Leading Article: Twyford Down to Watership Down

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The Independent Online
Rabbits beware. In the long, lush grass around Lympstone in Devon, Royal Marines, playing at being behind enemy lines, are looking for their dinner. Last week we learned of their appetite: 15 victims a month, a flurry of grabbing and neck-twisting, small mounds of stew in mess tins. Oddly, for men of such resourcefulness, the commando recruits require rabbits specially bred for the purpose, at a cost of pounds 6.50 each. "It would not be correct to lay snares in public areas," says the major in charge.

At least, not for now. Last week we also learned of the Conservatives' intention, to be included in their election manifesto, to create a "Lads' Army", a national cadet force for teenagers. Inner-city youth, always a worry, is to leave behind its puffa- jacketed shuffling and learn fresh-cheeked, striding discipline. And perhaps a thing or two about rabbits. The trapping, the kill, the cleaned- up commons - the virtues of these are obvious to our more red-blooded politicians.

They may spot another benefit. Young people with a fondness for animals can be troublesome. They disrupt veal exports and hunts and the construction of new roads through nature reserves. A few more cadet centres might thin the ranks at Newbury considerably. There is a problem, though. The Labour Party, rather more likely to form the next government, is not keen on cadets, preferring "Millenium Volunteers", working in schools, hospitals and on environmental projects. Teenagers, when polled, seem to prefer the latter too. As Churchill might have said: "Some rabbit! Some neck!"

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