‘I hate hunting,’ my friend said while tucking into a vegetarian burger. I had just told her that I take Fred the dog beating (putting up the birds on a pheasant shoot). Here I was, telling her about how Fred enjoys the whole process of running around the woods, peeing up a lot of trees and occasionally tripping over a pheasant and scaring it into flight (for which he gets praised). She cut me halfway through my monologue.
‘I can’t stand the idea of hunting,’ she said.
‘Ok…,’ I hesitated. This was not the first time I had to defend the pheasant shoot. I was prepared. ‘You are not a vegetarian, I know that even when you are trying to trick me with your halloumi burger here.’
She sighed and said something about not chasing animals around the woods with a pack of hounds.
I told her how the local farmer buys the chicks and sets down thousands of pheasants for the shoot. How the shot birds are taken home by the beaters and guns and how they actually end up as a meal. How thanks to this shoot other birds have been reintroduced into the area, that were considered rare and endangered a few years ago. How one of the ‘guns’ is a top representative of a bird protection charity. How tending the woods to accommodate the pheasants and growing the cover crops benefits other wildlife.
Unfortunately all she saw in her mind’s eye was a cute little foxie woxie sitting at the bottom of the garden, looking hungry (although it had probably just devoured somebody’s chickens). We have all seen an image like that. It’s usually next to an image of a bunch of posh people with a pack of dogs, looking extremely smug on their horses. I get it. And I do not endorse it.
However, if we are prepared to eat meat (and yes, fish and chicken are meat too), then we have to realised that no animal that we eat is going to death willingly. They might not be running around the hills with bow and arrows, but people who supply our local shop with steaks are not sweetalking their cattle into dying for the happiness of our stomachs. They have to catch them. Call it hunting. Call it farming.
I was relentless in my argument. I was in full flow at this point and had to stop because my friend was giving me that foxie woxie look – ‘please, I am hungry and want to enjoy my halloumi’.
I took pity on her and called off the hounds.