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‘I want to see a humane reduction in sea eagle numbers’: Angus MacNeil says support for idea has flooded in

Sea eagles have been branded "lamb eagles" by MP Angus MacNeil. Picture: Dorothea Oldani
Sea eagles have been branded "lamb eagles" by MP Angus MacNeil. Picture: Dorothea Oldani

An MP and crofter calling for a cull on Britain’s biggest bird of prey says he has been “overwhelmed” by support.

Angus MacNeil has branded sea eagles “lamb eagles” after they killed two of his neighbour’s flock at the weekend.

While some have hit out at the proposal, accusing Mr MacNeil of “demonising” the birds, he said he has received backing from “all over the country” – and may even set up a GoFundMe site for “victims of the lamb eagles”.

He has also received an invite to address the National Sea Eagle Stakeholder Panel about the issue.

Mr MacNeil said: “Inevitably I’ve had negative feedback, including one person who said they would rather have a world full of birds than people like me.

“But I’ve had overwhelming support from people, especially those who have had the lived experience of sea eagles or as we now call them ‘lamb eagles’.

“The irony is that certain conservationists back the culling of deer and feral goats but not these birds which are also destroying the environmental landscape and whose numbers are artificially inflated by the farming activities of man.

“Sea eagles do not have a conservation policy – they will take what ever prey is available and move on to the next buffet provided by man.”

MP Angus MacNeil has called for a cull of the birds, which he has dubbed ‘lamb eagles’

‘I want to see a humane reduction in sea eagle numbers’

Mr MacNeil claimed he has even received an offer of £168 from someone in the USA to pay for the loss of his neighbour’s lambs.

“He even suggested a GoFundMe page to compensate victims of the lamb eagles and I’m giving that serious consideration to allow conservationists to put their money where their mouth is,” Mr MacNeil, who is a crofter on Barra, said.

“I want to see a humane reduction in sea eagle numbers to prevent more and more lambs being painfully ripped apart by these killers of the skies.

“How their numbers are reduced can cover a range of issues including humane culling. But across Europe there are tens of thousands of these birds – they are hardly endangered, but they are endangering a whole range of other bird species who get torn abort alive by these flying killers.”

It is believed there are about 150 breeding pairs of sea eagles in Scotland.

This could rise to 200 by 2025.

Mr MacNeil, who keeps 33 ewes, said it was “shocking and alarming” that numbers of the birds could reach an estimated 400 breeding pairs in the coming decades.

“This re-introduction has got out of control. They are taking people’s livelihoods. Crofters and farmers are losing hundreds of pounds and they are threatening crofting as a way of life,” he said.

“The trouble is when they were re-introduced there were large numbers of rabbits to feed on, but that population has fallen so they have turned increasingly to lambs.”

Various trials are underway by SNH and its partners on how to reduce the impact of sea eagle predation on sheep farming.

Conservationists working with farmers

Sea eagles were reintroduced into Scotland in 1975, starting in the Isle of Rum, with 82 juveniles.

But in 2008 crofters across the Highlands claimed sea eagles had killed more than 200 lambs. In Argyll, crofters have claimed there are so many lamb-eating sea eagles that there is now one for every sheep farm in their area.

The RSPB has said it was unlikely the birds were responsible for all the deaths.

Conservationists have maintained that the eagles take few lambs and instead bring millions of pounds of tourism to the area.

RSPB Scotland-commissioned research suggests that white-tailed eagle tourism generates £8million a year on the Isle of Mull alone.

Compensation and advice to crofters and farmers has been offered through the Sea Eagle Management Scheme.

A NatureScot spokeswoman said: “Sea eagles were once widespread across Britain, until they were wiped out as a result of persecution in the early 20th century. The reintroduction of these native birds to Scotland has been successful and benefits tourism.

“However, in some locations, sea eagles impact farming and crofting by predating lambs. We understand the concerns of farmers and crofters, and continue to work closely with them, and a range of stakeholders at the local and national level, to offer management support through the Sea Eagle Management Scheme and to trial management techniques which can help reduce these negative impacts. A cull is not being considered.”

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