SEAGULLS were illegally killed by pest controllers according to a charity set up to rescue and protect the birds.
Tim McKenzie from National Gull Rescue and Protection says pest control company Ecolab killed protected herring gulls while working at BT's premises in Polegate.
BT and Ecolab say the pest controllers killed two chicks which they thought were lesser black backed gulls, an unprotected bird, not the protected herring gulls. Ecolab has said the two species look very similar but Mr McKenzie has slammed their actions.
He said, "The lesser black backed gull and the herring gull look completely different and these people should know the difference - it is their business to know the difference. Lesser black backed gulls are so few and far between. I know there are no colonies in Polegate."
Mr McKenzie said even if the birds killed were lesser black backed gulls, the pest controllers would have had to get a special license from Natural England to legally cull the gulls. He said such a license is given out if the birds are causing a health and safety issue.
Mr McKenzie said, "This sort of license from Natural England would apply in the case of a hospital for example, not a BT depot with trucks driving in and out all day. What sort of a health and safety issue would be caused there?"
Ecolab employees have also been criticised by Mr McKenzie for using shovels as a deterrent to fend off the birds while on the roof.
Mr McKenzie complained to BT about Ecolab and has said the response he received is a 'whitewash'.
A statement issued by BT on behalf of both firms said, "BT employed a specialist firm, Ecolab, to deal with a pest control problem after gulls had created a hazard at its building in Eastbourne.
"Nesting gulls are recognised as a potential cause of hygiene, health and safety hazards, including diseases that affect humans and other animals.
"After the work was completed, BT received a complaint that the birds may have been protected herring gulls. Naturally, we take complaints very seriously and an investigation was undertaken. Of course, the policies of both BT and Ecolab are to comply with all applicable laws and regulations governing the humane removal of pests.
"BT and Ecolab are both independently recognised as environmentally responsible companies."