NEWS AND COMMENT: Michael Heseltine believes in speciesism. He has decided that songbirds are more important than squirrels. So, when squirrels trashed 14 nesting boxes at his 70-acre arboretum he called in experts to shoot all the grey squirrels. In the UK, it is perfectly legal to kill grey squirrels as long as it is done in a humane manner. However, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is an offence to cause unnecessary pain and suffering. How does a marksman ensure that his shot does not cause pain and suffering? I am convinced that many of those 400 squirrels suffered immense pain before dying. Arguably, therefore, Heseltine is in violation of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. However, nothing will happen. This is a grey area and the shooters always win the argument especially as he is a former senior Tory and the police are inept.
There’s been a bit of a backlash to Michael Heseltine’s behaviour. I am one of those people who would argue against him. Squirrels have a place in our gardens. They have the same rights as any other animal. There are ways to protect nesting boxes from squirrels. Surely you can buy ones which are impossible for squirrels to damage and enter?
I feed squirrels and birds in my garden. They cohabit harmoniously. It also seems to me that if you feed squirrels separately you satisfy them and prevent them from going for birdseed or the eggs of songbirds. That might not be a hundred percent certain but it’s a good argument I feel.
Heseltine said that the squirrels ate their way in to the nesting boxes. He said that that was the end of the fledglings and the eggs. He said “I am dead keen on protecting songbirds. So, we decided to become a squirrel-free zone”.
He was speaking on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC 2 on which she said: “On 70 acres, we shot 400, we got professionals to do that. Now 150 squirrels come in every year to replace those we shot.”
I presume that he will keep on shooting squirrels. I think that something needs to be done about that. As mentioned, I find it very hard to support the argument that shooting squirrels, obviously at a distance, is a humane way to kill them. Squirrels are very fast moving. It must be very difficult to shoot precisely enough to ensure that the kill is clean and instantaneous. How can he argue that this is humane?
There are an estimated 2.7 million grey squirrels in the UK. The population is growing I’m told. It is an offence under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to introduce and release grey squirrels into the wild.
I think that Michael Heseltine is setting a bad example. He’s an arrogant man, a rich man. His weakness is that his arrogance leads to bias and in this case speciesism. He can do better to protect the songbirds than this.