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Christopher isn’t entirely accurate about this (see Jan 7th post).   My view has been formed by the simple fact that now we live in the country I have greater understanding and acknowledgement of the animals which end up on my plate. 

I firmly believe that the greatest respect I can give an animal destined for the table is as good, organic and free range a life as possible and as swift and as humane a death as is possible.  This is a duty – and one which I will not permit us to shirk.  While Christopher would dearly love to avoid the trip to the abattoir when our lambs / pigs have reached the right age, my one condition is this – give the animal the respect it deserves by personally ensuring that its death is quick and stress free – or become vegetarian. The argument is straightforward.  Once upon a time in London I would have put prepacked meat in my shopping trolley with little thought. Now the ethics of meat production couldn’t be more important to me.  So while it’s true to say that I seek greater skill in shooting, butchery and cookery, it isn’t with a blood lusty heart, rather a pragmatic, honest and self-sufficient one. 

It’s shooting season at the moment, and we can regularly hear shots cracking as we’re out walking the dogs and feeding the animals.  I have no problem with local people shooting their own game on a small scale to fill their freezers – because I know the food has a genuine value.  By contrast I do take issue with the big corporate shoots which happen all too frequently  – carloads of city boys keen to show off with a gun, measuring success by an excessive head count of dead birds and then not even wanting to take any home to eat because they ‘don’t like the taste’.  Don’t get me started on them…………….

My task this evening consisted of plucking a brace of pheasant – given to us by some good friends in the village.  At this juncture I probably could recite the full ditty ‘I am a pheasant plucker’ but I think you can probably live without hearing it.  It has about 40 verses and is only really amusing when you’re in the pub and have had a couple too many G&Ts.  To pluck or not to pluck – that is the question.  Plucking is all well and good but it takes a long time and actually you don’t always want a complete pheasant to roast – So this evening I elected to skin the pheasant – which is a much quicker alternative and leaves you with two perfect breasts and two lovely legs from each bird (snigger ye not) – more than enough for a meal and much less fuss to prepare.  I began my task just as Silent Witness started on the tv, so I wielded my boning knife while Dr Niki Alexander was performing an autopsy on some poor bugger in tonight’s episode.  I permitted myself a small fantasy that I was being equally impressive with my knife skills but sadly I was not being observed, admiringly, by sexy pathologist Dr Harry, I was instead attended by Mabel (border terrier) who spent the full half hour it took standing on her back legs leaning against me, licking her lips in hopeful anticipation.

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