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Environment and History

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Environment and History

The Grey Seal in Britain: A Twentieth Century History of a Nature Conservation Success

Robert A. Lambert

Environment and History 8(2002): 449-474

This article examines the complex history of the grey seal problem in Britain since 1914. In particular, it will focus on our different reactions to the animal over time, and show how fishing communities and organisations have called for a government-sponsored seal cull since the mid-1920s, and how the very different types of culls that came in the 1960s and 1970s were opposed and halted by public outcry in Britain and emerging international environmentalism. The essay is broad based, to show how the grey seal problem has been a political, environmental, social, cultural, economic and animal welfare issue. The study illustrates the value of an historical perspective in assessing the different strands of contemporary debate as to the wisdom and content of consciously managing a large mammal population. From this case study, using primary evidence from England and Scotland, wider conclusions about our changing modern relationship to the natural world can be drawn.

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