A friend on Face Book just mentioned how certain animals become "vermin" when all someone wants are song birds, etc. In fact, there are examples that prove even song birds were a "commodity" or simply "collateral damage" with traps and snares.
In the UK the lynx, the bear and the wolf, not to mention beaver and other animals were hunted to extinction. In point of fact, there not be any true-bred "British" foxes left unless they inter-bred with the new foxes.
You see, in the 17th Century the UK fox (there were different types but NO ONE studied them, not even the so-called naturalists) was beyond today's "Red Listing" category. I have pointed out in my book that, because the fox population was dying out, markets opened up around the UK to import thousands of foxes from Europe and even the United States and Canada for the "sport". In some areas even these newly introduced foxes began to die out.
In the early 20th century, when Irish fox hunters learnt that "their" foxes were being caught and sold "to order" to British fox hunts there was more than a little outcry -the matter was raised in Parliament. But why, if thousands of foxes had been imported each year for over two centuries, were more foxes needed? Because they had, again, been hunted to the brink again -and game keepers were killing cubs in the den.
Ask why rat and rabbit populations increased to such incredible levels and you'll realise that the main rodent predator was no longer in nature's food chain.
Quite by accident I read an item from a 19th century publication telling how a game keeper had come across a fox that had become stuck in the fork trunk of a tree. I read how the game keeper "rescued" it and housed it in a stable. That was it. To say that this confused me is no exaggeration. A game keeper rescued a fox?
Reading more 19th/early 20th century books by the "great fox hunters" I found the solution. The solution also appeared in various non-hunt publications.
Foxes caught, including older cubs, were housed in stables and "kept wild" by being chased and hit with a stick or broom. Despite what you might hear this does still occur in 2015. Then I learnt that this was all connected to "bagging a fox".
Now, most people think the term "bagging a fox" refers to killing/shooting -an old big game term. No. Here is how it worked. A captive fox would be put in a cloth bag and released on the day of the hunt and, if the houndsmen could get to a fox before the "hounds despatched it" the poor thing was put back in the bag and was "ready for release at the next hunt" -one fox could be used in two to three hunt areas. That is what "bagging a fox" means. A cruel and, to be honest, near psychopathic behaviour.
I have 127+ "fox hunt" books in archive and in all the years the local fox hunt was never fully supported by country folk -many had crops damaged by the hunt and its horses, live stock as well as pets killed by the hounds and there was no concern about taking the hunt to court. Everyone considered and called fox hunting a sport. The lie of "pest control" only really came about when court action followed damage or livestock/pet losses and then the "if we do not control them we shall be over run with vermin" excuse came in...so, where exactly were these foxes coming from? Oh, right, the fox hunt were importing and buying them.
Jackals, wolves and other animals were bought for hunts around the country and, again, in the book I mention the number of wolves and jackals that were causing 'problems' and cite cases where locals threatened local hunts with legal action and the capture of a jackal or wolf that everyone knew the hunt had released and was now killing sheep. All fully referenced.
So, "vermin" only applied to foxes because psychopathically disturbed people and their hangers-on wanted something to kill and claim to being "lord and master" of an area no longer worked. But if not for the fox hunts huge importing and release the fox would probably have died out by the 18th century.
What then? Vole hunting?
We know game keepers poison certain birds of prey because these birds eat pheasants or other things hunts like to shoot with their big guns. That is a matter of record in England and Wales.
Badgers. "Badgers spread TB" -that argument is so worn out by now. If not for people with money knowing people in political office the gassing, shooting (often incompetently) and even poisoning or killing of badgers in traps would have stopped. Kill badgers in areas with no cattle TB. Again: with no cattle TB -what does that do? Inoculation of cattle or badgers is easier and farmers would probably earn more from organized badger watch tourism than what they claim is a declining dairy industry. Kill off animals that might make you money -not just tours and watches but bed and breakfast income. "Badgers are vermin" they say.
Red squirrel populations declining due to American Grey squirrels increasing in population? No. Many naturalists have known the lie behind this for decades. Speaking over the years with game-keepers and forestry men in Scotland, England and Wales I heard again and again about the "vermin squirrel" and the damage to "commercially valuable trees" and I used to ask "Do you have many Grey squirrels in your area?" One response: "No. It's the bloody red 'uns -I shot five today" and another: "Traps take care of the Red and if we get any Grey they'll go too!" and I remember Roger Daltrey on a 1980s TV programme shooting Red squirrels on his estate because they were a "pest". In areas where the Red squirrel population has increased it is because there are no "commercial tree crops" and no more game keepers. I do know there are some estates where they are trying to encourage the Red squirrel return.
On this blog I have posted about "mystery" seal deaths off the Eire (Irish) and UK costs. Disease in some cases but the Irish seals I have seen photographs of all bare the signs of having been clubbed or struck over the head with heavy implements -fishermen in Eire consider the seals vermin "because they steal our fish" and so,to them, it is acceptable to kill seals as "vermin".
There are people who consider certain reptiles or amphibians as "vermin" and even some very unhinged people who call domestic cats and dogs "vermin". In truth, if there is a true vermin that kills needlessly for pleasure and to prove itself 'superior' I think a quick look in the mirror will identify the species.