Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Batty or What?

I went to a meeting of the local Parish Council yesterday.
Some of the items on the agenda looked a bit surprising, for instance a Risk Report on the local Allotments. What is going on at the allotments? Terrorist attacks? People growing crops of illegal narcotics? Clearly allotments are more dangerous than I realized.
And then a whole discussion about the problems of cutting down a dangerous tree at the edge of a playing field.
Why does it take a whole Parish Council to decide when and how to cut down a dangerous tree? Well, this particular tree can't just be cut down because it has bats breeding in it. Bats being a protected species, you can't kill them, move them or disturb them in the slightest way that could make them even the teeny-weeniest-little bit upset. It is actually a criminal offence to destroy any bat habitat or obstruct access to it, even when not occupied. Not even a court can evict them.
A bat's house is its castle.
It is a criminal offence to "Possess or advertise/sell/exchange a bat (dead or alive) or any part of a bat". So don't batter a bat. Don't think you can bump off a few bats, then sell their toenails one by one on E-bay. Don't make batwing soup. Don't try to swop a bat for a budgerigar, or advertise dead-bat trading evenings. You could end up in gaol.
In fact, the maximum fine is £5,000 per bat and as some roosts contain hundreds of bats, you could face a million pound fine for pulling down the roost of what the Germans call a "flying mouse".
However, if caught with a captive bat in your possession, you might wish to plead mitigating circumstances and these include:-
"Tending/caring for a bat solely for the purpose of restoring it to health and subsequent release, or,
Mercy killing where there is no reasonable hope of recovery (provided that person did not cause the injury in the first place - in which case the illegal act has already taken place)."
So if you find a poor injured bat and offer it shelter, but despite your best efforts and those of top surgeons, it is still in terrible agony, and never going to recover to live a normal bat existence, you may take out your shotgun, and end the creature's suffering.
In America you are allowed to use sonic devices to scare bats away and regain possession of your own home, but even that is illegal in Britain. There are various steps you can take if you need to carry out work in a place where there are bats. You have to apply for a special licence. To get this you have to have inspections carried out by qualified bat experts. Each inspection costs hundreds of pounds. Meanwhile the old hollow tree could fall down and injure somebody, but hell, they're not a bat so who cares?
To all intents and purpose, bats are sacred.
If bats took up their abode in the Olympic stadium we would have to cancel the Olympics.
Batty or what?!
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