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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7

GAME ON 9/11/21

HUNTING SEASON WILL CONTINUE TO DEFEND PRACTICE WITH BOTH BARRELS It’s that time of year when the hundreds of gun clubs and rural dwellers are taking to the wild for what is one of the oldest pastimes and source for food in the past and indeed present. Times are a changing however and now conservation groups have their sights firmly set on challenging the practice of killing as entertainment, as they would see it. The hunters view themselves as custodians of the countryside by only shooting what is deemed excess and working with farmers and landowners to make sure the wildlife thrives and is protected. Wilding or letting the land be itself with neither hunting not maintenance of it is a growing trend like Dunsany castle is doing to the ire of local hunters. There is also the extensive revenue that the rural economy spend generates to government. As a chef I really enjoyed the game season as the quality of the natural game meat that we get to cook and eat is in Ireland is simply world class. I once worked in a Wicklow hotel and to see the hunter’s rock up at the back door with amazing local meat to be turned into mouth-watering dishes is what we are in cooking for in the first place. Foreign royalty would fly in to stay for a weekend of duck shooting up in the mountains. The modern debate of whether the practice should be banned at all is a whole other ethical matter. Listening carefully to both ends of the argument it is really difficult to take a side and the fence is not a comfortable place to sit these days on any matter. As a son of a farmer and a lifetime in professional cookery my heart says it must continue but when you hear the growing voice of the environmentalist movement and urban public opinion prepared to be ruled by emotions then one would fear that the politicians will eventually give in to the pressure and force the countryside to conform. Animal welfare is getting more and more support from the wider world, the climate crisis is a catch all vehicle and it’s hard to see hunting as it stands being allowed to continue in years to come. The fur farms are just about to be shut down in Ireland for instance. We saw the fox hunting wars a few years ago but if we look at it from a food chain perspective, man has always killed to survive and animals must do it to survive themselves but they do not have supermarkets. I am not sure if there is a compromise to be made and what form it would take but rural dwellers have centuries of tradition and really do care for the wildlife, if change has to come then it has to be some sort of mutual agreement. There is plenty of farmed game now like rabbits and deer but the ethical issue remains there too and it makes the public angry. The politicians listen to anger. I will certainly be eating a bit of the locally produced organic venison from Killua Castle this season and I have seen their process from start to finish which is a model of welfare. The next step is to start producing game meat in the lab like they are doing with beef and chicken if it something that people want to continue to eat long term. Man has an inbred desire though to hunt like all animals do and it will be difficult to turn the tide on millennia of genetics, it could well be a case of all duck or no dinner.

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