I read a letter to the local paper the other day. The content related to types of Land Rover and the closing down of grouse moors. I am not discussing the content of the letter apart from the author’s use of the term ‘vermin’. The relevant sentences are:
There is no control of vermin so the hill farmer’s lambs are killed.
The grouse left will either die due to tic (sic) infestation or be killed by stoats and other vermin or some by raptors.
I see the term ‘vermin’ used frequently. It is one that I detest, unless used for infestations of head lice, bed bugs or similar. To me it signifies a complete lack of appreciation and a true lack of knowledge of wildlife. The author doesn’t specify the ‘vermin’ that need to be controlled to save farmers’ lambs, though they might be foxes, badgers, white-tailed eagles and maybe even golden eagles, the larger gulls, crows and ravens. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he only means foxes, which can legally be controlled, they are hardly vermin. Foxes might be pests to part of the community if they take lambs or ground nesting birds, but the same foxes take many rabbits, rats and mice. The control of these pests is beneficial to farmers. The fox is an amazing creature, having lived on its wits for centuries to avoid being exterminated by homo sapiens. It is a beautiful animal and most certainly does not deserve to be referred to as ‘vermin’.
We are off on the ‘vermin’ trail again in the second sentence. Stoats are referred to as vermin, and by inference probably other mustelids such as weasels and maybe even pine martens and polecats, all of which might take young grouse. All are fascinating animals with their own charm and beauty. All are much more beneficial than harmful to farming and forestry and probably only adversely affect game rearing and poultry farming where there is insufficient protection for the hens or ducks. I’ve had stoats, weasels and pine martens in the garden and none has interfered with my ducks or hens since they are locked up outwith daylight hours. I have had visits from another mustelid – an otter – which has killed some ducks. I did call it names a bit stronger than ‘pest’ but I would never consider it to be vermin and I fully appreciate that it is a wild animal only doing what comes naturally to it.
Over the years I have heard most species of raptor referred to as vermin. I draw the conclusion that people who refer to birds of prey as vermin have no respect for them and I’d not be surprised if they would kill them when any opportunity arises.