Friday, 13 August 2010


A wildlife campaigner drowned a grey squirrel - in a challenge to the RSPCA to bring charges against him.

Norris Atthey is founder of The Morpeth Red Squirrel action group - which has culled more than 500 grey squirrels in two years.
The 67-year-old was furious when Raymond Elliot was prosecuted by the RSPCA last month for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal after he drowned a squirrel in a water butt.Elliot, 58, admitted the charge and was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £1,547 costs at Burton Magistrates Court.

The matter is going to appeal.
Mr Atthey said he had killed the grey squirrel to show that drowning was a humane method of culling.
Mr Atthey, from Ulgham near Morpeth, Northumberland, said the death of the squirrel was over in seconds, quicker than his usual method of shooting them, and minimal distress was caused to the animal.
He said: 'I submerged this grey squirrel for a few seconds in the water and it was dead within 30 seconds.
'Of approximately 250 greys that I have killed, that has been the quickest method. Normally it can take one to three minutes.
'The usual method is shooting them. Ninety per cent have been one-off shots, but it is still possible you might miss or not kill it properly.
'Another method is to transfer a grey into a hessian sack and hit it with a club. I think that is an absolutely brutal method so I don't use it.'
Mr Atthey said he will wait to see if any legal action is taken against him before drowning another squirrel.
'This drowning was a one-off. I'm trying to prove a point. This is a test to the RSPCA, it is a challenge.
'I can demonstrate the trapping procedures if it goes to court. This was humane and this grey squirrel was not under stress. What I have done is better because it was quicker.
'I believe that under the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act drowning a grey squirrel is legal as long as it is done quickly as part of pest control.
'What I am doing is pest control.'
The RSPCA refused to comment on the incident due to the ongoing legal case in Burton.
A fact sheet on grey squirrels from the charity says killing them should only be considered as a last resort if there is a serious problem and alternative means of control are ineffective or impractical.
It warns that killing is unlikely to be a long-term solution and that it is an offence if any unnecessary suffering is caused to captured animals.

Natural England advises that grey squirrels can be run into a sack and killed by a sharp blow to the head, or shot in a cage, but trapped squirrels should not be drowned as it is inhumane.
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to release grey squirrels or allow them to escape into the wild.
A Natural England spokesman said: 'The animal Welfare Act 2006 protects "animals under the control of man" and so squirrels in traps or cages would be covered.
'This Act prohibits causing unnecessary suffering to such animals.
'It would be for the courts to decide whether the method of killing, be it drowning or any other method, caused any suffering and if so this was unnecassry or not in any particular case brought before them.'

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