Spiders by post – that’s got to be cruel, hasn’t it?

In a bizarre news item, the BBC reports:

A man has admitted sending a rare venomous spider in a package to a colleague at work. Mahlon Hector, 22, of Leicester delivered the Mexican red-kneed tarantula in a box addressed to a Marks & Spencer branch in Leicestershire. Hector handed in his resignation after dropping off the parcel at the Fosse Park store.

Mexican red-kneed tarantula

Now that’s curious enough. Curiouser still, however:

A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: “The spider may also have suffered and we would have pursued the matter under animal cruelty legislation but it does not cover invertebrates.”

How crazy is that? Just look at that cute, furry spider and imagine it being shaken up in a box for some weird practical joke! What if it was one of those sweet little grey squirrels, or rats? People would be marching in the streets, probably led by Sir Paul McCartney. Well, the spider was probably OK, but the Ranger is very fond of spiders, and was startled to learn that there’s no way in law to be cruel to invertebrates. Perhaps there’s room for one more pressure group? No more flyswats! Ban the beer-trap! Calamari and prawns will be off the menu when the Invertebrate Cruelty Act is finally passed…

First published 2006. Republished with corrections 2013.

The city of Jerusalem is throwing money at dog poo.

Here’s a story that is doing the rounds in the ‘Believe it or not’ columns of the newspapers. Some boffin is rubbing his hands delightedly, as they’ve actually persuaded the municipality of Jerusalem to commission research into a DNA testing programme… for dog poo. Yes, wardens will be able to do DNA tests on any stray turd in the street, match it to a database of registered dogs, and the convictions will roll in.


It all seems so simple, and obvious. Why isn’t every city using this wonderful new technology? Why indeed. Let’s see if we can find out.  Continue reading The city of Jerusalem is throwing money at dog poo.

A challenge worth rising to

The Red Tape Challenge! Wow, this has got to be good! The government is asking us all to get together and sweep away all the burdensome red tape that “hurts business, doing real damage to our economy”. What a great idea. Isn’t it? Well, isn’t it? Actually, no, it isn’t. And I’m going to tell you why not.

Red tape

Firstly, the good news – it’s actually not a bad idea to have a review of legislation. Like any legal system, we have a load of repetitive, poorly-drafted, ambiguous laws and regulations. That’s just the way laws work. And reviewing and changing them is not sexy, quick or exciting so it tends not to ever get done. Governments find it easier just to make nice new shiny laws and hope that everyone just forgets the old ones – and often we do. Continue reading A challenge worth rising to

Vole in one

The Wildlife Gardener has already put on record her disdain for the game of golf – or at least for some of its adherents. The Ranger has some sympathy with this view. Whilst it’s certainly true that some golf courses provide a positive enhancement to biodiversity and wildlife conservation; it can also be claimed that some of the most regrettable abuses heaped upon our environment are committed in the name of the sport. Recently, a Welsh court turned the tables on a developer who’d committed one such misdemeanour.

Water vole © Isle of Wight Council

Continue reading Vole in one

Is there a legal right to collect firewood?

Round about this time of year The Ranger always gets a query or two about firewood. There’s the idea going around, rather conveniently, that there is a legal right for anyone to take fallen wood for firewood.

Alder logs cut in a woodland


A typical enquiry was this one, from Ranger reader Graham:

I understand that common folk such as myself were given the right to collect firewood for personal use from common land as part of the great Magna Carta. Or have these rights gradually disappeared as land has been ‘stolen’ by the landed gentry?

So, is he right?

Actually, no. There is no general right in English law to collect wood for any purpose. In simple terms, all wood belongs to somebody, normally the person who owns the tree it grew on. You can’t lawfully take it away without their permission. It’s as simple as that. The fact that plenty of people do help themselves to fallen wood doesn’t make it legally right that they do so.

It’s a very practical way of getting rid of surplus wood, as any ranger or forester knows. If someone asks you for your employers’ wood, you have to refuse. But if you haven’t been told to bring back the firewood, then rather than sweat and gather all your logs up into the trailer and lug them back to the depot, just pile them neatly by the side of the path. Next morning when you return to the worksite they will have mysteriously evaporated. Very convenient, but not in any way a legal right.

Continue reading Is there a legal right to collect firewood?

Buglife squished

If you’ve been following the story of small charity Buglife on this blog you will recall its legal challenge intended to prevent development on West Thurrock Marshes, a former industrial site now very rich in invertebrate biodiversity.

Buglife logo

After a long trek through the courts it seems as though the final act may now have been played out in this drama, as Buglife retires to lick its wounds following a comprehensive rejection of its arguments by the Court of Appeal. Continue reading Buglife squished

Snail-bait? Winkling out escargot law

Ranger reader Vanessa poses a very interesting question about the Roman snail Helix pomatia. She asks what the legal position is concerning captive-bred pet Helix pomatia in people’s homes. (Update: the answer is shown at the bottom of this post) By extrapolation one can also include in this question all the escargots sold and eaten in restaurants, as these are Helix pomatia even though few if any originate in the UK.

Helix pomatia (c) Max Westby

Interestingly, since April 2008 the Roman snail has had limited protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. In England only it is protected from intentional taking, injury or killing, as well as possession and sale. As far as wild snails are concerned this makes sense. But what about snails sold in restaurants, and what about ‘pet’ snails? Are escargot-munchers flirting with a life of garlicky-flavoured crime? Continue reading Snail-bait? Winkling out escargot law

Buglife rides forth yet again

It really does seem to be like the butterfly that stamped. If you’ve been following the story of small charity Buglife on this blog you will recall its legal challenge intended to prevent development on West Thurrock Marshes, a former industrial site now very rich in invertebrate biodiversity.

Spider stamp © Buglife

Buglife made its own alternative stamps showing species threatened by the Royal Mail development

The original site developer, Royal Mail, has now pulled out and Buglife suggests that this is because “Buglife pressure forced Royal Mail to scrap its plans“. However the planning consent still stands, so some other body could still do the works and damage the site. So Buglife took the matter to court. Continue reading Buglife rides forth yet again

Aren’t all orchids protected?

Round about now kettle-cases start popping up on the Isle of Wight. That’s the local name for early-purple orchids, which, as the name suggests, start flowering relatively early, in spring. If you live in England it won’t be long before it’s the same round your way, if it isn’t already.

Early-purple Orchid, Cowes

Orchids are mysterious things, appearing apparently from nowhere, flowering spectacularly, and then disappearing sometimes for years. No wonder they have a certain mystique. Continue reading Aren’t all orchids protected?