Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on Empire-bashing, land-grabbing and the debt we owe to bats

The award for the most convoluted bit of Empire-bashing of 2023 goes to Exeter University whose new report on the decline in bat numbers concludes: “The northern and southern British populations have declined over several centuries, beginning about 500 years ago. This coincides with a period of widespread tree-felling to supply wood for colonial shipbuilding.”

Plucky little allies

Maybe so. But the decline of bats also coincides with the invention of the bicycle, the decline in organised religion, soaring demand for pit props and the rise of reggae. If you've got a political point to make, you can blame almost anything on anything.

As for “colonial shipbuilding,” the first task of the navy was to defend our shores, secure our borders and sink the Spanish Armada. If bats suffered, we should regard them not as victims but as plucky little allies in the fight against what Tennyson, in his poem The Revenge, called “these Inquisition dogs and the devildoms of Spain.” Clearly, bats deserve some sort of national memorial. The Tomb of the Unknown Bat? The Cenobat?