Never let it be said that I do not tackle prickly subjects - because this week I want to talk about hedgehogs.

Most human beings have a soft spot for our spiky friends, and they have been on my mind ever since reading about them on social media.

According to one particular posting, which no doubt millions of people have gaily circulated to their friends, we must stop using weedkiller and putting down slug pellets in our gardens, because it has caused the population of hedgehogs in the UK to drop from 30 million to half a million in the last 60 years.

Of course, if you challenge the accuracy of most things you see on social media, rather than assuming there is any check on the effluent you sometimes find floating around in it, you soon find out the truth.

The hedgehog post didn’t seem plausible to me, so I spent a couple of minutes - that’s usually all it takes - checking out what the experts say about it.

Surprisingly, the eminent magazine New Scientist, plus a website run by people who are potty about hedgehogs ( both confirmed that, actually, although the numbers are difficult to quantify, the decline is shocking, and we are right to be alarmed.

But what is causing it is another matter altogether.Various research is going on to… um… pinpoint the reasons, but like nearly everything else in the world, the answer is far more complex than some people will have you believe, so there are numerous factors.

However, weedkill er and slug pellets in gardens hardly come into it, especially since it turns out that urban hedgehogs are faring far better than their country cousins.

So you needn’t think you are the main culprit, no matter how guilty you are supposed to feel about trying to control pests in your garden (if you even have one).

Indeed, the evidence suggests the main suspects in the case of the disappearing hedgehogs are loss of habitat through property development and intensive farming. But those making fortunes out of that don’t want you to know it, or do anything about it, especially if you can be made to shoulder the blame instead.

And if they can go the extra step and get you to suspect your neighbour of being a hedgehog killer, the true culprits can do as they please.

In the same way, we have been made to believe that polluting the world’s oceans with plastic is also somehow our fault, as if those who are forced to consume unnecessary packaging (but still make every effort to recycle it) are somehow more guilty than those needlessly churning it out.

I expect you can think of other ways that the blame game is currently being played by people with vested interests, using the simple trick of setting neighbour against innocent neighbour.

So beware of those seeking to shame. It’s a sure sign that they will never be troubled by it themselves. And hard luck if you are a hedgehog.