Friday, 16 August 2013

Pheasants

The pheasant is hardly a wild bird around here where thousands are bred every year to satisfy the corporate shooters.   Driving down our lane over the past couple of weeks, when all the young poults have been let out of their housing and introduced to the big, wide world, is like driving through some bizarre obstacle course from 'Alice in Wonderland.'

The birds crowd on to the lane, pecking madly at the newly-found source of grit.   Along comes a car.  'Could this be the gamekeeper with our daily ration of corn?' they think - and rush towards it.

The rash, hardened drivers just keep going, scattering them and expecting them to get out of the way - they don't all make it, but is being killed by a car any worse than being shot with a gun?

Other drivers blow the horn, stop, get out, shoo the birds on to the side of the road, get back in the car to find they are all in the road again.  Or, worse still, they appear to be going purposefully to the left and then - at the last minute - change their minds and run back.

Last year we had a 'pet' pheasant on the farm.   We called him Fez and after a few days eating with the hens he would come when we called his name.   Then one night he ventured into the hen house with the hens and got shut in.   Next morning he was frantic to escape and we never saw him again.

Once the farmer ran over a pheasant's nest while hay-making.   He came into the kitchen with six still warm eggs in his cap (he had killed the sitting pheasant hen) and we put them under a broody bantam hen.   Within a week we had six long-legged, scrawny chicks.    They thrived, lovingly cared for by the bantam, who seemed bemused when they preferred to hide under the brash in the run rather than under her skirts.

When they grew bigger we made a pen for them in the field and they grew and thrived, until one night a stoat got into the pen and killed one of them.   At this point we thought it wiser to let them go and take their chance in the wild.   We were surprised to find them a few months later, huddled into the corner of the greenhouse one cold night.

I don't eat pheasant.   Seeing them around all the time and sometimes forming some kind of relationship with one (we had a nest in the front garden this year and she hatched twelve chicks) and - for a second - holding their bright eye in your gaze - means that they are well and truly crossed off my menu.

Already the Glorious Twelfth has passed and grouse-shooting is in full swing around here.   In another couple of months, when these young poults have grown plump and tasty, pheasant shooting will begin.   I just hope that by then most of them learn to run rather than fly.   If only they would stick to the ground the shooters can't shoot them - they are not allowed to shoot down and must wait for the bird to take to the air.

To me eating a pheasant would be like eating a friend.   And who amongst us would like to do that?

11 comments:

Heather said...

I can understand how you feel about not eating pheasant. I couldn't eat a friend and if I had to kill any creature for my own consumption I'd become a vegetarian.

Tom Stephenson said...

To me, eating any animal is the equivalent of eating a potential friend, but - I daresay - most of my past friends have had brains slightly larger than a pea, and do not prefer to run under the wheels of a car if they can take to the air.

I totally disagree with Heather. I would prefer to kill a creature for my own consumption, but I refuse to kill any animal for sport.

If Heather could not kill an animal for her own consumption, then she should bloody well become a vegetarian and stop leaving the responsibility for her meat consumption to slaughtermen, as I did before.

If you are going to eat meat, then grow up and take responsibility for the animal's death, or become a vegan. Other than that, just shut up.

Em Parkinson said...

I'm afraid I do eat it Pat. I'm very fond of it actually, but could NEVER get pleasure from killing it. It's just food as far as I'm concerned. I've never known a bird well but perhaps my opinion would change if I did.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

Well, that certainly puts your case strongly! I do not want to eat a friend....

John Gray said...

We have a mother and a late chick on the field....
The local shoot lost 80 in one night

From A Worcestershire Hill said...

We have a pet pheasant called Boris that we are feeding. However, I am afraid I do eat pheasant, but I expect that Boris will not end up in my pot. Your post reminded me of my aunt who was married to the head gamekeeper of a shoot a few miles from you. Pheasant shooting was in progress and she had not yet received a bird. One day whilst the guns were shooting near her house she saw a dead pheasant land in her garden and she seized the opportunity to nip out and pick it up. She said later that she guessed the gun dog was scolded for not picking the bird up.

Terra said...

Pheasants have such pretty feathers. We feed and pamper our wild birds in our yard, but I understand how hunting and then eating what you shoot could be satisfying. It's funny what we will and won't eat, I will eat lamb but not rabbit, etc.

Hildred said...

We don't have any domestic pheasants in the Similkameen (that I know of) so what we see are the occasional wild bird and that is such a pleasure. I suppose some might shoot and eat the bird, but pheasant (under glass or not) doesn't seem to be so stylish since times were hard and farmers went hunting to put meat on the table.

angryparsnip said...

I have almost cut out all meat. I eat vegetarian as much as I can but I love fish so I add that to my diet.

cheers, parsnip

The Weaver of Grass said...

I can't agree with you Tom - if I had to kill the bullock or the pig I was going to eat part of then I couldn't do it. Horses for courses I say - let the slaughterman do the work, the butcher cut it up and then I will eat it.
An Indian friend used to say to me she didnt know how we could eat such things as leg of lamb, where we knew which part we were eating. In India they bought meat cut into chunks so they did not know which part it was.

MorningAJ said...

It's odd. I have no problem with eating pheasant (though I've never really got to know one) but I couldn't eat hare. They are such mystical animals that I think it would be wrong.