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We are well into Meat Free Week

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27 March, 2015 - 15:14 -- World Land Trust
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Tom Eagle food blogger and chef
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Tom Eagle is sous chef at Darsham Nurseries Café, a blogger and award-nominated pickle enthusiast. A committed omnivore, he believes that meat-eating is a privilege: we should look after our livestock and their environment, and eat the whole of the animal - or none of it!

This is the fourth in a series of recipe blogs written by Tom for World Land Trust (WLT) during Meat Free Week (23-29 March 2015).

So. We are well into Meat Free Week, and a lot of vegetables under the bridge. What about next week, though? Maybe you’re vegetarian anyway, or are planning on sticking with it for a while longer – good for you! You only have to worry about food miles, farming practices, sustainability... eating well involves so much more than simple, binary choices, and when you add animal lives to that, it becomes even more complex.

In the midst of this, it can seem like nothing’s really OK to eat any more (except perhaps Soylent, but that’s a whole other story), with so much of our diet consisting of the lesser of two evils. It’s nice, sometimes, to find something almost unequivocally good to eat – and wild meat, I think, falls into this category. Rabbits and pigeon, while often farmed on the Continent, are usually wild here – in fact, they’re generally considered as pests. They’re cheap too, especially rabbits.

People often seem to be scared of cooking game, but with a little care and attention it’s easy enough. Here, an overnight bath in brine ensures the meat stays juicy, helped along with a little bacon.


For 4

  • 1 wild rabbit, jointed (2 squirrels would do just as well)
  • 150g fine sea salt
  • 75g granulated sugar

Mix the salt and sugar with a litre of water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring until everything’s dissolved. Leave to cool completely, then pour over your rabbit (in a suitable container). Weigh the meat down with a plate to make sure it’s submerged, and pop in the fridge overnight.

  • 250g streaky bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 stick of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • a glass of white wine or cider
  • 500g new potatoes, quartered
  • black pepper

Drain the rabbit, and rinse under cold running water for about 10 minutes, to get rid of the salt, then place in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes to drive off the scum, then drain and rinse again.

Clean the saucepan, placing the rabbit to one side, and add the bacon. Cook over a low heat to release some fat, then add the onion, celery and carrot, stirring to coat. (As rabbit is a very lean meat, the pig fat really helps it to cook nicely). Sweat until soft, then add the puree and booze, letting it bubble away to a syrup, and tuck your rabbit bits into their vegetable bed. Pour in enough water to cover the meat, and bring to a very gentle simmer. Half-cover with a lid, and let it putter away for about two hours (adding the potatoes after one and a half), until really tender. Season with black pepper, and eat just as it is, with maybe some greens on the side.

More information

Meat Free Week encourages people to consider all aspects of meat production and the health, welfare and environmental implications of meat consumption.

For the next seven days, Darsham Nurseries Café is offering a different meat free dish of the day to support the UK’s first Meat Free Week. A percentage of the cost of the Meat Free Week dish of the day will be donated to WLT.

The café is on the A12, next to Darsham railway station, Suffolk IP17 3PW. The café is open for breakfast from 8.30am. Lunch: 12-3pm. Drinks and cakes: 3-4.30pm. Sunday Brunch: 12-3.30pm. Reservations (01728) 667022. Website:

WLT staff have their own Meat Free Week fundraising team, and have already raised more than £400. You can support Meat Free Week by sponsoring the WLT staff team.

Sponsor WLT staff team for Meat Free Week


Submitted by Chris Redston on

I'm appalled that the WLT is promoting the killing and cooking of wild animals as part of their meat free week. If people in other countries decided that it would be great to as everyone in the country to eat a macaw and anteater stew, instead of pigeon and rabbit, then the WLT would - rightly - be up in arms. Just because a creature is numerous doesn't mean it should just be killed and eaten (and personally I love rabbits and pigeons as creatures, always hilarious and entertaining to watch). Why not promote going meat free with, well, meat-free recipes? It's not really so hard to eat less meat ... and do the planet a favour at the same time.

Submitted by Chris Redston on

On a more philosophical note, it has always puzzled me how people can spend their lives protecting certain types of animals, but then be happy to eat other types. What is it that makes the difference between conservation target or dinner? Is it just rarity - for example, if rabbits were extremely rare, but tigers were a 'pest', would we be reading a recipe for tiger stew? As a vegetarian, I have never understood why the life of one animal is so important and the life of another can be deemed unimportant, and that's before you even get into the horrors of factory farming and the inbuilt suffering that lands up on your plate.
Indeed, it has always made me uncomfortable to go to WLT events, having discussed how much money and land we need to preserve animal A, but then go to dinner and watch all the conservationists hungrily tucking into animal B without giving it a thought. Is the life of one individual animal really more intrinsically important than another? Is a pig - known to be a very intelligent, social animal - more worthy of being killed for food than, say, a lemur or a pangolin? Of course, some are farmed, and some are wild - but is killing wild animals for food ever OK, unless you are starving or have no other food source? I'd welcome other people's comments as it's something that has bothered me for years and seems an ethical disconnect within the conservation movement. Surely, if you care about animals, you care about all of them, not just the rare ones ...

