Slugs invade British gardens

Gastropod molluscs are revolting little creatures. They might have been designed for a science fiction horror movie. Each one has two pairs of antennae protruding from a slimy head. Eyes at the top, and nose beneath. If either gets damaged, they just reproduce. It's creepy. They can smell, breathe, see -- and they move like a silent conquering army. Their lumpen bodies get around by discharging a layer of mucus and then slithering through it. They can even walk up vertical walls, glued to the side by sticky secretions.

But the worst thing about them is their insatiable appetite. These greedy things are eating their way through my vegetables. The runner beans are ruined, there's no let up for lettuces and the massacre of the brassicas is far too tragic to tell. Here in Britain, we had a very wet summer, and there's nothing slugs like better than moisture. There are millions of them out there. But keen gardeners know how to deal with slugs - we've been doing it for centuries. A sprinkle of salt usually keeps them away, a drop of beer can lure them off course, even the politically incorrect remedy of collecting old cigarette ends and creating a nasty nicotine-rich fluid has been known to work.

However, the best thing of all is a handful of used ground coffee. Horticulturalists swear by coffee. It has become the equivalent of an environmentally friendly Agent Orange - it will do no harm to your plants, but it destroys slugs. Stone dead. Or at least it used to, until the interfering beaurocrats of the European Union got involved. In this country we are actually forced to obey laws dreamed up not in Britain but in Brussels. And the European Union has just declared ground coffee to be an untested pesticide.

So it is not only unlawful to kill a single slug with the remnants of your cappuccino, it may also be deemed illegal for gardeners to buy coffee at all because of the risk that they might, one day, sneak down to the vegetable patch and pour a percolator over the pulmonates. Slugs have basically been given full legal rights. Mine's a double espresso. This is Ed Boyle for CBS News in London.

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