ANTI-nuclear campaigners have started a petition against plans by Sellafield Limited to cull a group of roe deer ‘trapped’ at its west Cumbrian plant.
To improve security, the company erected a secondary security fence - spanning 11 miles around the site.
But campaigners say this has ‘trapped’ a number of roe deer who now face a cull by the company which has to provide a 'sterile area' between the two fences.
Sellafield Ltd explained around five to 12 deer are involved and the cull was a ‘last resort’ and taken on ‘expert advice’.
It plans to hire 'professional and skilled' marksmen to carry out the cull - working under veterinary supervision.
A Sellafield spokesman explained: “The experts advise that to attempt to tranquilise the deer would cause them great distress, and that they would be likely to injure themselves, perhaps fatally, attempting to flee in what is quite dense undergrowth.
“The advice we have been given is that to cull the deer is more humane and will cause less suffering.”
He pointed out that 350,000 deer are culled in the UK every year, and that leading scientists and wildlife conservationists had called for that number to be 'drastically increased'.
Veterinary consultant Peter Green has also issued a statement through the company saying all possible methods for removing the deer humanely had been carefully considered.
“Unfortunately roe deer do not congregate in herds and cannot be herded or rounded up like sheep or cattle," said Mr Green in the statement.
"They are extremely timid and fearful of being trapped, caught or handled. The steep, hilly character of the site and the dense thorn vegetation make it impossible to erect netting to try catch them. They cannot be approached closely enough to dart them.
“Considerable previous experience of catching wild roe deer has led to the conclusion that if attempts are made to catch or trap these deer they will suffer considerable stress and a very high risk of serious or fatal injury. Such an outcome would cause great suffering and would be in breach of Animal Welfare Legislation.”
However, Marianne Birkby, for Radiation Free Lakeland, is seeking signatures for the online petition at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/FreetheSellafieldDeer.
She claimed: “We understand the need for Sellafield to routinely cull animals on site in an effort to contain the spread of radiation.
"However, if as Sellafield says the deer have not entered the site and are not contaminated in any way then surely a more humane solution would be to permanently remove the new double fencing in the woodland area and instead reinforce the original fence another way.”
“As well as preventing the 'need' for a cull, this would be a goodwill gesture and would benefit the whole ecosystem of the woodland.”