ANIMAL activists have criticised Edinburgh city council for employing an armed marksman to shoot rabbits overnight at an allotment site hemmed in by public footpaths and only yards from Fettes College.
Details of the practice, under which air rifles are deployed at Inverleith allotments to deal with rabbits eating vegetables, emerged in the Inverleith Allotments newsletter.
Under the heading “Rabbits update” it said: “Some good news is that three were shot a couple of weeks ago, the bad news is that at least two others were also seen but escaped. The pest controller will return for an overnight visit very soon. He hopes that once the growth has subsided for the winter they can be more easily seen and more easily disposed of.”
Rumours about the rabbit killings had begun circulating in July on the allotment site, located at the edge of Inverleith Park, but council officials dismissed these as “hearsay and exaggeration”.
The council has defended its action, saying a risk assessment is carried out and police are informed in advance.
But last night animal rights campaigners described the council’s actions as “disproportionate” and advocated humane alternative methods.
Louise Robertson, campaigns officer at animal protection charity OneKind, said: “It’s outrageous that Edinburgh city council is killing rabbits in response to such a minor problem.
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“Lethal control should be a last resort and there are plenty of non-lethal alternatives that the council could have considered. This seems to be a quick, easy fix to something which, with very little effort, could be humanely dealt with.
“Shooting rabbits so near to a school, even after dark, raises serious concerns about public safety and the humaneness of the shooting. This also sends completely the wrong message about dealing with animals which are considered to be ‘pests’ by agreeing to just wipe them out because a minority objects to them.
“Rabbits can in fact benefit allotments with the natural fertiliser they produce and Edinburgh city council’s response is completely disproportionate. OneKind is happy to advise the council on non-lethal control should this be required.”
Michelle Hughes, 29, a mother of two who lives in Inverleith Place, said; “This is the first I’ve heard of this and it’s quite scary. We have young children and I don’t like to think of that going on right outside our window. Our dog can sometimes get out and run about too and someone could take a shot at him.
“There are people walking through the park at all hours heading home from nights out, so how do we know something couldn’t go wrong?”
Gavin Barrie, SNP councillor for Inverleith, would like to see the risk assessment. He said: “This is very concerning and I’d be quite happy to become involved in discussions to look at both the risk assessment and other methods that could be used for ridding the site of rabbits.”
A council spokesman said: “In extreme circumstances, pest control is required to limit the increase of rabbits, which are considered pests under the Pests Act 1954 and are capable of causing severe damage to crops and land. This is a standard, humane practice for landowners, who have a responsibility to take action to prevent rabbits from causing damage.
“In this instance action was requested by allotment holders, who had experienced ongoing and significant damage to plots. As a result, work was carried out by a trained professional, after notifying Police Scotland, ensuring there is no risk to the public.
“A number of strict safety precautions are taken to ensure public safety, including carrying out procedures overnight and thoroughly checking the surrounding area to ensure no people are nearby.”
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