centre, industrial area, and dwellings. Would the tree not be destroyed by fire? How would fire-raising be prevented in future? At what cost? Was Grampian Fire consulted about the tree-planting scheme?
Recommended Action: Simply do not plant trees on Tullos Hill on such a large scale.
8. Flawed logic should not dictate policy: Why is ‘a tree for every citizen’ something that must be adhered to precisely?
We apparently have grant funding – funding which according to the Phase 2 consultation covered the first three years. That statement was misleading – we are now seeking money either to shoot or save deer. If we don’t plant the trees, we lose some £300k in grants. As the money was solely for the trees, then we lose nothing by saying no to the phase 2 planting.
9. Tullos Hill already has an ecosystem – it is moorland, and moorland in this area is under threat
The City knows that the area has a diversity of plant and animal life. The biodiversity of the existing flora and fauna are as more important than changing the area to a different type of ecosystem. Again, there are rare plants and orchids; coastal birds feed in the area, and of course there are the deer which have survived for decades.
Recommended Action: set Tullos Hill up as a nature reserve. Put up signs warning motorists that deer and other animals are in the area – this is standard practice almost everywhere else that has deer. If we can’t get a grant for all the trees, either halt this project, or scale it down. There is no scientific reason why a tree has to be planted for every Aberdonian: In fact, several thousand of them have signed a petition asking not to have a tree planted for them if it means killing the deer.
10. Don’t kill the deer: The Community Councils and Residents have said so.
Torry Community Council was outraged at their 21 April meeting: they voted unanimously to write to the council condemning the cull and complaining at the lack of consultation on the matter. Nigg, Cove and other Community Councils have followed suit. The Housing Committee has taken arbitrary decisions without communicating with the elected Community Councils. There are also thousands of signatures from Aberdonians (and people further afield make several thousand more complaints) who are completely opposed to this cull. Ms Malone misled the Press & Journal’s readers when she said ‘only about one’ person in Aberdeen made written complaints to her. She privately apologised, but made no public apology to match her P&J statement. The deer do not have to die. The trees do not have to be planted. The scheme is not more important than the wishes of the electorate.
Recommended Action: The City must meet to discuss this and the preceding points, and then it surely must conclude the tree scheme is flawed, people were mislead, democratic process was not followed, the science and finances were incorrect: and that the cull must not go ahead. The actions of those who so desperately tried to push this cull onto an unwilling population must be fully analysed, and appropriate action taken against them.