Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes: A humble bunny hit the headlines this week when bestselling author Jeanette Winterson posted a photo on social media (pictured left) of a dead rabbit with the caption “Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit.” The tweet saw plenty of support for Ms Winterson’s actions, and the Countryside Alliance applauds her, but the tweet also generated plenty of hysteria. The fact that many of those getting agitated with Ms Winterson are meat-eaters shows how much work we have to do. Ms Winterson has done a sterling job in explaining her actions, pointing to the low food miles, no packaging waste and the benefits of taking a beast for the pot. Opening up the debate about food provenance and removing squeamishness about meat-eating is to be commended, and it’s certainly a part of our own charitable work in outdoor education.
Talking about the process from field to fork, talking about welfare and standards and the difference between pests and farmed animals has got to be the way forward – previous generations were never so squeamish because they were never so far removed from what they ate.
The national Open Farm Sunday took place earlier this month, to great acclaim. Hundreds of farms opened their gates for farm walks, special events, tractor tours and, most importantly, talks about the hard work that goes on on British farms. This year’s Open Farm Sunday was launched with some polling that pointed to the woeful knowledge-base many people still have. Only four in ten understand that buying seasonally supports our farmers while one in five don’t realise that we grow strawberries here. Meanwhile, another story to hit the headlines this week reported that the weather has seen a bumper crop of large Jersey Royals that are being out-sold in supermarkets by imported potatoes because consumers don’t want large Jersey Royals, leaving our potato farmers with a glut. Among the lessons that can be learned is that British potatoes can indeed be sliced.
These stories reach us just as the BBC Trust gets set to publish its report into rural programming. It is thought that the report will emphasise what we have long criticised – a strong metropolitan bias in the Corporation’s output. Enough has to be enough.
The BBC, social media, our own work and that of initiatives including Open Farm Sunday are all important platforms for informing the wider public about our countryside and the benefits of supporting those who live and work there.
Our work continues, and meanwhile we can offer you plenty of recipes for rabbit at www.gametoeat.co.uk