Hunters are…Environmentalists.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 7, 2009
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Culling invasive species? Protecting native species? Hungry? It’s greener than buying a plastic wrapped hunk of beef shipped 1,500 miles, that’s for sure.



These days, however, in farmers’ markets, butcher shops, village pubs and elegant restaurants, squirrel is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in.

“Part of the interest is curiosity and novelty,” said Barry Shaw of Shaw Meats, who sells squirrel meat at the Wirral Farmers Market near Liverpool. “It’s a great conversation starter for dinner parties.”

While some have difficulty with the cuteness versus deliciousness ratio — that adorable little face, those itty-bitty claws — many feel that eating squirrel is a way to do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience.

With literally millions of squirrels rampaging throughout England, Scotland and Wales at any given time, squirrels need to be controlled by culls. This means that hunters, gamekeepers, trappers and the Forestry Commission (the British equivalent of forest rangers) provide a regular supply of the meat to British butchers, restaurants, pâté and pasty makers and so forth.

The situation is more than simply a matter of having too many squirrels. In fact, there is a war raging in Squirreltown: invading interlopers (gray squirrels introduced from North America over the past century or more) are crowding out a British icon, the indigenous red squirrel immortalized by Beatrix Potter and cherished by generations since. The grays take over the reds’ habitat, eat voraciously and harbor a virus named squirrel parapox (harmless to humans) that does not harm grays but can devastate reds. (Reports indicate, though, that the reds are developing resistance.)

“When the grays show up, it puts the reds out of business,” said Rufus Carter, managing director of the Patchwork Traditional Food Company, a company based in Wales that plans to offer squirrel and hazelnut pâté on its British Web site,

Enter the “Save Our Squirrels” campaign begun in 2006 to rescue Britain’s red squirrels by piquing the nation’s appetite for their marauding North American cousins. With a rallying motto of “Save a red, eat a gray!” the campaign created a market for culled squirrel meat.

British bon vivants suddenly couldn’t get enough squirrel. Television chefs were preparing it, cookbooks were extolling it, farmers’ markets were selling out of it and restaurants in many places were offering it on the menu.

Meanwhile gamekeepers, hunters and trappers were happy to know that the meat was being eaten, not wasted. “My lads don’t like to kill an animal if it’s not going to be eaten,” Mr. Shaw said of the hunters who bring him game.

Many enjoy squirrel, however, simply because they like its taste...for more, go to the New York Times’ article



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


4 Responses to “Hunters are…Environmentalists.”

  1. Stephanie says:

    This is truly local and native eating at its finest. There’s really no reason why we should be ok with eating one animal over another…a pig over a squirrel, for example. In fact, the thick, healthy, pesticide free nuts that make up the bulk of a squirrel’s diet means its meat is packed with nutrition in a way that corn and soy fed feed lot animals lack!


  2. David says:

    Being an elk/deer hunter and a friend of Waylons I knew this would come up at some point. I’m not sure that hunting is eco or enviro friendly but it works for me. No store bought meat means less impact I suppose. If all meat eaters had to kill their food there would probably be many more vegetarians, which would be a great thing. I think I’d go veggy before eating squirrels but I’m not knocking it, probably taste like chicken (which I don’t eat either) thanks, D

  3. Stu says:

    Well, if there were no humans or modern advancements and the dehabitation/redistribution of biodiversity associated therewith, there would be no need for hunting, and, of course, there would be no hunting. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), though, hunters are able to fill many critical voids in the food chain, and provide the bulk of dollars and efforts for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration, worldwide. “Wild caught,” (as I like to call it) meat is free-range, organic, and does not contribute to the CO2, methane or other pollutants created by factory farming. If you want to eat meat, put your money where your mouth is, and go get it yourself. Spend the dollars on a license. Those dollars will then be used for habitat restoration and conservation. Invasive species issues?.. Take the initiative and do the job of the predatory animals that your home displaced. “Thin the herd.” Prevent disease. Take part in sustainable wildlife management. Because of our human impact, it’s necessary.

  4. […] will never understand hunting. I cannot sit here and pretend to agree with the reasoning I have […]