Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 20 February 2017

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

Grey squirrels, rats, grey crows and other vermin exist in unsustainable numbers because we have created an unnatural world where they can
breed and thrive on the bounty of our wasteful habits. These vermin must be controlled if our native species are to have any chance of survival
Grey squirrels, rats, grey crows and other vermin exist in unsustainable numbers because we have created an unnatural world where they can breed and thrive on the bounty of our wasteful habits. These vermin must be controlled if our native species are to have any chance of survival

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.

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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.

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Introduced to Ireland in the early 1900s, the grey has spread rapidly, eliminating the red as it expands its territory and creating huge difficulties for anyone trying to establish new woodland. The damage the grey causes to other wildlife is well publicised. It will happily eat shoots and seeds, root up bulbs or rob eggs and fledgling birds from their nests, and this naturally poses problems for gardeners, especially those who like to provide a haven for songbirds.

Surprisingly, an RSPCA inspector questioned whether even shooting or killing by a blow to the back of the head could be considered humane, and suggested that most people would have to pay a vet to have a squirrel put down or call in a pest control 'expert'.

They clearly need to get out a bit more and learn about how chicken, beef, lamb and all the other birds and animals that we eat end up on our plates -- but then this type of thinking is becoming more and more common as urban people become ever further removed from farms and the means of food production.

The RSPCA itself is simply not living in the real world when its spokesperson further advised 'squirrel proofing' a garden rather than trying to eliminate the grey.

This is the same idiotic advice recently given by one of our own animal rights activists and of course they don't tell us how such 'proofing' could be achieved.

The natural world is a tough place where almost everything eats some other living creature and, all the way up the food chain, no quarter is given. A sparrow hawk does not ask a songbird if it's OK or not to eat it alive any more than the same songbird might be worried for the worm it had for breakfast.

Grey squirrels, rats, grey crows and others are there in unsustainable numbers because we have created an unnatural world where they can breed and thrive on the bounty of our wasteful habits. These vermin must be controlled if our native species are to survive.