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The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat

The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat

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The Ethical Carnivore: My Year Killing to Eat

4.5/5 (2 évaluations)
374 pages
5 heures
Sep 22, 2016


Winner of two 2017 Guild of Food Writers Awards: best Food Book Award and the Campaigning and Investigative Food Work Award

Shortlisted for the 2017 Fortnum & Mason Food Book of the Year

A BBC Radio 4 Food Programme Book of the Year 2016

A Guardian Book of the Year 2016

We should all know exactly where our meat comes from. But what if you took this modern-day maxim to its logical conclusion and only ate animals you killed yourself?
Louise Gray decides to be an ethical carnivore and learn to stalk, shoot and fish. Starting small, Louise shucks oysters and catches a trout. As she begins to reconnect with nature, she befriends countrymen and women who can teach her to shoot pigeons, rabbits and red deer.
Louise begins to look into how meat is processed, including the beef in our burgers, cheap chicken, supermarket bacon and farmed fish. She investigates halal slaughter and visits abattoirs to ask whether new technology can make eating meat more humane.
Delving into alternative food cultures, Louise finds herself sourcing roadkill and cooking a squirrel stir-fry, and she explores eating other sources of protein like in vitro meat, insects and plant-based options.
With the global demand for meat growing, Louise argues that eating less meat should be an essential part of fighting climate change for all of us. Her writing on nature, food and the environment is full of humour, while never shying from the hard facts. Louise gets to the heart of modern anxieties about where our meat comes from, asking an important question for our time – is it possible to be an ethical carnivore?
Sep 22, 2016

À propos de l'auteur

Louise Gray is a freelance writer based in Scotland. She trained with The Press Association and was a staff writer forThe Scotsman. From 2008 to 2013 she was Environment Correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. Louise specialises in writing about food, farming and climate change. In recent years she has written for The Sunday Times, Scottish Field,the Guardian and The Spectator, among others. She has also appeared on BBC television and radio. Louise is passionate about environmental issues, increasingly focusing on how individuals can make a difference through the choices they make, such as the food we eat. The Ethical Carnivore is her first book. @loubgray / louisebgray.com

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The Ethical Carnivore - Louise Gray


A charming and eye-opening book. The accounts of hunting trips with her father contain some vivid and quite moving nature writing.


[The book is] not a reflection on whether or not to become a vegetarian … Gray believes we can eat meat ethically, going for quality ahead of quantity.


A sensible read for meat-eaters who have ever wondered what it might be like to stand in the business end of an abattoir. Amusing and moving, Gray more than earns her stripes … it’s impossible not to admire her.

Evening Standard

A fascinating insight … The book is neither preachy nor lacking in laughs. Gray writes with humour and humanity.

Sunday Herald

Well paced, well researched and politically even-handed.

Country Life

A sensitive and powerful book.

Prospect Magazine

A really useful and interesting addition to the big debate. … If we’re to have a decent, proper relationship with meat in the future, books like this need to get out and explain to people what is actually going on.

Alex Renton, BBC Food Programme

Gray seeks to answer perhaps the most important question every human faces – how we feed ourselves. This humane, adventurous and wonderfully illuminating exploration will entertain and challenge everyone, from carnivore to vegan.

Patrick Barkham, author of Badgerlands

What makes this book special is that it somehow manages not to be sensationalist and yet also to be entertaining, making a tough and difficult subject digestible.

Hattie Ellis, author of Planet Chicken

Vivid, visceral and honest. Gray observes without ever being detached, and that’s a rare talent.

Ella Risbridger, Eating with My Fingers

Compellingly readable, wise and kind. There’s plenty of serious refl ection too, all the more arresting for Gray’s lightness of touch.

Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast

Beautifully written. Brave and personal.

Kerstin Rodgers, author of V is for Vegan

A thorough, engaging, sometimes shocking account of where our meat comes from. It is also, importantly, a book about caring.

Malachy Tallack, Caught by the River

This is a book that all should read but it isn’t simply a duty, it’s a gritty pleasure. It will make you look at dinner differently

Mark Avery, author of Inglorious


Louise Gray is a freelance writer based in Scotland. She worked for The Scotsman and as Environment Correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, and specialises in writing about food, farming and climate change. Her work has featured in many publications and Louise has made appearances on BBC television and radio. Louise is passionate about environmental issues, increasingly focusing her writing on how individuals can make a diff erence through the choices they make, such as the food we eat. She blogs at www.louisebgray.com and tweets @loubgray.

