Is it guilt that makes us, or at least our legislators, so absurdly over-protective of badgers? No creature has so many walls of regulation, euro and home-grown, keeping it from harm. Guilt for what? They should be feeling the guilt, not us, if the disappearance of our hedgehogs is their doing. We haven’t seen one of our spiky friends all summer. Or do we feel guilty for preferring furry things that can’t answer back to the young of our own kind, which resoundingly can?
And if badgers are molly-coddled, what about bats? The bat lobby is so powerful that at least one ancient church (St Hilda’s, at Ellerburn in North Yorks) has become unusable; its congregation is rated irrelevant while bats leave their messages on the altar and the stink of their urine in the air.
I had a letter recently from the bat authorities that left me worrying about their belfry. ‘You have a cave on your property’, they wrote. (This is true). ‘You have closed it with a gate made of vertical bars’. (Also true: to keep people out. The bars are four inches apart). ‘You may be unaware that bats prefer horizontal bars’. I admit I’d never asked. Nor can I imagine why my money and yours is being spent on civil servants asking bats their preferences.
Bats are our ecological allies. They eat lots of insects. Some are rare, even endangered. The lesser horseshoe bat, though, is abundant, and if it suffers some inconvenience in barrel-rolling to fly through my gate I shan’t beg its pardon.