By Ivor Traktor, Farming Correspondent (intern)
A herd of haggis has colonised an area of north Suffolk after being accidentally released into the countryside.
The small furry rodents are normally kept in battery farming conditions in Scotland, bred for the dinner plates of Scotsmen celebrating Burns night every January 25.
But five of the animals escaped from their pen during a rare breeds show at Fressingfield village hall last Autumn, scurrying off into the fields before they could be caught. With each female haggis capable of giving birth to 200 cubs each year, experts fear the herd now totals over 600 animals.
The haggis are not a danger to humans, although they could give a nasty nip if cornered, but farmers are fearful for their crops if the population is not brought under control.
Haggis’ favourite food is carrot and turnip – and the Suffolk Gazette agriculture bureau has already had calls from two farmers affected.
Jack Jarvis, 42, who farms just outside Stradbroke, told us he lost an entire field of carrots to the hungry haggis.
“At first I thought I must have had a load of rabbits, but when we sent off some droppings to the labs at the National Farmers’ Union, they confirmed we had a haggis problem.”
The NFU is now calling for urgent action to trap the haggis and return them to Scotland before entire areas of Suffolk become infested and vegetable crops are wiped out.
Haggis are no larger than a rabbit, and their long bushy hair gives them the appearance of a guinea pig. They have sharp claws which they use to dig out carrots or turnips from the fields, leaving tell-tale holes in the earth behind them.They are not normally spotted by humans as they prefer to operate at night, but their loud squeaking call can now often be heard around the north Suffolk area.
Lorraine McFisher, 34, a spokesman for Scottish haggis production farm Hootsman, said: “We can confirm we lost five of our stock at a show in Suffolk. We did not expect them to survive in the wild, but it appears they have thrived in the local countryside and there is now something of a problem.
“We will assist in any way we can, and will be sending a consignment of turnip traps, which are the best way to catch them. Meanwhile, if any locals managed to grab one, we will be happy to pass on one of our fine recipes, free of charge.”
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