This New York Times Magazine story is a bit of a mind-blower, and in a good way. It’s the story of the beloved and endangered English red squirrel, and the two radically different approaches to protecting it. One organization, Save our Squirrels, promotes the red squirrel and establishes refuge areas for them. The other approach, used by pest control officials, is mass murder of the more vigorous and disease-carrying American gray. The kill-the-grays advocates assert that reds will never survive as long as grays exist. But mass murder of cute furry things freaks people out, the article tells us. It seems that animal rights organizations are pretty darn powerful in the U.K. (Go, Animalhuggers!)
All of which leads the writer to pose a really radical question: Is it necessary to preserve the red squirrel in England, anyway? That’s heresy, I know, but it’s kinda fun to see conventional wisdom challenged.
Americans don’t seem to be as squeamish about animal welfare as their friends across the pond, so I’m probably in the minority in my reaction to being urged by some American groups to "monitor" birds’ nests – which is the euphemism for getting rid of such nonnative species as English sparrows. (Hmm. Payback?) I’ve actually encountered neighbors heading out to rid their yards of them, telling me it has to be done! I remain unconvinced.