David & Goliath … the return

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is only a small charity but seems to be able to hit above its weight when it comes to challenging some of the biggest multinational corporations on the planet. First they took down McDonalds, purveyors of ground up cows to the masses. Now they have stood up to the giant bird-killer, KFC – and won.

What is this great fight you may wonder … well first the cow-killers and then the chicken-slaughterers were found to have made their ice-cream and milkshake containers just the perfect shape for hedgehogs to insert an inquisitive snout as they search for fat and sugar rich supplement to the usual fare of macro-invertebrates.

But, due to the wonderful spines that protect the hedgehog from so much harm, there was a tendency for the poor hedgehogs to get their heads stuck in the pots. This video shows a lucky one that was rescued, however many are not and end up dying.

Now KFC have joined McDonalds in redesigning the pots to stop this happening – and this is a great and wonderful thing. Perhaps surprisingly it took years of negotiation – but the job is done and shows how the determined work of a few people who care can make a great deal of difference.

But … while it is easy to blame the corporate meat-machines that are these companies, there are other people who need to be tackled as well. First, you don’t need to eat this stuff – it is not good for you on so many levels, right up to the global impact of climate change that is driven in no small part by the absurd death-fetish of the casual meat-eaters. Just don’t use those shops – then it is simple.

And if you must indulge your cravings for pulverised and reconstituted flesh … use your brain … do not drop litter. It harms wildlife. Your laziness in not disposing of it properly kills animals. I have been noticing the vast accumulations of rubbish along the road network this year – I am not sure if this is just because I am paying more attention (new book is related to the subject) – or whether this is particularly bad – but the amount of litter is heart-breaking and depressing. If we cannot be bothered to look after our own back-yard then the rest of the planet does not stand a chance.

For happier thoughts about hedgehogs … read my books

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It started with a street …

Hedgehogs are in the news, again.

You have to admit that we have a pretty good PR machine in operation around this rather special animal. And it trundles along, oblivious to all the fuss – unless we have recruited one to be a film star as I have done on a few occasions.

But today things might be about to change – and the hedgehogs might just notice something different, especially if they live in Warwickshire and around Solihull in particular. Because the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has employed a ‘Hedgehog Officer’ and launched an innovative ‘Hedgehog Improvement Area.‘ This project has been funded by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

They are linking up 90 hectares of hedgehog friendly habitat – incorporating a park, nature reserve and housing. This is the next step from our wonderful Hedgehog Street project – because we now know quite how large an area hedgehogs need to thrive. Computer modelling has shown that they need, in the VERY bets of conditions, 90 ha to give them a chance of maintaining a viable population.

At the current rate of expansion – streets to areas in four years – I am predicting a complete overthrow of the established order by the ‘Hedgehog Initiative’ within a decade. We will put in place legislation, through a benign version of dictatorship, that will ensure everywhere is hedgehog friendly …  Hedgehog Officers will become a regular part of every council, in fact they will run the councils.

Okay – got to go and do a radio interview about this – strange how things change, a few years ago I would have fought to get the job of Warwickshire’s Hedgehog Officer … but books have got in the way. Maybe when Oxford recognises the need to have one, I will get my chance!

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Atomic weapons, hedgehogs and a measure of humanity

I was only half-joking when I wrote in the Guardian last week that we should judge our politicians on their relationship to hedgehogs. It should be a measure of all people who aim to set themselves in authority to us, how they view the natural world. It does not have to be a passion for hedgehogs, though obviously that helps in terms of getting my vote, but it has to be an awareness, a concern – oh, here I go again, beating around the bush – a love for the natural world.

As I have written before, it is absurd in the extreme to love money above life – but that is the class of people who govern us now.

The measure of a person – there is one celebrity I met last year who has just rocketed in my opinion. Already I was a fan of the very lovely actor, John Hurt when I met him at the Royal Horticultural Show at Hampton Court and asked him to come to our Hedgehog Street garden (which won loads of awards!).

But he has just surpassed himself. Because there is another measure I think just as important – and that is one attitude towards nuclear weapons. The lust for megadeath that drives the supporters of a weapon system that in no way makes any sense at all still lives in the heart of many in power. For most, though, the issue has slipped from the agenda – there are other pressing issues of environmental and social justice to consider.

Those that still care enough to take action have been out this morning – shutting down the Atomic Weapons Establishment factory at Burghfield.

The campaign, Action AWE, has some very notable supporters including Ken Loach and the Anglican Bishop of Liverpool – but who is at the top of the list? Our very own hedgehog-loving John Hurt.

Oh – and which political party is the only one that is serious about tackling the silly waste of money represented in this extreme example of the military-industrial complex? The Greens of course. They love hedgehogs and hate nuclear weapons. Some decisions are complicated, but not the choice of party we would want. And an indication that the establishment is getting concerned about the possibility we in the UK might see more sense came this morning when US army chief General Odierno said we are not spending enough making things to kill people. Love life, love hedgehogs, vote green. Simple.

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  • Hugh Warwick holding a toad

  • Hugh Warwick is an ecologist and writer with a particular fondness for hedgehogs. His first book, A Prickly Affair, remains the only book to have accolades from both Jeanette Winterson and Ann Widdecombe on the cover. The Beauty in the Beast is published in May 2012 and takes him on a journey in search of other animals. And in November 2012 he returns to hedgehogs with a book about the iconography of the animal.

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