The lives of thousands of London squirrels are hanging in the balance after the Forestry Commission’s ‘cruel’ state-funded plans for squirrel culling were revealed.
According to the plan, grey squirrels will be killed in a plethora of ways including poisoning and shooting by landowners who will be paid £100 per hectare of land every year for their grisly task for five years of the cull.
The plans have sparked worldwide outrage and a petition calling for the end of the culling has gained momentum in the last few days, attracting more than 72,000 signatures so far.
“There is no logic in the squirrel cull which will cause untold suffering to a much loved animal,” said Jojo Huxter, blogger and creator of the petition.
As the petition shows, she is far from being the only one livid with the decision.
Debbie Husband, from the UK, said: “This is shocking and sickening” Leave this much loved wildlife alone. The squirrel does not deserve this persecution and dead sentence!”
Squirrels are a much-loved British icon, and a red cousin of the greys is currently fronting squirrel appreciation day, part of the Vote for Bob campaign which asks politicians to commit to caring for nature.
— Vote for Bob (@bobfornature) January 21, 2015
The squirrels of London’s parks and open spaces are used to their human neighbours, the curious creatures are entertaining to watch and some are even tame enough to take food from the hands of generous picnickers.
Rangaswamy Ramakrishnan, who signed the petition from India, said: “I have personally enjoyed and fed lots of squirrels in London and they are very intelligent animals.
Grey squirrels are often blamed for the declining population of their flame-coloured counterparts as they are known to be more aggressive and bully their coloured counterpart.
Despite being only one among myriads of reasons for the decline, they have been unfairly singled out by some groups according to Animal Aid.
They said: “Grey squirrels are hated by members of certain groups, most notably those with shooting or forestry interests and some ‘conservationists’ who believe that the mass killing of greys is justifiable in their quest to boost the number of red squirrels.”
Meanwhile Paula Torres, from Chile, was also outraged at the policy and also questioned its lack of morality.
She said: “We must be careful, they may be invasive species but they are animals and have rights just like the rest.”
— David Domoney (@daviddomoney) January 21, 2015
The worldwide condemnation represented by signatories of the petition, questioned not only the methods of killing the culls, but the human interference in the natural world.
Bonnie Minkin, from California, said: “More mass murder?? What the world needs now is more love & kindness…but it may be too late”
Caroline von Ehrenberg, from the UK, agreed that compassion and balance is needed.
She said: Stop the funding for killing the natural world! It does not belong to us and it is for us to protect it!
“Remember that grey squirrels are planting trees wherever they live and go. They do this by burying their food and then forget where they burried it! They are part of the balance of this natural world!”
South West Londoner contacted The Royal Parks to find out if the much-maligned grey would be reduced in Richmond Park or Bushy Park in Hampton, the press office wouldn’t confirm if they were taking part or not in the Forestry Commission funded cull.
Deer are culled annually in Richmond Park to maintain a healthy population that does not exceed the available habitat.
The Royal Parks spokesman said: “Pests are a real threat to our native flora and fauna and if not managed properly can damage parkland and pose a threat to public health.
“In many cases reasonable control of pests is required and only undertaken when the animals are causing problems; for example when numbers have become excessive.
“We consider alternative methods of control and work closely with relevant authorities to ensure we abide by current wildlife law and legislation.”
To be officially discussed in the House of Commons, a petition needs 100,000 signatures and while the ‘Stop the UK grey squirrel cull’ is gaining momentum, it still remains some way off that target.
If you want to help save Britain’s grey squirrels, you can sign the petition here.
Featured image courtesy of Olivier
Picture of squirrel eating icecream cone courtesy of Kham Tran
Picture of squirrel being fed courtesy of Mars Chen