Monday, 7 April 2003

Deception by SNH exposed in the killing fields of the Uists and Benbecula

Tonight will see the culmination of several months of dispute between SNH

(Scottish Natural Heritage) and UHR (Uist Hedgehog Rescue) as the needless

slaughter of 5,000 hedgehogs gets underway on the islands of Uists and

Benbecula.

Whilst SNH begins its deadly task, dedicated volunteers from UHR will be

striving to rescue and relocate as many of these hapless creatures as

possible.

UHR, a coalition of animal welfare groups, hedgehog experts, wildlife

rehabilitators and scientists, was formed to speak out in opposition to the

proposed 'cull' and with the intention of working with SNH to find a humane,

non-lethal solution. UHR has never disputed the requirement to remove the

hedgehogs nor the importance of protecting the internationally important

populations of wader birds on the islands.

Spurious claims are now being made by SNH employees that the UHR operation

is placing the hedgehogs in danger and that they will become "diseased and

die" if relocated. This is vindictive scaremongering on the part of SNH in a

desperate bid to salvage its now tarnished reputation in the face of

continuing media interest and public criticism.

In justifying its killing policy, SNH has consistently quoted from a

scientific paper by respected scientist, Dr Patrick Doncaster, and refused

to accept that it has little relevance to the situation in the Uists. SNH

claim it proves that about half of the relocated hedgehogs will survive. The

author, Dr Doncaster, has now confirmed to UHR that his paper is of little

relevance to the Uists and that the survival rate is more likely to be

around 80%.

SNH has also claimed that the hedgehogs on the islands are parasite free and

will die once

relocated to the mainland - yet another inaccuracy. UHR analysis has shown

that the hedgehogs on the islands carry the same parasites that would be

expected in a normal mainland hedgehog population and would therefore be no

more vulnerable once relocated.

In a further sign of desperation, SNH has also now started to claim that it

has the backing of all the Scottish political parties. However, when UHR

contacted their head offices this morning, the key political parties were

astonished to learn of this claim.

It is deeply saddening to the groups involved in UHR, including the numerous

wildlife experts, that certain individuals within SNH have succeeded in

tarnishing the reputation of their once-respected body. The shameless

behaviour of SNH is now being reported worldwide.

It seems that SNH is so hell bent on killing these healthy hedgehogs that it

is afraid of losing face. Sadly, the deception tactics and comments like

those made today by SNH spokesperson, George Anderson, that they are "raring

to go" with the killing will dismay a very large section of the Scottish

public who have no wish to be associated with this mindless slaughter of

wildlife.

Let sanity prevail.

- ENDS -

For further information please contact Advocates for Animals' office on 0131

225 6039.

Uist Hedgehog Rescue (UHR) consists of: Advocates for Animals, the British

Hedgehog Preservation Society, Hessilhead Animal Rescue Centre,

International Animal Rescue, the Mammals Society ans St Tiggywinkles

Wildlife Hospital.