Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Death squad

Listening to: To The End (Blur)
Drinking: very strong coffee

It had to happen eventually, the dogs finally got a rabbit. It wasn't pleasant.

I'd love to say Flopsy Cottontail was quickly and almost painlessly dispatched and made us an excellent stew. . . but I can't. It wasn't even on our land.

We'd let the dogs have a run on a beach near the airfield on the north end of the island and were crossing the field back to the car when Owen stumbled across a rabbit that had clearly been lying low, hoping not to be noticed.

I was about 40 yards behind with Spike on a lead. There was a commotion ahead, some woofing and quite a bit of squeaking. Owen (lovable, but so dim) didn't have an idea how to finish his prey off, while the rabbit seemed unable to escape. I hurried up, looking for a large stone or stick (not trusting my bare-hands killing ability).

There wasn't anything remotely big enough so the only rabbit-killing thing I had was a Jack Russell terrier. From the blood on Owen's paws, the rabbit was obviously badly hurt and Spike - hundreds of years of breeding kicking in - put it out of its misery immediately. Once dead, neither dog paid it much attention.

The whole business took about 40 seconds - about 39 longer than I'd prefer - and I felt a bit of a failure. It was all so ham-fisted and I left the carcass for the gulls. Somehow I didn't feel we had the right to take it.

On a lighter note. . .

News from the hen house is good. Following the discovery of the egg on Monday evening, we've now got three more. Spanish omelettes for tea tonight.

The hens have spent more time outside lately (I even shut them out during the day when the weather is good) and are eating more and looking very healthy.

After watching the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall chicken campaign thingy on Channel 4 last night, Sally has thrown some hay and a couple of balls into their run for them to play with - their basic skills are good, but their tactical sense leaves a lot to be desired.

Seriously though. . .

Speaking of HFW, I notice a few bloggers have a link to his Chicken Out campaign. I'm a little suspicious of anything put up by TV or celeb-backed, but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for HFW.

His argument is a no-brainer really. What right do we have to eat food so cheap that animals have to be abused to produce it?


Battery cages are soon to be consigned to history (I suppose 2012 is soonish), so why shouldn't factory-farmed chicken be sent the same way?

I won't waste a lot of time preaching to you about the evils of the supermarkets' stranglehold on the UK food market or my mixed feelings about farmers being paid so little by the corporate bloodsuckers that they are forced out of business. When you dance with the devil. . .

I've got two pigs called Eric and Ernie who like throwing straw at me and trying to knock me over for a laugh. I have four hens who have a spacious home and a run with toys. I was upset at the unnecessary suffering of a rabbit. I think we all know where I stand.

It's easy for me to say, sat here with eight acres to grow enough food to feed us, but maybe, rather than just sign up for campaigns that have been on the telly, we could all just tell the supermarkets where to stick their over-processed, over-packaged crap - even if it's only every now and then. Hit the bastards in the only place they care about - the wallet.

By all means sign up for HFW's campaign (The Virgin Porker has a link or you can get there via He seems like a nice guy and it's as good a first step as any, but nothing will change unless we start worrying the accountants.

I preached after all, didn't I? Sorry.


ziggi said...

I watched a prog last year by HFW re the great chicken debate and he handled it in a very unbiased way - so convincing was he that I've never bought anything but free range chicken since.

sits back, polishes halo

The Birdwatcher said...

HFW has a lot to answer for. He made the munch cry last night and now he says he will only eat free range chicken. Of course we only get free range chicken so that's not a problem. (How serious is it to lie to your thirteen year old?)

fiwa said...

No clue what the chicken shit is about (oh, that was bad even for me), but free range chicken all the way!

I'm always afraid my dog is going to get hold of something cute and furry like that, and go to town. She has the patented "shake it till it breaks" move down pat. Which is great for rats, but not so good for buns and squirrels.

Malc said...


The halo suits you. Ever thought of raising your own poultry. Sally wants some birds for meat now.


Kids are always vulnerable to that kind of stuff. I don't get upset about factory farming as such, I just know it's wrong and unnecessary. And if Munch was upset last night, what about tonight's episode? Even I was a bit wobbly for a minute.


Yes, the joke was terrible, but full marks for effort.

I should have explained for the non-Brits out there.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall was a chef who made a name for himself with some off-the-wall food shows on TV. About ten years ago he gave up the cheffing and moved to a smallholding. Much like ourselves, only with the backing of TV money. He's a bit of a hero for many middle-class types who have quit or who dream of quitting the rat race. He's written a couple of decent books.

Just remember, the cute and furry creatures have only themselves to blame. That's what I try to tell myself.

Do rats race?

Ginni Dee said...

I agree with the free-range chicken thing.

When we had chickens, we had to be wary of raccoons, foxes, coyotes...they were fond of free-range chickens, too. We had the run-out pen attached to our coop all covered with chicken wire so they could remain outdoors. I even had a wooden frame (about 6' long X 6' wide X 3' high...with a little door in it) that was covered with chicken wire that we could put chickens is so they could graze on our pasture grass. We'd put just a few chickens in it at a time and give them turns for a couple hours or so...moving them around so they'd get fresh grass and clover. They were safe from the chicken-eating critters and could feel like free-range chickens. Safe and happy and the very best layers. I attributed their great egg output to their contented lives.

I loved my chickens!

Sad about the rabbit...sometimes the circle of life is cruel. You did the right thing.


Reg Pither said...

