Cornwall squirrel cull sparks food interest

Grey squirrel
Image caption Grey squirrel provides a low-cost, low-fat source of meat

Plans for a grey squirrel cull in west Cornwall have sparked a new interest in killing them for their meat.

Food experts in Cornwall say grey squirrel is fast becoming a mainstream part of the butchers' game-food sector.

Thousands of grey squirrels could be culled on the Lizard and in west Penwith to help red squirrels return.

The RSPCA said that "eradicating long-established entire populations of greys would be very difficult and cause suffering".

Lucy Jones, of The Cornish Food Box Company, said: "There are a lot of grey squirrels around and there is a demand for them. They are sold in a number of other places as well and it's sustainable, ethical, low-cost, low-fat food source.

"To us it seems a shame if you are going to be shooting something, it's not made use of as food."

Dale MacIntosh, a professional chef in Truro, said if squirrels were going to be culled, they would "definitely cook some and put it on the specials board".

"Made to suffer"

The culling programme, which has the backing of Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall, could take a total of two years.

A spokeperson for the RSPCA said there was "far more to helping red squirrels than trying to kill every grey squirrel".

"We are concerned about the welfare of both red and grey squirrels, and believe that control must not be interpreted solely as lethal control."

The RSPCA has questioned whether stemming the movement of grey squirrels is sustainable indefinitely, and believes that "science-based alternative measures to culling to reduce the impact of grey squirrels on reds should be actively investigated".

"We are concerned about whether the squirrels have been made to suffer and we hope they have been killed humanely," said a spokesperson.

Grey squirrels carry a virus that kills red squirrels, which were last seen in Cornwall in 1984.

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