Leading article: Ruddy ridiculous?

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The Independent Online

Are we "quasi-racist" towards so-called alien bird and animal species? Professor Christopher Smout thinks we are, and says it is time that we re-examined the dogma, upheld by groups such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, that many non-native species deserve to be eradicated. A case in point is the ruddy duck, a perky bird from North America, which had been paddling around Britain's ponds since the 1950s until the RSPB earmarked the species for extermination, principally because some had the temerity to fly off to Spain and cross-breed with a similar, rarer species, creating a hybrid.

As the professor suggests, it is incongruous to apply rigid doctrines of ethnic or racial purity to the natural world that we would now judge repellent when applied to human society.

Conservation groups disagree, but there is no doubt that old assumptions about the desirability of keeping native species "pure" are now being questioned, and rightly so.