So, to've got two pigs you've named Eric and Ernie (one of which you stayed up all night with dabbing Dettol onto its scratched knee!), you've given your chickens toys to play with and you haven't got the heart to finish off a half-dead rabbit.
Are you SURE about this Good Life thing? I mean, what next? A Playstation for the mushrooms? A swimming pool for the goat?
I'm with you on battery chickens, however. I mean, mainslead hens are the future, or am I wrong?

ziggi said...

I did used to keep chickens (and ducks) but could never (ever) eat my own - I'm sorry to say they eventually died of old age long after they'd stopped laying and cost far more than they ever supplied!

I love the thought of your life but know I could never raise animals and then send them for slaughter - not that I don't eat meat, I do and love it, just not meat I've cared for. Pathetic I know!

elizabethm said...

Well if you did preach it was only to the converted. Think you are absolutely right that it is only through the power of the pound that the supermarkets will change any of their practices but also think that the power of TV is likely to be what harnesses it. Good for HFW, I say. It can't have been comfortable and the likes of him are more likely to make an impact (even if it is only a small one) than the likes of you or me.
Quite taken by the idea of the mainslead chicken though.

Anonymous said...

We always try to get free range at home because it tastes nicer, but I am a poor person and just eat what I can get. I'm a snob, however, so can't even look at over-processed stuff, let alone eat it. My own priggishness saves me from abusing chickens.

I watched a telly programme years ago about how supermarkets can sell meat so cheap, and in my opinion the way they treat the meat AFTER they've killed their battery-farmed chickens just adds insult to injury. They cut tiny fillets, injected them with beef and pork protein so that they retained moisture and then pumped them so full of water that they pretty much fall apart on your plate. It looked disgusting. Also, it's full of pig and cow, so 'kosher' and 'halal' processed chicken is just a lie. I mean, if you're gonna treat chickens like that at least give them some dignity in death.

Malc said...


What? No bears or wolves? You had it easy.
Actually, we have no predators here. . . well, except me. . . and Spike.


Sorry no time to reply, have to bath the horse.


Not pathetic at all. I'm worried sick about the day the pigs are slaughtered, but I knew what I was signing up for so I will go through with it.


Quite right. I just hope all those who clicked on the campaign button follow it up with some real action.
And that Reg is full of bright ideas.


Just before tea. . . thanks for that!
Another fine point, though. You can't help wondering just how 'they' manage to muck around with food to such an extent, yet still charge rock-bottom prices.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about the rabbit, Malc. And I'm glad your animals have it good (even entertainment sometimes, at your expense).

fiwa said...

Dang, you took the picture of your oven down! I was going to show my husband and tell him I want one, so I could see the look of dread and horror he'd get.

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd said...

I wouldn't worry too much about the bunny -- nature is cruel. My cat routinely kills shrews, voles, mice, and little birds, and I have seen next door's cat with a rabbit in its mouth. If it was in reasonable condition after the dogs were done with it, I would have taken it home and eaten it.

There's a pheasant shoot on the opposite side of the valley from us and the pheasants are everywhere here. Despite my best efforts not to, I have on two occasions hit one with my car, and it was very tasty... It's not like you deliberately set out to torture the bunny or anything... And I'm assuming that you do ultimately plan to eat the pigs?

Virgin Porker said...

I love you Malc!

Malc said...


Thanks. Actually, I've no worries about killing a rabbit - we're plagued with them here - it was just the clumsy, amateurish nature of it all that upset me for a short while.


I'll put another pic up just for you! I'll alert you when it's there.


I know, I know. I should have taken it home for the pot and I will next time.
I have come over as a bit of a soft townie in all this, but I've shot rabbits and birds before and have been around farms for much of my life, so I know the score and wouldn't be doing this if I didn't.


Right back at you!

Daphne said...

No, carry on preaching - you're right. I saw round a pig factory-farm in France - it was horrendous. But not to the owners, whose attitude was "See how well our pigs are looked after." And yes, it was all kept clean, and the pigs were well fed - - but it was still Pig Hell.

dinahmow said...

Free range for me! And I can now buy eggs from the Big Boys which are certified "organic."
Funny word, that. These days, with all the crud circulating in the atmosphere there's probably nothing "organic." But the label means they don't use feed laced with recycled bits of animal and anitbiotics.
leaving aside the emotive issues, taste should tell us to buy fresh 'n' free!
PS If Sal wants meat birds, go for dual-purpose, like Dorkings.

Malc said...


After chickens, pigs are the most abused animals in farming. I'll never forget seeing a sow being kept lying down in a crate, unable to move, so the piglets could suckle non-stop.


The difference in taste is massive. Thanks for the tip. We're just trying to work out the best place for chickens.

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd said...

On the dual-purpose utility hen front, I would also like to reccommend the Light Sussex...

homo escapeons said...

Very Kiplingesque, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw.

Since all Dogs are the direct descendants of Wolves those 'switches' can't always be turned off. Had the Rabbit bolted it would have been no contest but that damn Natural Selection really works.

The West is slowly getting the message about the benefits of raising livestock in a more 'humane' setting. Here in Manitoba we have more hogs than people and they are all cramped in those Orwellian barns.

There seems to be far too many Fires of undisclosed origins on a disturbingly frequent basis since the price has been dropping. We all know that the Processors and Supermarkets are responsible for the costs but not everyone should be allowed to raise animals.

Stories of barn Fires, puppy mills and emaciated cattle always outrage us city slickers. The corporations have ruined our idealistic version of the happy barnyard and we are responsible for letting them get away with it. Shame on us.