Warning: this meal may contain traces of nuts
SUPERMARKET giant Musgrave says it has no plans to introduce squirrel meat to the Irish market -- even though the rodent is flying off the shelves at one of its British subsidiaries.
The Cork-based retailer, which is a partner to supermarket chains SuperValu, Centra, Mace, Londis and Daybreak, has come under fire from animal-rights activists in Britain for selling wild-squirrel meat.
Vegetarians International Voice for Animals (VIVA) has accused the owner of a Budgens supermarket franchise in London of profiting from what it labelled "a wildlife massacre."
But Andrew Thornton -- who has been providing squirrel to his customers in the leafy London suburb of Crouch End for the past five months -- defends selling grey squirrel meat as a "sustainable way to feed people".
He claims to sell up to 15 squirrels a week to his customers, who live near the vast Hampstead Heath -- which, ironically, is home to thousands of wild squirrels.
"There are too many squirrels around, we might as well eat them rather than cull them and dispose of them," he said.
"Squirrels will be culled anyway. You have two choices -- either you dispose of them or you eat them."
Although he doesn't catch the squirrels himself -- he sources them from a game supplier in Suffolk -- he says the idea of eating squirrel is catching on, especially among the environmentally conscious.
"I think it's lovely. It's a bit like rabbit. There will be a lot of fuss about this now, but in a few years it will become accepted practice that we eat squirrels.
"People don't bat an eyelid now about eating rabbit," he said.
But a spokesman for Musgrave said Irish squirrels need not worry about winding up on someone's plate for the foreseeable future.
"There's no taste for squirrels here and we have no plans to sell them," he told the Irish Independent.
A chef at a leading Dublin restaurant that specialises in game dishes said he had even heard of squirrel meat.
Hugh Hyland of Roly's Bistro said: "I've never heard of anyone cooking it or even seen it on a menu."
While such wildlife dishes as rabbit, wood pigeon, pheasant and venison are popular with his customers, he said he would be surprised if squirrel meat took off here.
"It's all down to people's preferences. Once in a while, a new fad comes along and a lot of people would go for it," he said. "You could probably do it in a coq-au-vin style."