Jason Gilchrist writing in The Converstion.com cannot comprehend why, in Britain, it is illegal to release grey squirrels into the wild while domestic cats are allowed to roam freely. Both cause damage to wildlife, he says, but the damage done by cats is far greater than that done by grey squirrels.
Gilchrist says that grey squirrels cost the UK Forestry an estimated £10 million annually because they strip bark from trees and need to be controlled. And squirrels prey on birds’ eggs. But they have very little impact on songbirds.
He argues that there are 11 million cats in the UK who kill about 27 million birds annually and around 92 million wild prey.
I think he is arguing that this is a case of callous speciesism; favouring one species of animal over another. And I think he is correct. But the answer is not to kill or mistreat either species.
Grey squirrels are persecuted in the UK. It is inhumane and wrong in my opinion. The reason why cats are allowed to get away with preying on birds and small mammals is because they are domesticated companion animals and there is a strong emotional connection to them. They are treated as family members. To doing anything inhumane to them is like killing or harming a family member. This is deeply engrained. Free roaming domestic cats are protected by a de facto unwritten law handed down by cat British cat owners. It won’t change.
There is a similar number of feral cats and a percentage are euthanised at shelters but this too is wrong because humans created the feral cat. The feral cat is the innocent victim of human negligence. Let humans pay the price. That price is monetary; the cost of running nationwide TNR programs. You have to throw resources at the problem if you want to do the right thing.
And the UK law which makes it illegal to release grey squirrels into the wild from December 2019 is wrong too. It means that wildlife rescue centres have to euthanise grey squirrels rather than release them into the wild after they were rescued. Anyone can see that that is morally wrong and nuts.
Both grey squirrels and domestic cats are invasive species in Britain although with respect to cats it is a challenging concept as domestic cats were imported into Britain with the Romans at around 200 AD. When does an animal stop becoming an invasive species?