Prince Charles' call for a cull of grey squirrels in Cornwall has prompted animal protection groups to describe him as 'a man who doesn't let his education get in the way of his ignorance'.
Animal Aid and Viva! believe that the Prince's campaign to eradicate grey squirrels - through poisoning, shooting or bludgeoning them to death in a sack - is 'irrational, inhumane and doomed to fail', and have called for everyone who opposes animal cruelty to boycott the Prince's Duchy Originals range of products in protest. Prince Charles hopes to rid the county of grey squirrels so that captive-bred red squirrels can be introduced instead. But, say the campaigners, releasing any captive-bred animal into the wild places enormous strains on them and red squirrels, who are actually doing very well across their range, are unlikely to thrive in an area where conditions are suboptimal. Aside from the cruelty involved, research has shown that squirrel culls are destined to fail. Rapid recolonisation and an increase in reproductive rates compensate for losses made by culling. Kate Fowler, Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid, says: 'To mass-kill a healthy species and then reintroduce one that may struggle to survive in that area, is utterly absurd and a shocking waste of valuable conservation money. The suffering that this cull will cause - to both reds and greys - is without justification, and is driven by the Prince's whimsical preference for red squirrels. We must speak out against such arrogant meddling with nature. Prince Charles may be King someday, but he is not God.' Juliet Gellatley, zoologist and founder & director of Viva!, says: 'Grey squirrels were introduced into the UK by the aristocracy and now they want to eradicate them. I've come to the inescapable conclusion that there is a minority of “well-bred people who may seem normal but who are bent on killing. Sadly, Prince Charles seems to be one of them, following in the footsteps of his tiger-slaughtering father. The call for this cull is immoral and scientifically defective.' More information: • For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Kate Fowler (Animal Aid) on 01732 364546 or Juliet Gellatley (Viva!) on 0117 944 1000. • Images of squirrels in the wild are available on request. • An Animal Aid factsheet about squirrels can be seen here: http://www.animalaid.org.uk/images/pdf/factfiles/Squirrel.pdf Notes to Editors: • Native to North America, the grey squirrel was brought to Victorian Britain as an ornamental species by the aristocracy. Today, these highly intelligent and adaptable animals can be seen in woodlands, parks and gardens across the country. • The grey squirrel is a figure of hatred among groups with shooting or forestry interests, and certain 'conservationists' who believe that the mass killing of greys is justifiable in their quest to boost the number of red squirrels. • Ironically, the charges currently laid against grey squirrels - that they damage trees and eat birds' eggs - were once used as justifications to kill hundreds of thousands of red squirrels. But fashions have changed, and now protecting the once-loathed red squirrel is another reason given for killing the grey. • Grey squirrels are killed using a variety of barbaric but legal methods, including being clubbed to death and poisoned with warfarin, which causes the animals to bleed to death over several days. • Red squirrel numbers can be boosted in a number of ways without harming the grey squirrel, including establishing them on islands, changing tree planting patterns and offering supplementary feeding.