Hedgehogs saved from death by McFlurry ™

Geoffrey Lean,Environment Editor
Sunday 10 September 2006 00:00 BST

David and Goliath had nothing on this. One of Britain's smallest and least aggressive animal charities has coaxed a giant multinational into changing its ways - for the sake of the nation's hedgehogs.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (membership, 12,000, annual income, £126,088) has forced McDonald's (customers, 50 million a day, annual turnover $20.5bn) to spend a massive, but undisclosed, amount on redesigning the containers for its McFlurry Dessert, after one of the most genteel campaigns in conservation history.

From this month, every McFlurry slurped in Britain will be sold in a new hedgehog-friendly carton, after six years of pressure. The tiny, Ludlow-based society has succeeded where many well-known pressure groups have failed, humbling one of the world's biggest and most controversial companies .

It was in 2001 that a postman first found a hedgehog with its head stuck in a McFlurry carton, and alerted the society, in the first of hundreds of SOS calls. The sweet-toothed creatures were tempted into discarded tubs by the smell of the left-overs. They could get their heads in through a wide opening in their lids, but their spines stopped them from pulling out again.

Unless rescued they died of hunger and dehydration - "a nasty, gruesome death," says the society - or blundered blindly into ponds or streams or into the path of cars.

Five years ago, it started - politely, but firmly - asking McDonald's to change the carton. Hedgehog lovers were asked to write in - but nicely.

"Never criticise the company," urges one website. "Always show the utmost respect ... Do NOT write angry, threatening or sarcastic letters. Do NOT use foul language."

After a lengthy redesign, McDonald's has revealed a new lid with a smaller aperture. The victorious society responded with characteristic civility: "We are delighted. Many hedgehog lives will be saved."

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