The Third Leader: Creature comforts

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The Independent Online

Respectful silence, please, for the Desmoulin's whorl snail, absent from its new home near the Newbury bypass. Former, gone before, ex, it seems, despite the efforts of conservationists and the Highways Agency, which was given permission to move the snails from their old home, a pleasant place to move slowly around in, but sadly slap bang in the way of the bypass. It provided a good metaphor, then, the snail, although much good that did it. Elsewhere, projects have been delayed or diverted by outcries over birds, newts and more.

Remarkable, you might think, considering the other pressing, unattended upheavals and injustices in the world; and considering, too, what else we do to other creatures, besides eating them: more than half of us, for example, a poll disclosed yesterday, approve of using them for medical research.

Still, you might say it's our illogicality that keeps us going, especially round bypasses and up in the air. And it's some mark of a civilisation that it gives serious consideration to the competing interests of motorists and molluscs no bigger than a match head. Not much consolation to the Newbury snails now. I could try to cheer you up with news of increasing parakeets and Britain's first flamingo birth, but you might decide that's no compensation for artificial temperatures and the sufferings of the oak, ash and other natives.

No, for a happy animal ending, we must go to Poland, where a St Bernard fell two storeys from a flat but was saved when it landed on a passer-by, injuring neither. Unless, of course, two of the snails have been out for a longer walk than usual.

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