‘We had a fox stuck on a trampoline’ – wildlife charities react to the John Lewis Christmas ad

Put two foxes, a badger, a hedgehog and a squirrel on a trampoline and you have got an exceptionally cute Christmas advert.

You’ve also got a bloodbath, filthy urban foxes, badgers with bovine TB and a hedgehog that isn’t actually British.

There has been a predictably polarised response to the new John Lewis Christmas campaign on social media, but one wildlife charity that rescues animals when they become tangled in trampolines and other garden netting has also called it “ludicrous”.

“I always look forward to the John Lewis advert but they’ve completely screwed up this one,” says Simon Cowell, chief executive of The Wildlife Aid Foundation. Wildlife and pets being killed or injured by netting used in gardens is “a massive, massive problem,” he says. “We go out to tens if not hundreds of incidents each year where fruit nets, football nets and other garden netting has killed or injured foxes, deer, badgers and owls. We have been out to a fox that was stuck on a trampoline. Now we are bound to get some idiotic parent or child who will put their pet on the trampoline and get them to bounce up and down.”

Cowell also criticises the CGI advert for depicting what appears to be an African pygmy hedgehog, not a British one: any healthy native hedgehog should hibernate over Christmas.

In this respect, the John Lewis advert stands in a long tradition of cutesy anthropomorphising. When it was first published in 1908, The Wind in the Willows was greeted sniffily by many reviewers, including the Times, which thundered: “As a contribution to natural history, the work is negligible.”

Many wildlife charities welcome the John Lewis fantasy, however, for its celebration of urban British wildlife.

The Wildlife Trusts’ backing for the advert might be expected because they receive 10% of the retail price of the adverts’ soft toys, but the Badger Trust and Brian May’s Save Me Trust are also enthusiastic.

“We get so much bad news about badgers,” says Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust. “John Lewis have done us a great favour. The advert inspires people to think about the beauty of wildlife that we can see in urban surroundings. It’s a beautiful use of CGI technology and we welcome it.”

Anne Brummer, chief executive of the Save Me Trust, says its rescue centre also takes in animals injured by garden equipment, but she welcomes the advert – alongside Waitrose’s campaign telling the story of a migrating robin – for inspiring people to care about wild animals.

“I could say the robins won’t migrate so far and the foxes and badgers weren’t anatomically correct and it wasn’t a British hedgehog, but these are two fantastic adverts celebrating wildlife. I love every second of them and I congratulate John Lewis for putting positive images out there.”

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