Campaigner drowns grey squirrel

A wildlife campaigner has drowned a grey squirrel to challenge the RSPCA to prosecute him.

Chairman of anti-grey activists Morpeth Red Squirrels Norris Atthey killed the animal in an attempt to confront the charity following its prosecution of Raymond Elliott last month.

Burton Magistrates granted Elliott a conditional discharge but ordered he pay £1,547 costs to the RSPCA when the 58-year-old window cleaner admitted causing unnecessary suffering to an animal after drowning a grey squirrel in a water butt.

The landmark case set an important precedent for killing grey squirrels, which are classified as a non-native invasive species, and could pave the way for hundreds of other prosecutions across the country.

Mr Atthey, who thinks grey squirrels should be killed to protect England's native red species, said he was incensed by the prosecution.

The former military policeman, 66, said he set out to show that drowning was a humane method of culling.

Mr Atthey, a married grandfather-of-four from Ulgham, Northumberland, said: "I submerged this grey squirrel for a few seconds in the water and it was dead within 30 seconds.

"Of approximately 250 greys that I have killed it has been the quickest method.

"Normally it can take one to three minutes."

He said the charity had overstepped the mark.

He said: "I take issue with the RSPCA prosecution. My interpretation of the law is that drowning a grey squirrel is legal as long as it is done swiftly and as part of pest control.

"The problem is the RSPCA have lost their way.

"They seem to see themselves as an animal rights organisation and have decided to prosecute this man.

"They have had to look very hard for prosecution evidence, including a 1952 report about a man who drowned a muskrat, in Canada.

"They should have left the matter to Natural England, who control the legislation, and stick to looking after pet cats and dogs."

Mr Atthey drowned the squirrel last week. He said he was waiting to see whether he would be prosecuted.

He said: "I'm still waiting for the knock at the door.

"So far, the RSPCA has declined to comment, which is a bit of a cop out."

An RSPCA spokesman refused to comment.

She said: "We won't be making any kind of comment on this matter as the case against Mr Elliott has gone to appeal and legal proceedings are ongoing."