Magazine article The Spectator

I Am Ready to Go to Prison for Hamster Murder

Magazine article The Spectator

I Am Ready to Go to Prison for Hamster Murder

Article excerpt

RSPCA Press Office Dear James, I'm sure you will not be surprised to learn that the RSPCA has received a complaint following your column dated 21 November.

We were surprised, however, that it was felt appropriate to trivialise and broadcast a criminal act which may well have led to animal suffering.

Can I remind you that whatever your personal 'sliding scale of values' may be it remains an offence to fail to meet an animals needs and/or cause it unnecessary suffering? Those found guilty face a maximum six-month prison sentence and/or a £20,000 fine.

Obviously we urge everyone who buys a pet to be sure they have the resources and commitment to care for it for the rest of its life. Should you nevertheless ever find yourself in a similar situation again we would urge you to contact a reputable animal rescue organisation so that your pet has the opportunity to live out its life free from harm.

Regards, Emma Nutbrown Is this a threatening letter? I think it probably is, don't you? And if it's not threatening, it's definitely creepy, menacing and a little bit sinister.

What Ms Nutkin is saying to me here, unless I'm being paranoid, is: 'We're on your case, mate. We could have you, easy, for this criminal offence you've committed. We could cost you loads of money or put you behind bars. But we won't this time, because we're nice that way, we Animal Rights people. Next time, though, you might not be so lucky. Got that, hamster murderer?'

Let me tell you how it started and you can make up your own mind. (Sorry to those of you who've already read the original Telegraph article). Two or three years ago, my kids borrowed the official school hamster for the weekend and it got killed by a visiting child in a tragic, wooden-trainrelated accident. So off we hurried to the pet shop to buy a replacement hamster for the school, plus a hamster for us because, clearly, our hamster-care skills needed a bit of work.

They came from the same litter but had very different temperaments. One was placid, the other a vicious biter. Naturally my son wanted to keep the vicious biting one because it was more exciting. But it was incorrigible. It kept drawing blood. So we tried asking the pet shop to take it back.

'Sorry -- your problem now, ' was their charming response. Then, rather naughtily, we tried palming it off on the school. 'We can't have this hamster, ' said the teachers.

'He keeps biting the children.' There was, I knew, no point in trying to keep it in the cage with his brother in the hope he got nicer. We tried that once, when I was a kid, with two hamsters named Topsy and Tim. Then one day we found Tim lying there minus his head and Topsy grinning bloodily and contentedly.

Oh dear. There was clearly only one way out of this for Devil Hamster and me and it wasn't going to be pretty for either of us.

But how? I thought about a brick: too visceral. I thought about drowning: too slow.

Eventually, I took the coward's way out and released him into the park. A really nice bit of the park we call 'The Secret Garden'.

'Run free, little biter! Run free!' I said as I let him loose. The urban foxes would take care of the rest.

And now apparently, I'm a criminal. Not even an 'alleged' criminal, you'll note from Ms Nutkin's letter. My daughter got very upset by this when she read the letter over my shoulder. …

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