Ron Bendell: It's time to stop all this hypocrisy over culling
What a night that was! Hidden in the undergrowth with blackened face, combat fatigues and night goggles. It was cold and it was wet – but anything to save those ducks. All I had to rely on was my old commando training and half a dozen bottles of the local tonic wine.
Trouble was, when I woke up in police custody the next morning I learned that in the fracas surrounding my arrest, several of the dear creatures had been crushed. That stuff the brothers at Buckfast make is stronger than you think.
I'm talking, of course, about the row surrounding a small colony of Muscovy ducks that has for some years now made its home in gardens near the famous abbey just outside the south Devon town of Buckfastleigh. They delight some who come along to feed them scraps of bread but to others they are a health risk. Leftover crumbs are attracting rats and other vermin and the birds are apparently riddled with something dubbed "duck plague". Several bodies including Natural England say they must go.
And go they probably will although I doubt that if and when the carnage begins there will be much in the way of military style protection as described above going on – our army of animal welfare activists will be far too busy in Gloucestershire and Somerset protecting the badger.
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Funny that. They spend so much time and effort barking orders and crawling through hedges to protect disease-ridden black and white animals in some places but care not one jot about disease-ridden black and white animals in others.
But such is our moral duplicity when it comes to such things. At the same time as the badger cull goes on in one part of the Westcountry, for example, in another, The Lizard, there is a major clearance of grey squirrels in operation with, as far as I can see, not a single hand raised in opposition.
Little resistance either when hundreds of thousands was spent and some rather inhumane methods used some years ago to clear central London of pigeons so that no one slipped and injured themselves on bird muck while taking part in anti hunting rallies.
Hypocrisy, too, in our personal lives. We love wildlife but are keen to set the traps when there are mice behind the skirting boards and wave about a rolled up newspaper when wasps invade the house. And even though little Johnny is allowed nothing unless it is vegetarian and organic, when he comes home from school covered in nits the little blighters must be killed with the very finest on offer from those nice people in the multi-national chemical industry.
It is against this background that I was fascinated to read of efforts to "save" Dartmoor ponies by turning their hides into drums.
For a long time now the animals have been in decline. Once, there were more than 30,000 of the things wandering about, now we're down to about 1,000. There was a small but handy profit to be had when they were annually rounded up and sold but prices are now down to £1 per head and farmers just can't afford to keep them.
You would have thought that this was the perfect opening for a ready meal entrepreneur but one has failed to turn up and instead the creatures are being shot and fed to lions in zoos.
Now the Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Ponies say even better use can be made of the animals by turning them into "traditional artisan hand drums" that, said one of the members, can be seen as "a symbol of the ponies' voices calling you to listen to their cry for support to help them continue looking after Dartmoor."
Can't quite see how this is supposed to work but I bet they get away with it – as far as the balaclava wearing animal activists are concerned – because it's all a bit arty-farty and by and large that's right up their street.
After all, they didn't try to lynch Damien Hirst when he pickled a shark, a cow and a sheep so why start now?
And after all, they're only ponies. Just like Muscovy ducks or squirrels, they are nowhere near as cuddly as badgers.