Saturday, 9 March 2013

Sustainable squirrel?

No reason in principle why Bristol should not develop a local, sustainable market in grey squirrel meat (unless you don’t eat meat on principle of course). They are a renewable resource if properly and sensitively managed so that the use rate is less than the replenishment rate - and there are restaurants who would serve them (see here).  The practicalities would have to be got right in that: we'd need to know that the quality of the meat was good; 'harvesting' them should be humane and licensed; and should be done on the basis of the best information on numbers and reproduction rate of squirrels (consuming them at too fast a rate means running out of the local supply).

There would need to be a public demand for the meat and it would need to be offered at an affordable price (it’s currently pretty pricey if you buy it online eg here ). It’s a situation perhaps comparable in some ways to deer, with recent reports suggesting there are far too many. They have no natural predators apart from people and so they cause significant damage to forests in particular and thus to other wildlife - and thus their numbers need be more strictly controlled and sustainable local markets in venison established/developed. Squirrel is low in fat, low in food miles, free range, eats a natural diet...and I'm told tastes like something between duck and lamb.

2 comments:

  1. A friend of mine in Wales eats a fair amount of squirrel - he gets very annoyed because they nibble at his saplings and do quite a bit of damage. But I don't think you could harvest enough for commercial sale from wild animals, and I'd be very much against seeing an industry built up on caged squirrels. Possibly some hunters in rural areas could supply trendy restaurants in urban areas, much as they do now with wild mushrooms and other foraged foods?

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  2. I certainly agree with your caged animals point. You may well be right about not being able to harvest enough for commercial sale from wild animals, though they are already on sale online, at a price, and if you have data/research to back your point I'd be interested in it. I'm not aware that anyone has looked at numbers of squirrels in Bristol in terms of whether there is any realistic prospect of doing in practice what I'm suggesting in principle. Squirrels are pest controlled by several companies in Bristol - I wonder what they do with the animals they control?

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Genuine, constructive, relevant comments are most welcome.