Submitted by John Burton on

I think the issue is even more complex. Both rabbits and pigeons are routinely culled as part of pest control operations, and for someone who is not vegetarian, it makes sense for them to be eaten.

To argue that all meat eating is wrong is a valid moral position – but not one that I happen to uphold. I believe that a varied diet with a little high quality meat (and meat includes fish and invertebrates as well as birds) is biologically sensible. However I am against factory farming, and one of the objects of Meat Free Week is to raise awareness of industrial food production.

The promoters of Meat Free Week are not advocating vegetarianism - but they are proposing the idea that we should eat a lot less meat for health reasons, and that the meat we eat should have low environmental impact. Hence Meat Free Week supports a human health charity, as well as animal welfare and environmental charities.

Meat Free Week is intended to encourage people to question all aspects of meat consumption. Clearly Tom’s blog and Chris’s comments show that people are engaging in the debate.

- John Burton, CEO World Land Trust

Submitted by Chris Redston on

Hi John, thanks for your reply, good to hear from you. However, what bothered me about the recipe above is that it seemed to encourage people to go hunting for pigeons and rabbits, as the chef seems to think that they have little worth as live animals.
Also, it seems bizarre to say the least that a recipe you post as part of Meat Free Week included meat of any sort. The point of Meat Free Week is to encourage people not to eat meat, rather than to eat different types of meat, ie wild animals rather than farmed animals. That's like having an Alcohol Free Week and encouraging people to drink wine rather than whisky ... !
I understand and agree with your position on factory farming, and feel that all meat eaters, particularly those involved in conservation, should be encouraged to eat meat this is produced organically, or at least is not factory farmed.
Would you therefore make the commitment that all the meat that is to be served at any future WLT events is organically produced?
Good chatting to you, best wishes, Chris

Submitted by John Burton on

Chris, I take your point that it might have been poor timing to put out a meat recipe during Meat Free Week, but the author was not recommending the recipe for use during MFW, but for after. (The blog opens: “So. We are well into Meat Free Week, and a lot of vegetables under the bridge. What about next week, though?... eating well involves so much more than simple, binary choices, and when you add animal lives to that, it becomes even more complex.”)

I absolutely agree that the issues become more and more complex, the deeper one delves. For instance, just because something is organic and free range, does not always make it 100 per cent acceptable. For example, the label ‘eggs from free range’ chickens doesn't always mean that the chickens are what you or I would call free range. So-called free range hens are often ‘barn hens’ that have access to the outdoors but do not go outside into the fresh air, let alone scratch dirt! On the other hand, my own hens scratch around in the dirt all day long, which is far more than most certified organic hens do.

This not the moment to go into the ins and outs of organic farming, but I note that there are several different sets of organic standards operating in the UK and in the case of poultry some standards are more stringent than others (see a relevant paper here.) In addition, organic non GMO soya is commonly used in organic livestock rations, and there is disquiet about soya production in China and South America even within the organic sector itself (another relevant article here.) 

Here at World Land Trust (WLT) we try to ensure that any meat served at an event we organise and cater is locally sourced, organic and produced to high standards of animal welfare wherever possible. Realistically it is not always possible, so we do our best, but without making categorical commitments.

In connection with my earlier comment, before submitting it I considered suggesting that road-kill rabbits and deer were a reasonable choice for meat eaters. It was then pointed out that there are potential H & S issues in eating roadkill, so I did not make that suggestion! But I would emphasise that Meat Free Week, was not intended to encourage vegetarianism, but to encourage thought and reduce consumption. Interestingly, a couple of vegetarians I know went vegan for the week, just to show they were taking the issue seriously as well.

Meat Free Week is over, but it did create considerable publicity and public awareness. It was particularly gratifying to see the number of high profile chefs that endorsed it, and some (such as Tom Eagle and Darsham Nursery Café) fundraised for WLT as well.

With 50,000 acres of forest disappearing every day in the Chaco of South America, reducing the demand for cheap meat is essential. The forests are cleared not just for grazing, but also to produce the vast quantities of maize, wheat and soya that are used to feed livestock. Unfortunately, as awareness of the issues increases in the UK, the demand for cheap beef increases in China and India - and demand there is going to be almost limitless. This is why it is critical that WLT saves as much of these threatened habitats as possible because it will soon be too late.

Submitted by Chris Redston on

Good corresponding with you, John. Let's continue the discussion in person sometime soon, perhaps with a vegan risotto and fresh leaf salad!

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