Should we start eating badgers?

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Clarissa Dickson Wright has set the fur flying by suggesting culled badgers should be eaten. The former Two Fat Ladies star used to snack on the now protected species, but is she right?

NICK WESTON

Recommends pan-fried badger fillet for dinner

The UK, along with the rest of the world, has a rich history of consuming badger: hams, stews, burgers, you name it Meles meles has appeared on the dinner table for

centuries.

My first taste of badger came more out of necessity than anything, although I can’t deny curiosity was certainly involved. Living as a tree dwelling hunter-gatherer for six months when the only meat available was wild, roadkill was an extension of my meat larder and a freshly killed badger was not to be ignored. Jokes of TB and “just make sure its well cooked!” aside (there are no documented cases of humans catching TB from badgers from eating them or otherwise), badger meat is excellent, incredibly lean with a flavour of beef crossed with venison: pan fry the

fillets, roast the haunches and mince the rest.

From a more ethical point of view, in light of the badger cull, should we eat badger? Like most people, I am very fond of live badgers, it’s a delight to see them bumbling about in the countryside and personally I would never kill one. But, if they are to be culled, then what is the issue with eating the meat rather than

letting it go to waste?

In the UK, we have a strict policy on what meat we deem ethical to eat: horse is out, veal is non-PC and squirrel is in. Food waste is enormous in the UK, 15 million tonnes of food is thrown away every year, 50 per cent from households alone.

People are always banging on about what is fresh, local and seasonal, let’s be thrifty, don’t waste food, is it free-range? The answer is yes. Badger is free-range and the meat should not be wasted.

• Nick Weston is the author of The Tree House Diaries: How to Live Wild in the Woods. He spent six months living in a tree house and living off the land and he now runs a foraging school, Hunter: Gather: Cook, in

Sussex.

LIBBY ANDERSON

Believes that it is morally wrong and just ‘plain icky’

Clarissa Dickson Wright is right to expect opposition to her bizarre suggestion about eating culled badgers. Our attitudes to animals as food are complex, personal and no doubt illogical at times. Certainly there is a kind of logic to the suggestion that if an animal is going to be killed anyway, someone who eats meat should be prepared to eat it.

But most people draw the line somewhere. No-one in this country would eat a dog, and many still turn away from veal, mindful of the hideous veal crates where young calves were once imprisoned.

There are four reasons for drawing the line at eating culled badgers.

First, the English cull is misguided and unscientific. The Westminster Government has ignored the advice of scientists, including Lord Krebs who oversaw the ten-year culling trials and a report which stated: “licensing farmers (or their appointees) to cull badgers would not only fail to achieve a beneficial effect, but would entail a substantial risk of increasing the incidence of cattle TB and spreading the disease in space.”

Second, ethical considerations and the law demand a clean death for food animals, and of that there can be no guarantee when shooting at night at an indistinct, moving grey target.

In 2006 the Game Conservancy Trust said that “an ignorant shooter could make a number of fundamental mistakes, with serious adverse consequences for the badger”.

Third, the badger is protected by law because it has historically been persecuted, and it should be regarded differently from “normal” prey

species. And fourth, it’s just plain icky to want to eat a carnivore, whose diet includes insects and earthworms and which is alleged to be carrying TB.

Mercifully, Scotland is considered to be free of Bovine TB so there is no pretext for harming badgers north of the Border.

• Libby Anderson is policy director/

acting CEO of OneKind.

• It has been said that Clarissa Dickson Wright is game for anything.

And when it comes to eating unusual animals the flamboyant food writer and TV presenter – who used to run The Cooks Bookshop on West Bow, off the Grassmarket – is certainly that.

Her latest appeal for culled badgers to be eaten has sparked controversy. Badgers are currently being culled in Gloucestershire in a controversial effort to prevent the spread of tuberculosis to cattle. But she cannot be accused of not knowing what she is talking about after eating all manner of unusual meats. Here is her verdict on some of them:

Swan

“Very fishy, rather stringy and reminiscent of moorhen which I also dislike”.

Seal

“Disgusting, but falls within the medieval taste for oily, fishy flavours”

Rook

“Just eat the breast, it is not unpalatable”.

Badger

“Rather like young wild boar and would have gone well in the stew pot with roots dug from the hedgerow”.