The shepherdess and the shooting

I eat lamb. I am a shepherdess who rears and cares for her own flock, and then gets some of them shot and eats them. I might well ask myself, and I did, just why I felt so upset by the pictured of Larysa with a magnificent tup Blackface she had shot dead. To be fair, I got there by a picture of her and a bloke posing with two magnificent and rare wild goats.

Our wild (strictly feral) goats are actually really  rare. There are somewhere between 1500 and 3000 of them left. That is not a lot to go making mistakes with. We don’t know all that much about their genetic make-up and if they go we will not get them back. Larysa runs a business based on shooting – the gear and the tours. She promotes game shooting. If she popularises shooting  wild goats, it will not take long for the wild goats to go for ever.

So a bit of indignation was not misplaced. But why did the picture of the dead tup sicken me so? I assume she had permission to shoot him. Blackie tups are valuable animals, last week one went for £75,000 (though most farmers can only dream of getting that price) and unlike the goats every one has an owner. Indeed, both of his ears will have had tags identifying him as an individual. So, assuming Larysa was not ignorant enough to mistake him for a wild animal, either he needed to be culled, or she paid handsomely to shoot and pose with a tame animal.

And that is what sticks in my gullet. I can almost kind-of see deer stalking. Miles through wet heather, often on your belly, seeking a wild animal which occurs in such large numbers that if some are not culled they end up dying of starvation, and which is very edible, and gives us meat that had an excellent life before it died. I would cheerfully pay NOT to do it, but I don’t have a huge moral objection.

But elderly billy goat. No, you will not be eating that. And elderly tame tup. I have sat and fed poorly sheep by hand, my hand cupped under their chin, in just the pose that Larysa takes with this poor dead tup. And I was not smiling in triumph as if I was clever. Like most of us who eat meat, I have deeply ambiguous attitudes to it. But at least there is a point and a purpose to it. As there is to culling deer. And there is a skill to raising a healthy flock, and it does not remain healthy without some culling or other control.

But triumph in shooting a harmless and rare animal? Joy in killing a farm animal? Sorry, but no apologies. This is not appropriate and it shows no understanding of the animal or of conservation. And just in case anybody fails to get how the American shooting dream really works, and how little it will help Scotland – maybe take a listen to Tom Lehrer on the subject.

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