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25 April 2003

Hedgehogs: autocratic attitude

Tonia C Thain

The Oban Times, Letters, 17 April 2003

(Followed by Land-Care Editorial Comment)

(Files 25 April 2003)
www.land-care.org.uk

Sir,

Once again I am writing to comment on the plight of the Uist Hedgehogs as highlighted in the letter from a reader in your April 10 issue.

The letter illustrates the worries that many people have over the autocratic attitude of the Royal Society of Birds (RSPB) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), once the hedgehogs have been eliminated what other species in the "Axis of Evil" will be targeted for extermination by this unsavoury coalition? SNH announced the cull on December 17 when it hoped that everybody would be too engrossed in the Christmas preparations to notice.

Despite opposition and concern from the Scottish Parliament, SNH continues to forge ahead and even when the Parliamentary Petitions Committee came out on the side of the hedgehogs, it was ignored.

Mr Anderson says that SNH is "always willing to talk" and that it is prepared to hand animals over to the rescue groups providing that the animals are monitored properly.

What he doesn't say is that SNH has set such stringent conditions on the monitoring that they are impossible, impractical and too expensive to attain.

It has been intimated that SNH requires all animals to be radio tagged and constantly monitored under "scientific conditions" - whatever that means - which could amount to 5000 animals (their figures) being fitted with transmitters. Hedgehogs by their very nature, are unco-operative creatures and I cannot imagine how transmitters can be fitted safely.

Wake up SNH. If you insist on someone doing something that you want, you have to give something in return.

Whilst I am on the side of the hedgehog, I can understand the remit that SNH and RSPB have in respect of the defence of important species. What I am firmly against is the immoral methods being employed and the total intransigence of both SNH and RSPB.

Just who is in control of SNH?

Tonia C Thain,
Kilchoan

 

Land-Care Editorial Comment

Tonia Thain’s letter (see above) further illustrates the inappropriate use of science by unifocal conservation bodies, which does more harm than good and is extraordinarily wasteful of economic resources.

Just let’s go over again what Tonia Thain says in her letter as it does seem to illustrate SNH’s attitude rather well.

She writes that Mr Anderson (SNH) states that SNH is “always willing to talk” (read consultation) and that SNH is prepared to hand the animals over to the rescue groups providing the animals are monitored properly. But just look at what they call “monitoring properly”. Tonia Thain is correct in saying that such a monitoring programme would be unrealistic and absurdly expensive. Is this indeed the level of activity that passes within SNH as science and which consumes the taxpayers money?

One can only agree with the her that the arrogance of SNH in terms of wildlife management has now reached the heights of incredulity. Let’s summarise the evidence in relation to the humble hedgehogs.

SNH (or its predecessors, the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland and the Countryside Commission for Scotland) was told by local gamekeepers in 1985 that hedgehogs on North Uist were increasing in number and were causing damage by eating birds eggs (1). They have been reminded plenty times since and offers of help were made, all to be ignored by SNH who of course knew best.

The problem was allowed to escalate until it became far more serious than it need be. “Consultation” was formally carried out with the local community, no doubt as a gesture, and the outcome ignored - a pattern that many of us are all too familiar with in other areas.

The Petition to the Scottish Parliament to which she refers is documented here for the convenience of readers (2). The public petitions committe wrote a letter to SNH "urging it to meet the petitioners and similar groups with a view to assisting in the development and trial of a hedgehog relocation programme, by providing the necessary scientific advice and support" (2). The hypocrisy of the way they have done that is quite frankly sickening - making the conditions for collaboration absurd. This was done in the name of science, but better described as pseudo science at its worst. Presumably all this is under the direction of the SNH Chief Scientist, who carries the rank of professor.

What SNH is inviting us and the Petitions Committee to believe is that it is better to kill all 5000 of the hedgehogs rather than give them a chance with the help of concerned people with experience in animal rescue. SNH admits that they do not really know whether or not the hedgehogs would survive if transposed to the mainland, although they have had plenty years to consider the matter. Nevertheless they insist that unless a full scientific study is done they should all be killed, stating that it would be more humane to do so - yet, as just stated, SNH themselves have no credible evidence that this is necessarily so. What an astonishing display of arrogance.

Sadly this is but one example of the bad stewardship of SNH and other conservation bodies (3), Unfortunately, SNH is gaining greater and greater powers over the management of wildlife and land.

There is indeed major cause for concern.

 

References

1. Gamekeepers’ Association Official Joins Growing Row over Hedgehogs. Oban Times, 9th January 2003.
(Filed 13 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

2. SNH told to think again. This time about hedgehogs
(Filed 29 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

3. Irvine, James (2003). Conservation and the misuse of science.
(Filed 15 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

 

List of Petitions to date relating to SNH being the subject of Petitions to the Scottish Parliament that Land-Care is aware of:

 

January 2002: Scottish Gamekeepers Association

Petition calling for an Independent Investigation into the impact of Predatory Birds on:
1. Waders & Songbirds
2. Private stocks of fish and gamebirds.

 

February 2002: Councillor Donald Mumsford (lead petitioner)

Petition calling for the Scottish Parliament (a) to ask Scottish National Heritage why it allegedly published erroneous information about local public opinion on the Sound of Barra consultation that it carried out for the Scottish Executive and (b) to verify that SNH's general procedures for consultations of this sort comply with the duty imposed on it by Sections 3(1) (e) and (f) of the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act.

 

January 2003: British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS)

Petition by Fiona Stewart calling for the Scottish Parliament to take the necessary steps to enable the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) to relocate or at least complete a trial relocation of hedgehogs living on the islands of Uist as opposed to a proposed cull.

 

Further Reading Recommended by Land-Care

Irvine, James (2003). Conservation and the Misuse of Science - Hedgehogs, Bats and Badgers.
(Filed 15 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Ross, John (2003). New doubts raised on cull of hedgehogs. The Scotsman, 12th April 2003
(Filed 14 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Mitchell, Iain (2003). Hedgehog problem is not new. The Scotsman, 11 April 2003.
(Filed 11 April 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

SNH told to think again. This time about hedgehogs.
(Filed 29 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Land-Care Editorial (2003). Hedgehogs on Uist - SNH in More Trouble.
(Filed 27 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Hope, Mark (2003). Hedgehogs Galore. Letter in The Oban Times, Thursday 16 January 2003.
(Filed 20 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).

Gamekeepers’ Association Official Joins Growing Row over Hedgehogs. Oban Times, 9th January 2003.
(Filed 13 January 2003, www.land-care.org.uk, click here to view).