Squirrel eating may be making a comeback, however, at least among those with au courant appetites for sustainable, healthy, and locally sourced meats. CNN.com’s food blog Eatocracy has encouraged readers to seek out sources of squirrel meat—”more earthy and sumptuous than the darkest turkey.” Hunting and foraging authority Hank Shaw has spilled plenty of ink on this “gateway” prey, an abundant animal that hones the hunter’s skill for bigger game. It’s delicious too, he argues, its pink flesh more dense than a rabbit’s, which takes on the nutty flavor of whatever it’s been eating.
But think of Squirrel Nutkin, Rocket J. Squirrel, and Princess Sally Acorn. How could one eat such an adorable, puckish animal, so easily anthropomorphized? Ask British food writer and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: “I do not argue that we have an inalienable right to eat meat,” he writes in The River Cottage Cookbook. “I do say however that, if we are going to make meat part of our diet, then wild meat is, for me, the least morally problematic of all. All meat is the product of a killing, and those of us who kill for the pot are merely taking responsibility for the manner of that killing. A squirrel may have a cuteness factor that makes some people shudder at the sight of its back legs crackling on a grill. But if those people have ever seen young calves and lambs playing in the fields, then why have they not applied the cuteness argument to their own carnivorous habits? For I have found that most of the people who seem to be upset by the eating of rabbits, squirrels, and the like are not vegetarians but town dwelling carnivores.”