There has been news on the grapevine lately of Prince Charles calling for the eradication of the non-native grey squirrel in Britain. The grey squirrel was introduced as a species from North America about 100 years ago. It was an ornamental species that went wild and has since competed against the native red squirrels for survival and domination of Britain's woodlands. Not only is the grey squirrel bigger, more robust and breeds faster, it has a secret weapon against the reds. It is armed with a biological weapon, a virus called parapox that has decimated the red squirrel population by as much as 80 per cent. The greys also have a tendency to scratch deep into the bark of hardwood trees, such as the old English oak, killing them. Prince Charles, being a rather large landowner, has a vested interest in ridding Britain of the greys while preserving the English reds. The British media has taken up the call for arms against the grey squirrels and has reported various ingenious and macabre ways people have come up with to drum up enthusiasm for culling the grey squirrel population. One of the ideas, from a company called Patchwork Pate, is to turn grey squirrels into squirrel pate. The owner of the company, apparently furious with the squirrels for stealing chicken feed from her store, decided one day to turn a captured grey specimen into a wildlife pate. Shockingly, the p?t? has taken off among the red-squirrel-loving community. Meanwhile, activists from the so-called Red Squirrel Protection Partnership have enlisted local senior citizens to cull more than 22,000 grey squirrels and turn them into squirrel pies. With the public stirred up with patriotism for the local species, the locals have been happy to consume as many pies as can be produced. There was even a call by a Scottish government minister for a bounty to be paid for every dead grey squirrel presented to the local police station. Fortunately, the idea sparked a backlash and did not take off. So what has caused the British public to turn a blind eye to the mass culling of the grey squirrel? The usual animal welfare extremists in the country would usually protest on the streets against the obvious cruelty that must occur from such a large-scale culling. Maybe, it was the royal rhetoric in favour of the native red squirrel. Having looked at photos of the two species, it is hard to say which is the more attractive animal, if that matters at all. It has been reported the reds are 'beautiful, mystical little creatures. The greys are not. They are destructive because they don't belong here; there is no place for them'. Sounds like the words a right-wing extremist would utter about immigrants. It is just so ridiculous you have to laugh. There are those who favour poisoning instead of capture and a quick whack on the head. I would like to see how they plan to selectively poison only one species of animal while avoiding collateral damage. Imagine a rare red-tailed hawk swooping down on a seemingly paralysed prey and finding itself dying, poisoned from an easy meal. Not to mention the cruel death that would inevitably result from poison. Poisons usually cause an excruciating and slow death. The sad thing about all this is that killing tens of thousands of grey squirrels is not really going to make a dent on the grey squirrel numbers and probably would have little affect on the survivability of the reds. It's like trying to trap all the stray dogs in Hong Kong to control their population. It has been proven time and time again to be logistically impossible. As with the squirrels, which are much more prolific breeders and in much larger numbers, such a cull would be futile and would cause unnecessary suffering. It has been suggested by local welfare organisations that further research be done to look for a more effective and humane way of controlling the greys, such as using a chemical or biological agent that would render some of the population infertile. It is surprising how people can lose sight of the big picture when faced with a problem. It is this knee-jerk, unco-ordinated reaction to events that causes much of the world's problems. The reaction does not have comprehensive global consequences, but does tell us a great deal about human nature.