Page last updated at 18:19 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 19:19 UK

Bright Eyes writer's rabbit cull

Composer Mike Batt
Mr Batt enjoyed eight hit singles and four gold albums with The Wombles

The composer who wrote the famous theme music for Watership Down has ordered a cull of rabbits on his Surrey estate.

Mike Batt's land near Farnham was inundated by hundreds of rabbits which nibbled wires and piping.

Mr Batt, who hired a marksman, took advice on the most humane method of control. "It seems that dead rabbits are the story of my life," he said.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said that shooting could be a humane method of killing, depending on the skill of the marksman.

Mr Batt wrote Art Garfunkel's international number one single Bright Eyes which featured on Watership Down.

'Regretted cull'

He also enjoyed success with eight hit singles and four gold albums with The Wombles.

Mr Batt, who has lived on the land for 12 years, said: "There was a nice population of rabbits for many years, but a few years ago it seemed to double and double again."

He said that, although rabbits had a "lovely cuddly" image, in agricultural terms they were a huge pest and had been "literally everywhere" on his land causing considerable damage.

Mr Batt said he had very much regretted having to cull the rabbits and had hired a marksman because shooting was more humane than other methods.

He recalled how, as a child, he had see the suffering endured by animals caught in traps, adding "snares are horrible things, I would never put a snare out".

He stressed that, out of hundreds of rabbits, a relatively small number, perhaps 12, had been killed, adding that the rest of the animals seemed to have taken the hint and left his land.

'Crop damage'

Natural England said rabbits have established themselves again as "the major vertebrate pest of British agriculture", causing "serious crop damage".

A spokesman from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said rabbits might need to be controlled in areas where they caused a problem but it was vital that any control work was carried out in a safe and humane manner.

The RSPCA said there was no evidence that shooting a few rabbits would mean the rest moved on, however they might be more wary for a while.

Mr Batt is currently director of a management company and record label which has signed Katie Melua, Jem and French first lady Carla Bruni.

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