Let’s take one more moment to talk about hedgehogs. After our launch of the ‘Amazing Grace’ campaign at the House of Commons last week, I did some interviews, including answering a set of questions from a chap at the Mail on Sunday. I spent quite a bit of time on it to try to do a thorough job, but, as is often the case, not very much got printed. So we thought you’d like to see the whole “interview” the way I sent it back to the newspaper.
Here it is.
[Answering questions posed by Ned Donovan by the Mail On Sunday – SEE Print article]
1. Is there any particular reason for the new focus on hedgehogs, I believe he once had one called Grace?
It’s a very bad time or ALL wild animals in Britain – from the persecution of foxes and badgers, to the millions animals abused while being bred for food, to the millions being tortured in research in experiments which often tell us nothing about the corresponding effect on humans. And we live in times when every decision at Government level is made on the basis of money considerations alone. There are many good people working to change all this, but these days their work is often blocked by political manoeuvres aimed at preserving moneymaking interests and the status quo as regards preserving the trappings of privilege. Each animal-oriented organisation focusses on one area. And we all slog on as best we can, during these lean and mean times. We at Save-Me support animal projects across the board, but the main thrust of our work is to try to improve the lot of wild animals and give them a voice. The plight of hedgehogs has become more and more apparent in recent years, and, for once, almost everybody is on side as regards trying to reverse their sad decline in these islands. People are generally amazed that these charming creatures have been living in Britain for over 15 Million years, compared with our paltry 40 thousand.
Save-Me operates on two main levels … campaigning nationally, and hands-on wildlife rescue on the ground in Surrey. Anne Brummer’s Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue, now part of Save-Me, has rescued many thousands of wild animals over a 20 year period, including large numbers of hedgehogs which are brought in, often in a sad state from injuries or poisons.
In fact, over Winter, we house over 400 hedgehogs every year, and recently Grace was one of those. She was injured as a tiny hoglet, but after a lot of TLC, she survived against the odds. She became the face of the campaign by accident, really, since from being bottle-fed, she was easy to film, and, became the star of hours of footage.
When it came to putting music to the video for our campaign, the song Amazing Grace came to mind, of course, and the more we worked on it, the more we realised that it was relevant in many ways. Kerry [Ellis] and I did an arrangement of the song as the sound-track for the video, to publicise the launch, and we performed the song live in Portcullis House on the launch day.
2. Is he disappointed not too many people turned up to the event in Parliament?
We actually thought it was a pretty good turnout on a day when there were so many pressing issues in Parliament. Having put together a number of these events in Parliament, we know that this is a hit and miss affair. MP’s normally drift in an out to fit it in between other appointments. We had many MP’s of all colours, or their assistants turn up – not at all bad for a Tuesday morning in the midst of EU Referendum fever! So far we have been in contact with over 150 MP’s over this issue, many of whom are new friends willing to take this issue up as a cause. In particular there seems to be a friendly competition emerging between the counties of Suffolk and Surrey, both of which are keen to become the most Hedgehog-Friendly counties in Britain.
It’s worth mentioning here the simple things that we’re asking people to do in their neighbourhoods to help hedgehogs coexist with us. Eliminate pesticides from your gardens, especially slug-pellets, which bring death, ironically, to all the animals, which eat slugs – especially hedgehogs and birds. Make a hole in your fences the size of a CD sleeve – about 4 inches across, to enable hedgehogs to move around, to forage for food. And if anyone tries to tell you that the decline of hedgehogs is due to them being eaten by badgers, greet them with a pitying smile. That’s a nasty bit of propaganda spread by people who want to smear the reputation of badgers by portraying them as voracious predators. A badger is well capable of eating a hedgehog if it’s hungry, but, think about it … badgers and hedgehogs have coexisted in Britain for over 10 million years; how strange that it is only in recent times, since humans arrived on the scene, that the hedgehogs became threatened. There are at this moment efforts being made to ‘prove’ that badgers are bad guys and of course this makes it OK to slaughter thousands of them in a badger cull, even though it’s now beyond doubt that the Government’s badger-killing sprees can do nothing to help farmers eradicate bovine TB in cattle.
It’s a bit like trying to prove that lions eat antelopes, and therefore are bad creatures and need to be culled. And of course, what species is the most damaging predator of all ? Man, of course. So please be aware of how ridiculous and nefarious all this blaming of badgers for hedgehog decline really is.
3. Could he tell me a little bit more about the special recording of Amazing Grace that he did to raise awareness?
The song is beautiful and, of course, quite fitting. The tune apparently dates from slave ships in the dark years of the Slave Trade, and the words were added by a slave master from Donegal in Ireland who was also a poet and clergyman – John Newton (1725–1807). It’s a somber sound that suits the severity of the issues facing Grace; very often in campaigning for animals we find ourselves facing exactly the same arguments that Martin Luther King and the Suffragists faced. It’s logical, really. What we do is start from the logical assumption that EVERY animal on this planet is worthy of respect – not just human animals. I’ve actually always loved this song – and recorded a version with Minako in Japanese some years ago. The name for Hedgehogs in Japanese means needle mouse!
4. Is there a backstory or some more information on his hedgehog Grace? It would make a lovely addition to the story.
Anne says :
“We were called by a member of the public who heard a high-pitched piping sound in her garden. She thought it was a baby bird. On further investigation she found a pile of leaves dragged out from her compost heap and inside the disheveled pile were three tiny hoglets. One was covered in blood with a wound. The lady brought them to our rescue centre. She had a severe wound on the side of her neck and like many of our patients the cause was and is unknown. On arrival she was first treated for fly strike. Her wound was cleaned and fly eggs removed from that and her open dry mouth. Fly eggs hatch into maggots, and if we didn’t act fast they would start feeding on her. Without our intervention Grace would have died from maggot infestation. In nature, this process is essential to remove decay and dead wildlife from the environment, but on a live animal it can often be fatal. Nature is effective but harsh.
Grace recovered with the usual fight we see from hoglets, and her two brothers who were found near her also battled to pull through. Grace like all hedgehogs was strong and stoic and has the will to fight most adversities, and after a little TLC all was well.”
Final addendum, I mentioned to Anne that we have also been made aware of a fad currently popular with celebrities of taking pet hedgehogs to parties on their hand or in their handbags. Obviously this is insane, and I wondered if Brian had a comment on the practice at all?
Pathetic. Simply beyond belief, and another example of animals being treated as inanimate objects by very ignorant people.
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