An email was originally sent to Ms Anna Meredith of the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies by Angus Macmillan who campaigns for Grey-Squirrel.org.uk:
Dear Ms Meredith
I was interested to read a March 2006 Advice Note published by yourselves and the Institute of Zoology which states unequivocally that, "The origin of the squirrelpox virus in red squirrels is the introduced American grey squirrel". This seems an extremely bold statement and I would like to know what real evidence you have to support it. The JNCC states that the origin is "unknown"
As you are probably aware, a pox infection was evident in red squirrels in forty districts in England in the early part of the last century prior to them mixing with greys. SQPV was only identified in the 80s and it seems there is no evidence to rule out the possibility of earlier infections being of the same ilk.
It also appears that some red squirrels could have some form of resistence, as isolated cases of the disease occur in close knit populations where it could easily be transmitted between reds themselves.
I look forward to hearing from you.
The following email was received from Ms Meredith:
Dear Mr Macmillan,
Thank you for your message. All the scientific evidence and research so far supports the theory that SQPV was introduced by American grey squirrels, including transmission studies, mathematical modelling on the dynamics of red squirrel populations, and the finding that grey squirrels from the USA have now been found to be seropositive for the virus (please see attached paper by McInnes et al which also gives a good summary of recent research).
There is much still to be learned about this virus and there is ongoing research both here and at the Moredun Institute into this area,but there is little doubt that control of greys is the key to preventing the death of reds. We are witnessing the steady spread of seropositivity in greys into the south of Scotland,and, within the last year, the corresponding first deaths from SQPV in reds in these areas.
Anna Meredith MA VetMB CertLAS DZooMed
Head of Exotic Animal and Wildlife Service
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
University of Edinburgh
Hospital for Small Animals
Easter Bush Veterinary Centre
Tel 0131 650 7650/6247
Fax 0131 650 7652
The University of Edinburgh is a
charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration
Angus then replied with the following email:
Dear Ms Meredith
Thank you for your reply.
With respect, you haven't really answered the points I made in my email or 19 March.
For a respected organisation such as the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies to make a statement of fact - "the origin of the squirrelpox virus in red squirrels is the introduced American grey squirrel" - when it is merely an inconclusive theory, strikes me as being sloppy science or a desire to mislead the general public in support of the present hate campaign being waged against grey squirrels.
With regard to the McInnes et al paper,
- I do not dispute that the SQPV
virus has been identified as different from the earlier
classification as a parapoxvirus. This has been common
knowledge for some time.
- It is not true for them to say,
outbreaks of pox-like disease in red squirrels were
not reported until after the introduction of the grey
squirrel from America. when forty districts in
England had red squirrels with pox-like disease before
there was any contact with greys.
- It is also very interesting that
they acknowledge the possibility that the virus is
endemic to the UK and that other rodent species
inhabiting the same woodland environment could be
harbouring the virus. This opens up a whole new avenue of
- The fact that pox-like disease was
endemic in the red squirrel population before contact
with greys shows the paucity of the claim that greys are
- SQPV found in greys in America proves nothing. They could have been contact with any number of rodents that have had the disease.
It is my understanding that the presence of antibodies in a grey squirrel merely shows they have been in contact with some infected animal and does not necessarily mean they are carriers but merely that they have the ability to fend off the disease. Could you please confirm that this is the case.
I would also be very grateful if you could answer the points in my email of 19 March.
Im sure neither you nor I would wish to be convicted and executed on the sort of evidence that is currently found against grey squirrels.
We haven't had any further response from Ms Meredith. If she ever does reply, we will of course post it here.
Native by Birth - Condemned by Origin