‘Cull geese to feed homeless’

ELY’S burgeoning population of Canada geese should be culled and the meat used to feed the homeless and hungry, it has been suggested.

At a meeting of the Ely Neighbourhood Panel, held on July 18, a resident suggested the birds should be cut back in number in order to reduce the nuisance of bird mess at the Riverside, with the meat supplied to the county’s foodbanks.

The practice already takes place in Pennsylvania and Oregon in the United States as a means of cutting their goose population and the residents suggested the same should be done in Ely following a recent increase in the population of distinctive birds.

Chairman of the panel, and City of Ely Councillor, Philip Eden, said something needed to be done about the increasing number of the birds.

He said: “The point was quite rightly raised that there is a real problem and I think the real issue is how to tackle the problem as a whole.

“I think what came out of the meeting was that the people who are responsible for the Riverside need to get together and find a way forward for it.”

Whilst acknowledging that the population of geese had expanded rapidly over the last few years, Cllr Eden stopped short of calling for the birds to be culled.

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“I don’t think we can do that, that is not appropriate at all. The whole issue needs examining properly to see whether the geese can be moved. The issue needs to be discussed and the RSPCA will need to be consulted along with many of the other parties involved.”

The city’s ducks have become a controversial issue in recent weeks, with East Cambridgeshire District Council introducing a fine for anyone feeding the ducks on land and not on the river.

The council stressed however, that the fine would only be imposed on the most extreme and persistent of offenders.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “The RSPCA regards culling as a last resort. The society advocates alternative methods for resolving problems Canada geese may cause, such as egg control, discouraging people feeding the geese and measures to actively deter the birds.

“Other towns such as Stratford upon Avon have successfully reduced the problems Canada geese can cause without recourse to culling.”

In response to the proposal, and to the issue of over-population of ducks in East Cambs, a petition has been set up online calling for the proper care of waterfowl in the city. The petition has already attracted about 100 signatures and called for the council to do more to tackle the problem.

It said: “It would be kinder to the birds and represent a long-term, sustainable plan if the council asked people not to feed the waterfowl at all, this move was adopted by Saumarez park in Guernsey due to overfeeding of the ducks and seasonal geese. The birds populated quicker than they would have done under more natural circumstances and became ill because of the bread they were being fed.

“In the end, a blanket “please do not feed the birds” was put up, with information on why not to feed them. According to local reports, the birds now live mostly from sourcing their own food, and the population has self-reduced to a sustainable level.”