Grey squirrels are vermin -- urbanites need to realise this
The recent sentence handed down to a UK home owner by a British court shows how far removed town folk are from knowing how the food chain really works
Published 03/08/2010 | 11:21
THE HISTORY of man is as strange as anything to be found in science fiction. From when we first crawled out of the seas to when we evolved towards our present state, it has been an extraordinary journey.
Yet now, after millennia of struggle and with monkeys as our most recent ancestors, we have worked out a system of justice and social behaviour that is supposed to be sane and intelligent.
However, it is unlikely that even a monkey with a bad hangover would have come up with the sentence recently passed in England on one unfortunate man under the new UK animal welfare acts.
His crime was that he killed a grey squirrel, having first caught it in a cage in his garden. Someone spotted the carcass and reported the 'crime' and the police, presumably having a quiet day, decided to investigate. The unfortunate accused immediately owned up, not realising that he had done anything wrong. He had bought the cage trap in a garden centre, just like thousands of others, and set it to catch the greys that were terrorising the bird table in his garden. On catching a squirrel he then immersed it in a water butt, drowning it and in the words of one report "killing it almost instantaneously".
Now none of us who work with animals would condone drowning, and the traditional practice of drowning unwanted kittens and puppies is not acceptable when there are so many better options. But even the prosecutor in this case expressed sympathy for the accused, stating that he had been "extremely frank and open about his actions having believed it to be the most humane way of disposing of an animal -- however, this method is now illegal".
Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) saw these actions as a criminal offence, as did the judge, who passed down a fine of £1,547 (?1,850) and a six-month conditional discharge.
It is worth noting here that the Forestry Commission in Britain, using traps, shooting and poisoned bait, has killed around 50,000 grey squirrels in the past five years and the Scottish government has recently launched a multi-million pound programme to try and stop grey squirrels spreading further north of its border with England.
The grey is responsible for the virtual disappearance of the native red squirrel and is causing more millions in damage to broadleaf trees.