"Bother!" "O blow!"
"I hate spring-cleaning!"
"Mole found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow."
"This is fine," he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!"
Kenneth Grahame "The Wind in the Willows."
How can anyone fail to love a creature with such sentiments? And, should you ever catch sight of a mole, what a beautiful coat of darkbrown /grey velvet, what an exquisite little snout, what fascinating paws so cleverly designed for serious burrowing.
But, seriously though, as with that other farm "pest", the rabbit, there has to be a limit to the farmer's tolerance.
There was a time, up here in The Dales - certainly within the last twenty years, when gamekeepers set up macabre strings of dead creatures on barbed wire - moles, crows, stoats, weasels, mice, rats; anything they considered a pest would be killed and strung on barbed wire, I suppose to advertise their skill in catching such things.
Thankfully that time seems to be in the past. I certainly haven't seen any such sights for a long time, and there seems to be a more enlightened view these days. Any animal has as much right to life as any other - in theory - but anyone who works the land has to make sure that mice and rats are kept down and away from animal feed and that rabbits (pretty as they undoubtedly are) do not overrun a field. It is said that ten rabbits can eat as much grass in a field as one cow.
Vermin has to be controlled because it will never be eradicated. But somehow I find the plight of the mole much more thought-provoking.
He is a particularly beautiful little mammal and there is something rather nice about the fact that he can be burrowing away under our feet and we know nothing of it. He is definitely not the dear, shy little creature portrayed by Kenneth Grahame - he is a real fighter when it comes to one of his own kind.
But can I put the case for the farmer? As my photograph (taken yesterday on a walk) shows, molehills do destroy a considerable part of a pasture. This field has a flock of Swaledale sheep in it and the whole of the corner in the photograph is a no-go area at a time when grass is not growing and is in short supply.
Once the grass begins to grow in the spring then the molehills inhibit the growth.
When it comes to haymaking/silaging time, when the grass is longer and the molehills are hidden from view, then often the soil hills get baled up with the hay. This means two things:-
Often the machinery is badly damaged by the soil and stones.
When the bale of silage/hay is opened up in winter for animal feed there is soil in it and this poses a serious threat of disease.
So there is the dilemma. On the one hand you could say that every animal has a right to life - after all, the mole does not differentiate between a patch of waste ground and a well-managed meadow - it is all god's earth to him. On the other hand, doesn't the farmer have a duty to keep his land and his animals in tip-top condition?
The seconds are out. Who's side are you on?