A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Cullable tales.....

As 'The Tale of the Great Uist Hedgehog Cull' ('Hedgehog find worth £20', BBC News Scotland, February 14) grows more bizarre by the day, here is EnviroSpin's very own.....

The Tale of The Hebridean Hedgehogs
(with deep apologies to Beatrix Potter)

ONCE upon a time there were four little hedgehogs who went to live on a Scottish island called South Uist (here is the map they used). They were good little hedgehogs and they only ate beetles and slugs – but they did breed so. Counting them became quite a prickly matter.

One day, the more adventurous hedgehogs set out across the island to see what they could see. They met a Tabby Kitten, who was washing her white paws. “Tabby Kitten, do you know where there are birds’ eggs to eat?” “Meow!” said the Tabby Kitten, still washing her paws. “You should go to Benbecula.”

So they sailed across the tiny sea to see what they could see. There they met a speckled hen. “Sally Henny-penny, do you know where there are birds’ eggs to eat?” “Cluck!” said the speckled hen. “You should go to North Uist. But please don’t eat my eggs.”

So again they sailed across the tiny sea to see what they could see. There they met Cock Robin, sitting on a twig. “Cock Robin, do you know where there are birds’ eggs to eat?” “Tseee!” said Cock Robin. “You should go to the seashore. But please don’t eat my eggs.”

So off they set once more, down to the grassy shore, moving as fast as their stubby legs would carry them. There they saw some white things spread out upon the grass and sand looking just like pebbles dropped from the sky. Soon they were cracking and crunching, sucking and slavering, with eggs for breakfast, eggs for luncheon, and eggs for tea.

But the poor birds waded about in the water looking feathered and downcast, screeching at the PRICKLES in the grass and piping a sad song:

“Lily-white and clean, oh!
Our eggs must be saved, oh!
Hedgehogs on this sandy spot
Never here be seen, oh!”

The hedgehogs became twitchy, because lots of big people, like Old Mr McGregor, heard the birds’ mournful piping. They came to carry off the hedgehogs and they put them in small sacks, as if they were pocket handkerchiefs. Sometimes the spikes stuck out like hair-pins!

But other big people - those who adore Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin, and all the other pests that eat lettuces or eggs - became angry. They wanted to save the hedgehogs, prickle by prickle, and take them back to the old country and to their homes, where the Hebridean hedgehogs could eat nasty things like slugs and snails, about which they did not care quite so much.

But little did they know. The hedgehogs were soon climbing, climbing, climbing up into the trees to find more eggs – for, after all, they were HEDGEHOGS.

Motto: Treat animals as animals, not as cuddly bunnies with no prickles.

And the hedghogs certainly know what it's like to be out in the celebrity jungle - last year, many famous Luvvies, including Sting, Sir Paul McCartney, Twiggy, Joanna Lumley, Sir Tim Rice and Watership Down author, Richard Adams, apparently offered the animals homes over the summer!

Philip, about to snuffle in the larder himself. I bet hedgehogs can't make omlettes. Don't egg them on! Bad yolk! Promise I won't crack any more.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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