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Forgive the question in the title, but I saw this rather twee and pathetic plea on my Twitter feed this evening. It just about sums up the witlessness and hypocrisy prevalent amongst armchair ‘wildlife worshippers’. The ignorance and arrogance of the modern human being makes me almost ashamed to belong to the species. Reading this plea, one could imagine dozens of hedgehogs rolling around on their backs gasping for water and shrivelling up into small spiny ectomorphs because (shock, horror!) we’ve had a bit of sunshine. For Christs sake! Those who really understand nature know that creatures adapt to the conditions … whether extreme heat or bitter cold. That’s how they’ve survived the millennia. Some species have survived even better than we have. The poor soul that re-posted this ridiculous statement from the RSPCA might want to remind this abomination of a ‘charity’ that hedgehogs are nocturnal. They draw moisture from the slugs, earthworms and other juicy morsels they consume on their wanderings. They can lick the dew from the night-time grass. In fact, current conditions (which spawn innumerable insects) are ideal for hedgehogs and other creatures that exist primarily on invertebrates.
There is a far bigger threat to the hedgehog which the RSPCA is conveniently ignoring. Persistently. Put your bowl of water out tonight, by all means. If you’ve got a big heart and a deep pocket leave out a bowl of milk. Few RSPCA members have that deep pocket, but still waste their hard-earned money on an organisation hell-bent on persecution of humans rather than protection of animals. Now watch Mrs Tiggywinkle as she sups on your provenance. Perhaps watch the huge boar badger that lumbers up behind her, flips her over onto her back and … before she can curl into a ball … uses his powerful claws to rip her open through her soft underbelly and eat her alive. Because that’s what badgers do. Very effectively. Shocked? Good. You should be. Don’t get me wrong … I love badgers too. They are an iconic British species but their over-protection has now impacted on a creature in serious decline.
And trust me … a genuine nature-lover and countryman. The survival of our handsome little “furze-pigs” doesn’t depend on your bowl of water tonight. It depends on conservation management in ‘badger-free’ zones. What is being allowed to happen to the hedgehog is exactly the same as we’ve seen happen to the red squirrel. A misguided reluctance to control one population to save another due to an ill-conceived notion that any reduction cull is ‘cruel’. Killing isn’t cruel. Standing by and watching a species suffer what we (as humans) would call genocide is unforgivably cruel when we have the power and intelligence to reverse the process.
We’ve done it for humans. We’re trying to do it for red squirrels, in parts of the country. Why can’t we do it for hedgehogs?
Copyright: Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, July 2017
Picture this? A group of families, clubs, work-groups or neighbours gather together to celebrate a long established British tradition. They dress for the occasion and enjoy the mutual interest and camaraderie of their like-minded associates. New friendships will be forged, old ones renewed on what may be for many the only occasion they will meet this year. Beyond the misted breath and excitement, there will be feasting and drink and merriment. The ruddy faces of the children will beam with exhilaration. Time away from the TV and the game console, enjoying the open air, will long be remembered and they will almost certainly do it again next year. It was the annual drag-hunt. For foxes now enjoy a special level of protection from this old rural ritual.
A different group of people will be watching this celebration from another perspective, their rhetoric incorporating words like ‘cruelty, barbaric, outrage, needless, out-dated’. Even though no foxes were engaged? Some extremists will attack riders, even children on ponies. They will take iron bars to the hunt helpers. They will spray pepper into horses eyes, as if the horse wasn’t an animal like the fox? They will do this under the anonymous, cowardly cloak of a balaclava (ironically the garment that protected soldiers from the bitter cold in the Crimean War).
Now, picture this? A group of families, clubs, work-groups or neighbours gather together to celebrate a long established British tradition. They dress for the occasion and enjoy the mutual interest and camaraderie of their like-minded associates. New friendships will be forged, old ones renewed on what may be for many the only occasion they will meet this year. Beyond the misted breath and excitement, there will be feasting and drink and merriment. The ruddy faces of the children will beam with exhilaration. Time away from the TV and the game console, enjoying the open air, will long be remembered and they will almost certainly do it again next year. It’s November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night, bonfire night. Call it what you will. Cruel, barbaric, needless, out-dated? For tonight, hundreds of thousands of domestic pets will tremble in cover as the flash and fury and noise disturbs their senses. Wild creatures will flee their roosts and their cover to distance themselves from the ‘threat’. Even herd animals will cower in corners if close to the bonfire night barrage. Worst of all, a thousand hedgehogs (that most innocuous of mammals) will be baked tonight as folk crowd around the fire to clap and cheer. Forget all that nonsense about checking the stack for ‘furzepigs’. We all know that a threatened hedgehog curls up into a ball and doesn’t move.
Do I advocate banning Guy Fawkes Night? Of course not. It has become a tradition and no tradition should be sacrificed willingly … but let’s get things in perspective here please? If fox-hunting has to be banned on the basis of speculative ‘cruelty’ and ‘outdated tradition’, then why haven’t fireworks and bonfires (unchallengeable sources of animal stress and death) been outlawed? Why aren’t the ‘anti’s’ concentrating on this? Too controversial? Just saying.
©Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, November 5th 2015