‘Pests’ and pricing.

If deer, rabbit and pigeons are such a pest causing millions of pounds of damage each year, then why are they so expensive and difficult to source at the butchers and supermarket?

A couple of weeks ago BBC Radio 4’s  Farming Today concentrated on the problem of pests in farming, including some that those of us who are non-farmers would probably not have thought about straight away.  Each day they highlighted a different animal, the damage they caused and the cost of protecting against them.  The animals covered included pigeons, deer and rabbits, wild boar and rats.  

Deer populations have apparently increased in recent years, and are attracted to the crops that are planted by the farmers  as well as causing problems for forestry.  A lot of money is spent on deer proof fencing as they are large enough to barge their way through standard fences if they want to get to the other side.

The rabbit population currently stands at 45 million, they cause damage to crops but also to machinery due to the holes that they create.  Pigeons are also on the increase, woodpigeons being one of the most successful birds of recent years despite those declines seen in other wild bird populations often finding their way into grain stores as well as causing problems in the fields.

Now, I don’t come from a farming background, or even a rural one, so I find it hard to think about fluffy bunnies being a nuisance or deer, of which I have only seen a few, to be sufficient in number to cause damage (although I can quite understand the pigeon problems – we have one that runs amok in our garden most days).  However, there is a burning question in my mind, why are these so expensive to buy at the butchers or supermarket?  If these animals are costing hundreds of millions of pounds each year then why do two venison steaks cost £5.99 at Waitrose, why are pigeons about the same price as chicken when they are about a tenth of the size and why, is it almost impossible to buy rabbit (I have even tried a local butcher for rabbit and venison).  Even if I could buy rabbit, the chances are that it would be farmed.  Yes, that’s right, approximately 95% of rabbit sold in this country is farmed (and often not in conditions that are much better than those of battery chickens).  So, in response to the damage these are causing can we not employ people to humanely kill these pests and sell them locally for a reasonable price – are we missing a trick, can Jamie Oliver create a market for rabbit?  Is it time to simplify the legislation, are we concerned that these ‘pests’ are going to become extinct.  We can’t leave it all to the polecats (although maybe this is a case for the reintroduction of lynx and wolves?).

2 thoughts on “‘Pests’ and pricing.”

  1. Hi Clare,

    What an excellent post..and no I dont thing you are missing something.

    I own and run an independent pest control company near cambridge and have often had exactly the same thoughts as you regarding “pests” and the food chain.

    As a general rule wild meat is both far tastier and far healthier (in terms of fat contetn for eg) than farmed meat. This is aside to the animal welfare issues of farmed meat.

    The problem with pest controllers selling their deceased pests in what appears to be a lack of demand- very little people eat either rabbit or pigeon for example. The other aspsect, although related to the first, is the price paid per animal. For example for a gutted rabbit I am lucky to get 80p…., thus economocally its hardly worth it.

    Overall I am in concurrence with almost everything you have said in your post

  2. Hi Lloyd

    Thank you for the reassurance that I am on the right track, and I can see how there may be little demand for the pigeon and rabbit. Do you think a market could be created for these creatures? Maybe the timing could be right considering that people are supposedly cutting down the amount they are spending.
    I still don’t understand the farmed rabbits though – why would anyone need to farm them when there are so many in the wild?


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