Should we save the red squirrels?


Should we save the red squirrels? Now there’s a question for you!

We went to “Red Squirrel Day” on Thursday at Escot – just up the road here from Honiton. I had read a bit about the new squirrel project on the Escot site and watched the little video.

Red squirrels are Britain’s only native squirrel. They were once widespread across the UK, but over the last 50 years they have undergone a huge decline with their range now restricted to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern England and small pockets of Wales and southern England.

Autumnwatch has laid out the key arguments for and against saving the red squirrels – click here.

As a vegetarian, I’m against killing animals which is what you need to do in order to preserve the red squirrel – kill many many grey squirrels. The grey squirrel is a stronger species. It eats more of a variety of food than the red, it is immune from the disease which kills the red and it breeds each year (the red won’t breed if it is not the right weight etc). It is very unfortunate that this situation has come about and yes, the reds are adorable but I like the greys too and they shouldn’t be killed. An ideal situation would be to vaccinate the reds against the disease the grey squirrels pass onto them but apparently this is at least 10 years off.

What do you think – add your comment.

11 Replies to “Should we save the red squirrels?”

  1. My husband is a vegetarian and an ecologist but has no problems with humane culling of grey squirrels. The reason is because they are a non native pest who do terrible damage to young trees and raid birds nests for eggs and baby birds!

  2. Thanks for your comment Val. Lots of wild animals damage trees and kill other animals but I don’t think that gives us the right to kill them.

  3. Sorry Sharon, but unless you are vegan, your diet is still responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals. Almost every egg flock is culled just before first malt, less than 18 months old. And what do you think happens to all the male calves born to keep cows in milk?

    In my view the deaths of these animals, although undesirable, should be less of a concern than conservation of native species. Are we happy to let the red go extinct? Most people agree that we are not. And the only answer then I’m afraid is cull the greys in the most humane manner possible. Death is part of life. Pain and suffering do not need to be.

    A vaccine will help, but the fat US imports will still out-eat the locals! 🙂 I would be very happy to introduce measures to control greys if we had any reds here, which sadly we do not.

  4. Thanks Jon – I’ve been vegetarian 27 years now so I do know that a veggie diet still involves killing animals 😉 I’m more aware of it now than ever before actually and will be taking a vegan pledge in March with my lovely friends at Exeter Friends for Animals

    I don’t think you can say that most people are happy to kill all these grey squirrels – not without actually asking most people (or at least doing some kind of survey).

  5. Eat the grays….you’ll be preserving songbirds too! They are not indigenous,and if they had scaley rats tails,people’s perception generally,would be rather different.

  6. The culling is essential. Red Squirrels are a native British animal. Any and all meausres should be taken to save them. Red Squirrels live at lower densities and eat less than the Greys. There is even evidence to suggest the Reds live shorter lives.

    Reds can live here without doing serious damage. They are perfectly designed to fit in to our countryside. They are not designed to live with the Grey, which is much more destructive.

    Conservation ALWAYS comes above animal rights (not animal welfare, animal rights – the two are not the same). Conservation is always the priority, and rightly so.

    There is PLENTY of habitat for the Reds, despite what some people might say.

    The fact some people want to let the Reds go extinct is ridiculous and grotesque.

  7. Next time you go to Escot look closely and you’ll find traps nailed to trees used to kill the greys.

    I have never understood how people can maintain that an entire species deserves to be persecuted because it is not ‘indigenous’. Obviously it is going to have an impact on ‘native’ species if people introduce another species on an island (remember greys were introduced to the UK by humans, they didn’t come here of their own choosing). But ecosystems stabilise and find their own balance even when people throw these challenges at them, whether it’s introducing new species, destroying habitats or mounting eradication programmes in a vain attempt to address society’s failings by scapegoating wildlife. The greys are not alone in this struggle. Think about badgers, foxes, ruddy ducks, mink, rats… ‘Conservationists’ also are guilty of fetishing particular ‘iconic’ species at the expense of hundreds of thousands of sentient individuals who are blamed for posing a threat to them. In reality, nature is in a constant state of flux but a lot of people think that ‘preserving’ nature means intervening to the extent of slaughtering millions of individuals in an attempt to freeze biodiversity in time. Given the current state of the world in which humans mess things up on a daily basis, I’d rather see certain ‘beautiful’ species go extinct naturally than make millions of individuals suffer and die purely because they were born the ‘wrong’ species.

  8. simple answer you would not kill people just because they have a disease that could get passed on to others, you’d take precautions, try to develop a vaccine and/or treatment. so why do it to squirrels its not the greys who are killing the grey squirrels its the people who put them there the greys are just trying to support themselves and there offspring just like you would in the same situation. its a just shame that the greys are better at doing this than the reds but that doesn’t mean we can blame them for reds dying.i am not vegan or vegetarian and i am not ashamed of this because i never waste the food i get because an animal has died so i can eat and be healthy and i honer there sacrifice. how would you feel if your children were born with a disease that if passed on to others would kill them and after all that people come and tell you that killing them is the only option. i wouldn’t be fair and granted life is not fair but that’s why we need to all come together and build a world that is fair all it takes is a little belief.

  9. Hi there. I live in Toronto, Canada, and earlier this year, my wife, Jean, and I were in Ireland where we came upon the rarely seen Red Squirrel. They actually look somewhat like our Canadian Red Squirrels, but boy, do they have long ears! We were shocked to learn that the United Kingdom, and Ireland’s Red squirrels are contracting the pox virus from Grey Squirrels, and dying. As we have learned the Grey Squirrels originally came from North America, and we have tons of them in our backyard. We feel very lucky to have seen two Red squirrels in Ireland. We have posted some of our pictures and video for anyone interested at:

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