Sunday 11 May 2014

Prince Charles backs plan to kill grey squirrels

Government, forestry officials and conservationists agree 'squirrel accord' to protect UK's native reds

The Guardian, Thursday 8 May 2014 17.02 BST

Prince Charles has backed plans to kill grey squirrels to protect the UK's "much-loved" native reds.

Under a "squirrel accord" agreed at Dumfries House, the prince's stately home in Scotland, government, forestry officials and some conservationists agreed to undertake a renewed push to reduce grey numbers "through targeted and sustained action".

Owen Paterson, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, told the meeting: "Red squirrels are a much-loved, but threatened, part of British wildlife. I fully support this accord and endorse the need to work together to revive our iconic red squirrel population, and encourage the planting of new broadleaved woodlands."

There are around 5 million greys in the UK, with numbers of reds estimated at 120,000-140,000 – 75% of which are in Scotland. Reds have decreased massively in number since a Victorian banker introduced a pair of greys after returning from a business trip in America. Greys carry a poxvirus that is deadly to reds, and are stronger and larger too.

Prince Charles's attack on grey squirrels is nostalgia posing as environmentalism
He says he has the red squirrels at heart, but Charles may have more personal and political motivations for his bloodlust, Friday 9 May 2014 17.05 BST

Charles may not be king, but he is the reigning monarch of nostalgia. The Prince of Wales is the champion of a time that never was, and which passed before he was born. Signing a "squirrel accord" after meetings at one of his stately homes, the prince reaffirmed his desire to drive grey squirrels out of the UK in order to save our "much loved" native red squirrels. If the term "squirrel accord" has you thinking of a bunch of woodland creatures walking around wearing stovepipe hats and discussing what to do about this autumn's chestnut shortage, then banish the thought and replace it with a vision of members of the royal family and government officials talking about how many cages they would need in order to undertake "targeted and sustained action" against grey squirrels.

While there are a couple of environmental reasons for wishing to enact this animal massacre – grey squirrels strip bark from trees and carry a poxvirus that is deadly to red squirrels – the motivations are more personal and political. In 1876, the British banker Thomas Brocklehurst brought back a pair of grey squirrels from America and released them on to his land. Brocklehurst was obviously quite the hip cat, because in no time grey squirrels became the must-have garden accessory of late-Victorian England and now there are close to 5 million of them in the UK. The most important point of this story is that it has happened and it cannot be undone. Just like Pandora, Brocklehurst opened his box; it's just that instead of it containing all the evils of the world, it contained two grey squirrels.

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