Killing grey squirrels? You must be nuts!
Who could have anything against these little guys? Grey squirrels can be seen frolicking around our woodland, back gardens, streets, leaping from tree to tree and generally minding their own squirrel-y business.
In hindsight, Scrat from Ice Age maybe the only singular squirrel who has contributed to any fatal damage. Scrat’s unrelenting and inherent need for an particularly pesky acorn, has caused many of the world’s biggest environmental milestones.
<p><a href=”https://giphy.com/gifs/ice-scrat-esquilo-gWkESCebocQRq”>via GIPHY</a></p>
(Credit : https://giphy.com/gifs/ice-scrat-esquilo-gWkESCebocQRq/embed )
This week, the government have announced plans to cull thousands of grey squirrels in the name of saving ‘our treescapes’ for future generations.
Do you remember when Michael Gove stated, that the government will strive for improved animal welfare this year?
Gove’s support to cull these beautiful animals completely revokes any efforts or promises to that effect, and many animal rights groups agree.
Natalia Doran, (the Director of Urban squirrels), in an debate for the BBC, stresses that the government view the culling from an ethical standpoint. She states:
‘This is not simply cutting grass or moving benches’.
Like all animals, squirrels are sentient beings, who value their lives and wish to live, which applies a moral question to the plans to kill thousands of innocent creatures.
Check out the video here:
What do you think of the debate?
The damage explained.
According to the BBC, squirrels strip bark from saplings such as beeches, sycamore and oaks, which can be fatal for the trees. Dr. Craig Shutterworth says that grey squirrels are highly invasive to tree life through bark stripping and have decimated our native Red Squirrel population. When confronted if he was desensitised to culling, he retorted with a statement that he was only abiding by a new European directive and was working within the law. Therefore, Shutterworth in his own words is going to ‘control the spread’ – a disturbing euphemism for the mass slaughter of many innocent lives.
However, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the League against Cruel Sports are outraged at the absurdity of the preemptive culling, squirrels have little effect to the trees themselves.
Moreover, countering Shutterworth’s argument, the Forestry Commission criterion for destruction is 30% of canopy trees. Natalia Doran states that grey squirrels can only cause 5% of that damage so the plans to cull are rendered utterly futile.
Scape-squirrelled? Grey vs Red.
The infamous Red vs. Grey squirrel dichotomy is something we are all familiar with. Our poor little native Red Squirrel forced out of house and home by the big bully American cousin. So, our own special native species would never strip bark from our native trees, right? Wrong.
Red and Grey both strip bark from young trees. It was our ancestors who immigrated the Grey from America in the first place, who, like wild animals do, competed for resources with the Red. Additionally, Grey’s are larger and are more numerous, hence the government’s blame. If we think about Earth as we know it, us humans have caused considerably more damage to trees than squirrels ever could. Does the Amazon rainforest ring a bell?
Dorian states :
“The whole idea of culling is predicated on the nativist narratives which is irrational and is just a question of academic fashion’
Conclusively, the entirety of the native vs non native argument is outdated.
Moreover, In an open letter to warn the public, animal charities said that greys had been “scapegoated because they are not native”
The greys are being persecuted for simply trying to survive and it is unjust to kill them for minimal damage.
Could there be a humane method thanks to Technology?
Occasionally, to achieve something for persecuted animals, compromises have to be made.
Non-lethal methods of population control could be administered. These include immuno-contraception. Initially, a highly specific oral immune-contraception was utilised via bait for the Grey Squirrels in the UK. However the device proved ineffective and the project was discontinued.
However, the USA and New Zealand are furthering such projects and trying alternative vaccines instead of bait. The UK have plans to consider a collaboration if successes are reached.
So, alternatively, a contraceptive for the squirrels is a step in the right direction. Although, in its early stages, technology might reign again in favour of the animals.
It is not all sunshine and rainbows.
Where immuno-contraceptives may be an apt compromise, the culling of animals will not stop.
It’s important that while it is ethically just to fight for the safety of all animals yet in law we may have to accept that certain interventions will have to be made to please both sides of the argument.
However it appears that not enough continued research in the uk which we at Relephant News will strive for.