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Cumbrian residents were furious to discover a local council has been killing rabbits in a cemetery – all because they had been eating flowers.
Contractors hired by Allerdale Council took out 30 of the animals in Cockermouth Cemetery, using rifles.
The move has provoked ire among locals, with Jaquie Stobbart from Cockermouth saying: “It’s getting out of hand, where would it stop? There’s wildlife everywhere.That’s nature.
“They don’t understand what they are eating, and to kill them is just cruel. People can’t just decide to kill defenseless animals like that.”
Maryport resident Dolly Daniel, of Maryport, added: “I can understand relatives being upset if their flowers are being destroyed, but I wouldn’t be too comfortable walking past the cemetery, hearing shots, and seeing rabbits being slaughtered.
“I think I would avoid the place.”
But Allerdale Council is unrepentant, with one local politician saying ‘something had to be done’, because mourners were getting upset after finding freshly laid flowers eaten.
Cockermouth town councillor Ken Scales said: “I am an animal lover, and it is a pity that a solution other than killing cannot be found, but I don’t know what alternative there can be.”
A council spokesperson added: “This is not an unusual process, and other local authorities across the country use similar measures to control the numbers of rabbits on their land.
“We occasionally receive complaints regarding rabbits eating flowers on graves, however they can also cause bigger problems to the quality and safety of the cemetery.
“We therefore use a professional, licensed service to carry out the work as and when it is necessary, as we have done over the past few years.”
A spokesperson for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [RSPCA] said the charity opposed to the cull.
They said: “If all humane deterrence and other measures fail, or there is evidence that alternatives are not appropriate, and a cull is supported by science, it is very important that it is carried out in a humane and controlled way.”