Radio Review

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The Independent Culture
It's a minor paradox that modern technology has brought us closer to nature: at any rate, the man on the Clapham omnibus is now far more interested in and informed about wildlife than he was even 20 years ago. Primitive man thought that hedgehogs collected apples by rolling on windfalls, and a bear's breath caused putrefaction. We, on the other hand, have observed these animals' lives in intimate detail - but what we don't know, and our ancestors did, is what they tasted like.

This is terribly important - certainly according to the marine biologist and keen angler Mike Ladle, one of the guests on Tales from the Wildside on Wednesday night (Radio 4). Ladle, along with a conservancy adviser called Mike Swann and a gamekeeper called Hugh Rose, was telling Fergus Keeling about the joys of hunting, shooting and fishing, and the irony that they had all learned to love nature through killing bits of it.

All spoke tenderly of animals. Keeling observed that Rose's eyes were glistening as he described the first creature he had seen dead (a pigeon shot by his father - its crop had split open, spilling out the grain it had just eaten, and he was astonished to glimpse its workings). Rose had the least coherent explanation of why he stalked deer; he maintained that it was mostly about management, then admitted that you could kill them more efficiently by motoring up to them.

The only person with a thoroughly thought-out view of killing was Ladle: "The rationale," he insisted, "has to be eating."

Lionel Kellaway is a man after Ladle's own heart. In the pleasingly ruthless One for the Pot on Fridays (Radio 4), he's been exploring how to kill and cook a variety of wildlife: jugged hare, lobster, crayfish and, last week, the grey squirrel. Some 200,000 are killed every year in this country - "That's 45 tons of good, nutritious meat, mostly left to rot on the forest floor." Well, for heaven's sake: somebody pass the mustard.

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