Helen Martin: I'm foxed by immoral intolerance of animals

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SEVERAL times in my life, I have come across people who seem to believe that the world is for mankind and every other species is some sort of blight, nuisance or pest which is to be ignored or eradicated.

On an emotional level, I like animals. And I (often quite intensely) dislike people who don't. Even being rational, logical and scientific, I simply find them ignorant.

Off-hand the only creatures I can think of that appear to have no useful purpose at all are slugs and snails, and even then, I'm sure there's an expert somewhere who knows their value.

Everything else is pretty essential to the planet, and rather more so than we are, as it happens.

Spiders catch flies. Flies and maggots help break down waste. They may not be cute and cuddly but they are fascinating and we need them. What's not to like?

The smell? Well I hate to break it to those who think animals are dirty or pong a bit but the smelliest animal by a long, long way, is a human. Our rich, sickly, salty scent isn't noticeable to us but domestic animals deserve a loyalty medal for tolerating it.

Most creatures, apart from us, simply want to exist rather being hell-bent on dominating the world and ruining everything in their path.

And that includes foxes, the poor, beleaguered fox, whose territory has been taken over by out-of-town shopping malls and industrial parks and who has come into the city in search of sustenance.

We've had them in the allotment, where they are more than welcome because they keep down other animals, who would be off with our crops before you could say "Peter Rabbit".

We've caught sight of them in the garden at dawn and the dog even eye-balled one curiously when he got me up for a night-time emergency wee-wee (for him, not me). The fox looked back for a moment, tucked its tail between its legs and scarpered.

What good do they do in cities? Well, for a start, they eat rats. You know the story about never being more than ten feet away from a rat? Without urban foxes even more of them might come even closer.

I was highly sceptical about the case earlier this year in London when a fox allegedly attacked twin baby girls who were asleep in their cot, not least because unless he was a locksmith, Foxy had to get in somewhere. Leaving doors open even on a heatwave evening - given foxes' nocturnal habits - might make sense to some folk but surely there are many more reasons than foxes for not doing so, especially if you have babies in the house . . . cats for example, not to mention burglars.

And now we have our own, local example of someone "attacked" by a fox. A 37-year-old man blacked out in a cemetery in Inveresk and had his nose and fingers bitten off last week. The reasons for his lack of consciousness are irrelevant. It's a tragedy, of course it is. But what it is certainly not, is "an attack".The fox sees a dinner that won't fight back. It would have behaved exactly the same way if the unconscious creature had been a stunned rat or a dead pigeon. It's extremely unfortunate that someone conked out in a dark, open space, and I don't under estimate the devastation of waking up to discover your nose has gone, but it's hardly the fox's fault any more than the victim's.

Hysterical animal haters waving their arms around like wimpy, tight-bodiced Victorians are not contributing anything sensible to any discussion on how we co-exist with fellow "earthlings" (who may have two, four, eight or 100 legs, or an indeterminate amount of wings or antennae) with whom we are mutually dependant, and without whom we may cease to exist at all. That is the ecological world we live in.

Take reasonable steps to keep wild animals out of your home and try not to leave yourself exposed, unprotected and unconscious overnight lest rats and foxes have a nibble or beasties crawl into your nostrils, ear-holes and open mouth.

It doesn't seem too much to ask of what is - allegedly - the most intelligent being on the planet.