Editor urged cormorant cull

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A former editor of the Angling Times, the fisherman's bible, has been charged with incitement to kill wild birds following an article supporting the illegal culling of cormorants.

But one flock of the breed hated by anglers for their voracious appetite for fish got their own back when they raided a carp lake at the country estate of the composer, Lord Lloyd Webber.

In a rare move, Cambridgeshire police decided to charge Keith Higginbottom with two offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. He has been summonsed to appear at Peterborough Magistrates' Court on 11 July.

The prosecution follows publication in the newspaper last December of a photograph of a gunman on a riverbank with four dead cormorants at his feet. The caption read: "This is the picture every angler wants to see - the man, the gun and the cormorants."

The accompanying article described a campaign by fishery owners to cull large numbers of cormorants, a protected species. Mr Higginbottom was quoted as saying that "the Angling Times does not condemn them for it".

Cambridgeshire police said yesterday that Mr Higginbottom, who left the newspaper last month, had been charged under laws banning the killing of protected birds without a licence.

The Angling Times, which has campaigned for cormorants to be removed from the protected species list, said it still supported the view that they inflicted major ecological damage on fish stocks and steps were needed to control their numbers. It said: "We have never urged the public to take the law into its own hands, but have strongly campaigned to have the law changed so that appropriate measures can be taken."

It emerged yesterday that a flock of cormorants had descended on Lord Lloyd Webber's lake on the Hampshire- Berkshire border, leaving it with just 250 out of 7,500 carp. He now faces a bill of thousands of pounds to restock the lake.