Archibald McGregor, a hard-working 78-year-old pensioner living in a small village in Lancashire, has been brought to the verge of a nervous breakdown by thefts from the vegetable garden he relies on to supplement his meagre pension. It is understood that the culprits are a rogue family of rabbits who have never applied for planning permission for their sand-bank underneath the root of a very big fir-tree.
'I thought I'd seen the back of those rabbits when I shot the buck. He was put into a pie by Mrs McGregor,' the frail Scot told reporters. 'Well, I say put into a pie, actually she deep fried him in batter wi' some chips. He didnae taste too bad, mind, even though the daft hen forgot tae take his guts out. She's not been very well. Would ye like a mint humbug?'
In one recent incident, a notorious young tearaway from the surviving litter of four, known as Peter, ran straight away to Mr McGregor's garden, squeezed under the gate and ate some lettuces, some French beans and some radishes. Next, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley and encountered Mr McGregor on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages round the end of a cucumber frame.
A confrontation followed and, in a typical example of political correctness gone mad, it is not the callous young rabbit who is now facing criminal charges but poor Mr McGregor. Police confirmed 'Mr McGregor used excessive force by trying to trap Peter in a gooseberry net, then almost stamping on him in a shed. He also failed to return a blue jacket with brass buttons that was allegedly left behind at the scene of the alleged incident.'
This is just one of a spate of anti-social behaviour by anthropomorphic animals in the Lake District. A frog called Jeremy Fisher has been seen taking minnows back to his 'slippy-sloppy house', bringing down property prices throughout the area, Squirrel Nutkin and his cousins were recently given ASBOs for sailing to Old Brown's island on a raft of twigs and provoking him with silly songs, while a notoriously promiscuous puddle-duck called Jemima has been spreading her eggs around among some crafty foxes.
Melanie Phillips has promised to deliver 2,000 words on the subject for next Thursday.