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George and the dead squirrels.

IN CONTRAST TO the endless stream of doom and misery vis à vis immigrants storming Europe’s beaches (or getting lifts by naval taxis) and attacks by adherents of the nothing-to-do-with-Islam religion, we’ve been treated to a little levity by none other than arch-gloomster, George Monbiot.

George is well-known as a Guardianista of the Gaia-worshipping sect. Environmentalist, global-warming aficionado and wilding advocate, he outraged some of his own fellow travellers by writing how he cooked and ate squirrel roadkill.

'écureuil Monbiot'He compounded the outrage by going on television, dressed in an apron and wielding an axe, to show how this was done. In true Blue Peter fashion, this included a “here is one I prepared earlier” squirrel, fried and rather tough, which the presenter, James O’Brien, bravely had a go at with fork and teeth.

George, as you may know, is against modern farming practices – most of the time, it seems, against anything modern – and doesn’t like animals being reared for food. Animals that have lived happy, free lives in the wild outdoors and are then shot, mown down by motors or otherwise deprived of life, that’s a different matter. Hunted meat avoids the “ethical problem”, apparently, and George would like us all to live on this sort of food.

“Are there enough squirrels to go round?” asked O’Brien, aware that he’d just posed one of the most bizarre but logical questions on BBC tv. George had to admit that on this hunter-gatherer basis most of us would only be able to treat ourselves to meat three or four times a year. Of the mass unemployment and loss of revenue caused by wiping out an entire farming and food processing industry he said nothing, of course.

I’ve brought home plenty of roadkill myself in the past, usually pheasants, and so I’m with George on this waste not want not attitude. I did once see a dead muntjac deer by the side of the road in the village and was tempted to ask our local butcher if he would do the business and share the booty but then bottled out. I didn’t fancy trying to hoik the thing into the boot of my car and perhaps having to re-dispose of it if he declined.

Pheasants are worth the effort, provided they’re not all squashed, and especially if they’re cocks (because they’re bigger than the hens), but a squirrel is a bit on the small side. I reckon you’d need two of the blighters to get a decent meal.

As progress would have it, though, we don’t have to survive on roadkill or the scanty gatherings of a few hunters out in the sticks. There are things called supermarkets where the flesh of ethically problematic beasts and fowl is available in a variety of forms and packagings at reasonable prices all year round. If squirrel turns up ready for the pan I’ll give it a go, but not until then. Maybe George should go into business.

Michael Blackburn.

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