Squirrel: A Sustainable Meat, and "Tastes Lovely"


Photo credit christophercarfi @ flickr.

Move over kangaroo, horse, and nutria - there's a new meat on the supermarket shelves at Budgens in the UK - it's squirrel. Squirrel has been eaten in the U.S. south for ages, and Budgens owner Andrew Thornton told the Guardian that he sells as many as 15 squirrels a week. Rather than cull these furry animals that abound on urban streets, Thornton said he thinks it is more sustainble....

to eat them. The UK's animal protection group Viva calls this a "wildlife massacre."

The question of whether or not we should be eating meat - grass-fed versus factory farmed just one of the debates - has never been more discussed than it is now. That's because most people in older civilizations simply ate what they could hunt, grow, or domesticate. It is only now that our society has matured and the true costs of meat eating have been exposed in books like Jonathan Safran Froer's Eating Animals that we are all forced to examine our ethics and our choices around meat.

Thornton said squirrel is a better meat choice than beef. Why - because raising a beef steer requires 15 tons of grain, he said, to produce one ton of meat, and also because the squirrels would probably be culled anyway.Squirrel meat is provided to Budgens by a wild-game supplier.

The U.K. has an ongoing battle with squirrel populations, with the grey North American squirrels invading the habitat of the British red squirrel.

Eating squirrel is actually not entirely new to the Brits, who have seen a campaign aimed at saving the red squirrel by eating the grey squirrel since 2006. Many British chefs and cooking are serving squirrels (which are said to be very difficult to skin).

The idea is not so different from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and U.S. oceans agency NOAA's joint campaign to get chefs interested in the lionfish, which is invasive to Carribbean waters and threatens stocks of grouper and snapper. "Eat Them to Beat Them" is NOAA's slogan.

In this Voice of America article, however, Dan Simberloff of the University of Tennessee said that campaigns to get people to eat invasive species haven't fared well, He cites the example of New Orleans chefs attempting to get people to start eating the nutria, a rat-like mammal that is invasive and destructive to U.S. wetlands.

Simberloff says getting people to eat new things is just too difficult, and shouldn't be depended upon as a conservation measure.

What do you think? Should we try to conserve certain species by extensively hunting others?

Read more about the Eat-Them-To-Save-Them theory at TreeHugger:
Eat Kangaroo To Save the Planet: Australian Study Says
Eat a Camel, Save Australia's Environment
Eat the Enemy; Invasive Squirels Introduced as Ethical Food in UK Butcher Shops

Tags: Animals | Environmental Footprint | Vegetarian

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