Old Dalby pie maker under fire over squirrel meat fillings
A firm that shoots grey squirrels to use in its pies has come under fire from animal rights campaigners.
Leicestershire-based pie maker Phil Walmsley won a gold award for his squirrel pie at the British Pie Awards held in Melton Mowbray.
Welfare group Animal Aid said it was inhumane to shoot grey squirrels and wrong to scapegoat them.
But Mr Walmsley said sustainable culling of grey squirrels gave "our native breed a chance to repopulate".
Kate Fowler, head of campaigns at Animal Aid, said: "Grey squirrels don't go round bashing red squirrels on the head and it's a bit rich to blame grey squirrels for the demise of the reds."
She said: "There are lots of reasons why red squirrels are in decline in parts of the country, largely to do with things like forestry plantations and pesticides.
"Grey squirrels are hardier and more able to adapt, so if you cut down a forest, the greys can live in what we leave behind. The reds can't."
She said shooting squirrels was a "pretty inhumane" way to control numbers as it was hard to get a clean shot at them.
Mr Walmsley, from Old Dalby, said: "At the end of the day they are not a native breed and have nearly eliminated our red squirrels.
"I'm a strong believer that if they are sustainably culled it gives our native breed a chance to repopulate."
He added: "We live in the countryside and a large proportion of squirrels I get myself - I go out with a rifle and shoot them. There is a demand and I think it's fair enough."
Mr Walmsley, whose family-run firm also makes crocodile and zebra pies, said people liked to try something a "bit different".