UK politicians have faced major backlash by animal protection organisations for supporting a squirrel cull across the country. During the Lords select committee on the natural environment, there were comments made about squirrels harming the UK’s ‘treescapes’, and that they were in favour of a cull.
Leading organisations Animal Aid, the League Against Cruel Sports, PETA, Viva! and Urban Squirrels have written an open letter to the government, urging them not to continue with a cull of squirrels and warning them of public opposition. The letter argues that the negative impact of grey squirrels, an invasive species, on the environment is exaggerated when compared against the destruction of forests and trees in the UK.
Director of Animal Aid Isobel Hutchinson said: “It is absurd, and deeply unjustified, for grey squirrels to be persecuted for simply trying to survive, while the Government has allowed the large-scale destruction of woodland.
“If Michael Gove thinks that the public will be convinced by any plans to cull squirrels, then he is very much mistaken. Rather than reaching for the next defenceless animal to scapegoat, the government should focus on policies that genuinely protect our natural environment and the animals who live there.”
The League Against Cruel Sports CEO Eduardo Goncalves said: “Many people are going to be angry and confused at why the government would apparently be sanctioning the large scale killing of grey squirrels. It appears to be yet another example where government culling is a knee jerk response in the absence of clear scientific evidence to justify it.”
PETA UK’s Director Elisa Allen has commented saying: “It is people, not squirrels, who have damaged and consumed vast tracts of woodland and other wildlife-friendly landscapes that otherwise would have provided both greys and reds with more than enough space in which to thrive.”
This point has been backed up by Urban Squirrels, whose Director has said: “Grey squirrels do not destroy woodland. The Forestry Commission criterion for destruction is 30 per cent of canopy trees. The most that grey squirrels can manage is five per cent.
“And let us not forget that dead trees are an important micro-habitat within an ecosystem and that squirrels plant new trees very effectively, too.”