Letter: Winchester College’s Dubious Swan Abduction

I am grateful to the Chronicle for investigating questionable behavior at Winchester College in destroying, under license from Natural England, seven swan eggs and removing the adult pair (“aggressive” swans moved, May 26, 2022).

Natural England says that, except in exceptional circumstances, “you are breaking the law if you intentionally kill, injure or take wild birds; intentionally taking, damaging or destroying a wild bird’s nest while it is being used or constructed or intentionally taking or destroying a wild bird’s egg”. The College apparently produced evidence that the male swan attacked the public, animals and boats. But evidence from whom? From College? I’m sure there are plenty of locals like me who regularly travel the Navigation and, observing reasonable behavior towards wildlife, have never encountered any problems. It is easy to avoid any potential “aggression” from the guard swans. You don’t let your dog chase them, you don’t row near them shouting and gesticulating and if, as a walker, you feel really threatened, you can always backtrack to avoid them.

READ MORE: Seven swan eggs destroyed by Winchester College under license from Natural England

I’m also confused by the timing of the removal of adult swans until they’ve laid their eggs and incubated them. The College put up warning signs about the ‘aggressive’ behavior of swans in the same area last year. If there really was a problem, why did the College delay action? Was their intention to reduce the risk of there being swans here in the future? How cruel to allow these swans to lay their eggs and then destroy them.

I looked on the college website, but couldn’t find anything about the swan kidnapping. Given the local feelings about this, someone at the College might have seen fit to let us all know how the adult swans are faring in their new “safe” home. Instead, it would appear from your article that the College has been less than forthright. However, it does not surprise me that the College neglects to take into account the views of the local population. In this case, it is clear that the desire to provide the boys with the benefit of swanless rowing, a privilege that is not part of the basic curriculum, outweighs everything. So much for the College’s commitment to wildlife and ‘Manners Makyth Man’ – the College’s motto: doesn’t mutual respect extend to our precious wildlife?

Andrea Owen

Culverwell Gardens


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