TWO swans are shot dead alongside the Town Path by someone who, in my estimation, presents a menace to society.

I say menace because you’d have to be a very disturbed individual indeed to do that for fun, wouldn’t you?

You’d have to have no understanding whatsoever of the value of life, no inkling of being part of a wider world that requires us to control our more childish, selfish impulses.

You’d have to be not just uncaring, but consciously, deliberately cruel.

That’s what makes the death of these birds not just sickening, but deeply worrying.

Just think.

It means that the aforementioned menace (there may well be more than one person responsible) is wandering about our green and pleasant public spaces armed with a weapon that could certainly cause further mayhem.

And if, as so often with this kind of thing, it turns out to be ‘just kids’ behind it, what on earth are they going to be like when they grow up? And what have their parents been doing when they should have been teaching them right and wrong?

It’s far from the first such example of gratuitous violence against wildlife in our area. Swans have frequently been on the receiving end – I suppose because they present a relatively static target.

Hens and ducks on allotments have also fallen prey. Teenagers were behind a notorious killing spree on the Fisherton Farm site back in 2006.

I remember, too, the horrifying case of the wholesale massacre and decapitation of poultry in Britford Lane, Harnham a couple of years later. That, too, turned out to be the work of ‘just kids’.

As a reporter at the time, I covered the court case, and highly distressing it was, too, to see what feral children can get up to, yet how small and vulnerable they can seem once they are made to understand the enormity of the trouble they’re in.

Society has already failed them by the time they reach that point.

It also reminds me of a series of incidents over last year’s long, hot summer when yobs were roaming around the Old Mill area of Harnham armed with catapults and shooting wild birds, regardless of protests by horrified passers-by.

Brimming over with bravado, they simply took no notice of anyone else.

The police did eventually identify some of them, I believe, and took their weapons away. I’m not sure I’d consider that a sufficient deterrent.

And maybe, with the weather warming up, they’re out and about again looking to cause more mischief.

Either that, or there are even more of these stomach-churning individuals than we’d like to think knocking around, sticking two fingers up at everyone and everything else.

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