ANIMAL lovers have spoken of their disgust after around 60 Canada geese were killed at United Utilities headquarters during the breeding season.

Bosses at the company based at Great Sankey close to Bold Heath said the birds have bitten several staff and one woman had to visit her GP leading to the overnight cull on Thursday, June 26 in what a spokesman described as ‘strict compliance with a licence’.

But keen birdwatcher David Kennedy said the water giant has taken the ‘easiest option’ killing the birds and it was ‘particularly cruel’ to take action when goslings had just been born.

He said: “There were all kinds of options open to them like catching the birds and releasing them somewhere like Pennington Flash or putting up railings around the paths.

“Geese can be a nuisance but if they didn’t want that problem on site then why include two lakes in the first place?

“I have been told there are none left now but when the birds are back in five or six years what will they do next?

“They need a plan going ahead that doesn’t involve slaughtering birds.”

A petition calling for United Utilities to ‘pledge to never kill Canada geese again’ has already reached more than 400 signatures online.

One reader who did not want to be named said while some staff did not like the birds others regularly fed them and have been outraged by the news.

A spokesman for United Utilities said: “It was a difficult decision to reduce the numbers of Canada geese at Lingley Mere and we appreciate it wasn’t something everyone would agree with, but it was important we took action to encourage other wildlife to thrive on site and stop people being injured.

“Several staff have been hurt after being bitten by the birds, which was very worrying as we have a children’s nursery on our land.”

The spokesman added the geese were also ‘damaging the environment’ with bird poo leading to high levels of phosphate in the lakes and increased algae preventing pond weed from growing, which lowers oxygen levels and can kill fish.

He added: “Our aim is to increase the biodiversity of Lingley Mere and the lakes and widen the variety of wildlife here and we would never be able to achieve this with such a high level of Canada geese on site.”

Andrew Taylor director of animal rights group Animal Aid added United Utilities had to be held to account.

He added: "The company is offering no real information what measures were taken to minimise suffering.

"The idea these birds presented a threat to people and had to be killed for defecating is an extreme and absurd over-reaction."