Why Not All Game Is Fair Game

THE DILEMMA How much more sustainable is it to eat game instead  of normal meat?

Game as a foodie concept is flourishing – supermarkets now sell it. In recent years, venison, pheasant and grouse sales have risen from next to nothing to a multi-million pound market, and much of this rides on the sustainable ticket. Harvested from natural landscapes, what could seem more low impact than these wild meats?

Well, the peregrine falcon has been the canary in the coal mine, if you’ll excuse the avian mixed metaphor. In the 1960s this super raptor began laying eggs with worryingly thin shells, which alerted us to the long-term effects of organochlorine pesticides (such as DDT) and put peregrine falcons on the endangered-species list. Now, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Conservation, peregrines are telling us something new: intensively managed moorland grouse shoots might look impressively bucolic, but they aren’t very sustainable, at least not for the peregrine population.

By rights, UK upland grouse moors should be full of nesting peregrines, but there are hardly any. In the study, satellite imagery of strip burning (in which heather is burned to create better breeding conditions for red grouse) is plotted against three decades of peregrine breeding records. Not good. Shoots that use these techniques to encourage red grouse to flourish and to be shot for sport (and food) are accused by the RSPB of persecuting the peregrine falcons.

But we need to make a distinction between game that is genuinely harvested from the wild and farmed wild game (an oxymoron too far). The shooting industry is primarily set up for those who kill animals for sport. But they increasingly also eat them, subscribing to the quasi-ethical code: “If I can kill it, I’ll eat it.” Many shoots are intensively managed, meaning that the birds they produce are expensive, both fiscally and in terms of energy.

There is a clear difference between game produced for sport on upland grouse moors and game that is genuinely harvested from the wild, where the impact is a fraction of that of producing meat in a farmed environment. Anybody who sells meat should  be able to tell you where it’s from.  Not all game is fair game.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/nov/20/shooting-game-lucy-siegle

If you have an ethical dilemma, send an email to Lucy at lucy.siegle@observer.co.uk or visit guardian.co.uk/profile/lucysiegle to read all her articles in one place

Photo: Red Grouse ( Wikipedia)

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~ by narhvalur on November 20, 2011.

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