New UK legislation, Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019, due to come into force in December, will make it a crime to release back into the wild grey squirrels who had been taken in for treatment or hand-rearing.
Grey squirrels have lived in the UK for 150 years and are loved by many. When people see them injured or orphaned, they take them to wildlife rescue centres, in the hope that they will be helped and released back into the wild, where they came from.
But from December this year such release will be prohibited by law, and rescue centres will soon become overcrowded and face the choice of either killing the animals brought to them or being prosecuted and punished by a fine and/or a prison sentence.
This is a situation that clearly flies in the face of both natural justice and common sense.
We therefore ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to issue permits for wildlife rescue centres to continue their work of helping all animals, including grey squirrels, without fear of being prosecuted under the new Invasive Alien Species Order.
Rescue centres do not import or breed these animals. The numbers that they rescue are insignificant in terms of the overall grey squirrel numbers, but very significant in terms of humanity's compassion footprint.
Whatever one's opinion of the environmental impact of grey squirrels might be (these opinions vary very widely), compassionate people who want to help a small number of them should not be made into criminals.