Shooting & Fishing: On the whole there is more scaring than killing

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A JOINTED and oven-ready rabbit will cost you the same these days, if not more, than a pheasant, and that’s regardless of whether pheasants are in or out of season.

I don’t know if this means rabbits have become more exotic and pheasants less so in the public mind or if, as I suspect, the various campaigns to make us eat the byproducts of pest control and land management are finally coming to fruition. I do, of course, come from a generation that goes about exclaiming loudly and indignantly, “A fiver for a rabbit? I remember etc” Well, dimly, I can just remember rabbits hanging outside the local butcher’s shop long before health and hygiene had been invented.

Of course, now the nation has discovered the benefits and novelty of dishing up rabbit at dinner parties, the rabbit population, hammered by myxomatosis and determined eradication, is nowhere near what it was. Some game dealers have had to turn to importing it to satisfy demand. It’s the usual Sod’s Law; when you don’t want them there are too many, and when you do want them, they’ve all disappeared.

George Gow, the Kingussie butcher who has something of a reputation for his highland game, has always sold a steady trickle of rabbits to secret bunny eaters, but demand took off last month when our old friends Scottish Natural Heritage managed to persuade the Kingussie Food on Film Festival (films about food and lots of foodie shenanigans) that rabbit was the way to go. I suspect the word “sustainable” came into it as well. They even had Aggie Mackenzie, the TV cleaning lady from Aviemore, come and cook the rabbit. George was primed to have in a stock of rabbit for the event and everyone had a lovely time. Whether the natives of Kingussie are now all demanding rabbit with their chips is another matter.

But eating the fruits of pest control has to be the answer to legitimising shooting in the eyes of people like the woman who wrote to me the other day to say she was disgusted that I enjoyed shooting pigeons as a sport.

Would she prefer they were poisoned?

My neighbour is delighted to have as many pigeons scared off his rape and barley as I can fire shots.

On the whole there is more scaring than killing.

And what is important is that like the Kingussie rabbit eaters we do eat the pigeons.

Marinade the breasts in soy sauce and finely chopped green chilli for 20 minutes and flash fry two minutes either side.

Land management, pest control and dinner delivered in a oner.