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Just as it happened (and still happens) in the United Kingdom, grey squirrels in Italy have become the target of a hate campaign orchestrated by various institutions, with the final aim of killing all of them and wiping them out of this country.
Basically they are accused of being aliens, and of thriving at the expense of the local species, the red squirrel; does it sound a bit racist? It is, in fact!
It is true that with time grey squirrels will very likely occupy most of the territory presently inhabited by red squirrels, which does not mean that red squirrels will become extinct - they will stay where the habitat is more favourable for them, e.g. in conifer woodlands. In any case the process will take thousands of years, and it looks a bit eccentric worrying about who will inhabit Italy in the year 10.000 or so, unless of course one takes the term "conservation" so strictly to think that nature should always be equal to itself, with the same specieses in the same proportions and in the same places, which is absolutely... unnatural!
Actually the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention has repeatedly asked Italy to eradicate the grey squirrel population; however, it must be noted that the red squirrel as a species is not considered at risk either by the Habitats Directive of the European Union or by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Also, it is said that grey squirrels are carrying a virus which is lethal for red squirrels. What is systematically omitted is the information that the virus has never been recorded in Italy.
Grey squirrels are also accused of damaging trees; they do cause some damages (and incidentally red squirrels do the same), but the extent of them is usually exaggerated, and by the way a study of the University of Bristol says that it is unclear whether the financial benefits of culling campaigns would exceed their costs. Furthermore, from an ecological standpoint and according to the same study we should also talk about "the benefits that grey squirrels may have, including the formation of deadwood, an important component of biodiverse woodlands".
Interestingly enough, many Italian experts (we are talking about university professors and researchers) co-operate with the European Squirrel Initiative, a UK-based charity whose newsletter among other things tells us how to cook grey squirrels and informs us that for anglers the hair of the tail of grey squirrels provides an excellent fly-tying material for catching trouts and salmons. Science at its best, indeed!
Another disturbing fact is that funds from the European Union and from the Environment Ministry are being used for a "public awareness campaign" aimed at "minimise the negative public reactions"; another stated objective of the communication strategy is "to increase the number of citizens that lobby decision makers". An activity is also being carried out in primary schools in order to explain to childrens the "dangers" of grey squirrels. There is no room for empathy, no room for different opinions, apparently as soon as we are barely able to talk and to listen we must be taught that killing is OK if it is an "alien" to be killed.
This website has the purpose to supply the information usually omitted by institutions, and to help Italian activists in fighting against the mass extermination devised by those same institutions.