For Dad



Chapter 1: Pearls

Chapter 2: Novice Macnab

Chapter 3: Minions

Chapter 4: Henry

Chapter 5: Gobby Teens

Chapter 6: Grown-ups

Chapter 7: Swine

Chapter 8: Ishmael

Chapter 9: Colin

Chapter 10: Game Bird

Chapter 11: Hunter-gatherer

Chapter 12: Tigers of the Sea

Chapter 13: The Leaper

Chapter 14: Damh

Chapter 15: Beyond Meat


Author’s Note



Further Reading


We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.

Kurt Vonnegut


We cannot but pity the boy who has never fired a gun; he is no more humane, while his education has been sadly neglected.

Henry David Thoreau

My first kill is a disaster. Either that, or some kind of totemic message sent from the animal spirit world to teach me a lesson.

It starts well enough, on a perfect English summer’s afternoon, the day before my birthday. I had decided to spend a year only eating animals I had killed myself. I was an environmental journalist, only too aware of the impact factory farming was having on the planet and the need to cut down on meat. But every time I tried to switch to being vegetarian, I was offered meat from the wild or a local farm. As a farmers’ daughter, I had no problem with meat sourced in this way. But I had no desire to be one of those ungracious people who turns up at dinner parties and only eats the food after asking a series of irritating questions.

The only logical thing to do seemed to be to only eat animals I had killed myself. From the moment I said it, not entirely seriously, I realised I had touched a raw nerve. My friends and colleagues were fascinated. They had no idea how animals were killed or processed. How would it feel to kill an animal? How would you catch it? How would you butcher it? They were hungry: hungry for a connection to the meat they were eating and the wider natural world. I realised I would actually have to do it.

I set off a little trepidatious about shooting a gun, but confident I am in safe hands with ‘a proper old-school gamekeeper’. It is as if the Essex countryside has put on her best clothes for the occasion. Bunting hangs from the thatched cottages and the fields shine gold in the late afternoon sun. It is only when I pass the pub offering a discount for those wearing yellow jerseys that I remember the Tour de France passed through earlier that day. I roll down the windows to let in the smell of cut hay and turn up the radio. The song of the summer comes on, high and breezy. By the time I arrive at Hamel’s Park in Hertfordshire I am windblown and smiling.

Steve Reynolds stands in the yard as I drive in, hands on his hips, squinting into the sun. I see with relief that he looks like the archetypal gamekeeper, with his ginger muttonchops and checked shirt open almost to the waist. He is surrounded by barking dogs, too, though on closer inspection I realise they are poodles wearing diamante collars rather than the spaniels and labradors you would traditionally find at an estate cottage.

I stretch out a hand, but he is suspicious at first. He wants to know if I am a ‘sab’ or ‘saboteur’ who disrupted shoots in the 1990s in protest against fox hunting and other blood sports. I laugh to put him at his ease. ‘No, no,’ I say, and explain my mission. ‘I just want to find out what it’s really like to kill an animal. I think it will make people appreciate food more, so they eat less meat.’

‘Hmmm.’ He seems unsure. His wife, Christine, appears in the doorway, arms folded. ‘Not realistic,’ she says. ‘People want cheap stuff in packets nowadays; most of the pheasants we shoot are sent to Belgium.’ Then, remembering herself, ‘Come in, come in.’

I am ushered inside to stand awkwardly in the front room waiting for a glass of water. To distract from further discussion of my idea, which seems rather silly now under the down-to-earth gaze of Steve and his wife – rather than my middle-class friends – I admire the decor. ‘Wow, is that a barn owl?’ Taxidermy lines the walls, among them a fox, hare and a peregrine falcon. Steve is keen to tell me they are all roadkill or picked up from under electricity lines, especially the birds of prey, which would be illegal to kill. His most prized specimens are animals with unusual markings or features, such as the woodcock with the short beak, the white partridge and albino stoat. I wander into another room to see even more glassy eyes staring out at me alongside pictures of Steve receiving various prizes for conservation, looking uncomfortable in a suit. ‘It’s how a countryman’s house should look!’ he says.

As we sail off in an open-sided jeep, a gun rattling away on the dashboard, boxes of bullets at our feet, I ask what a countryman is. ‘Well, there’s a boy in the country and a countryboy, if you know what I mean?’

‘And which are you?’

‘I’m a countryman, mate!’

We rumble across the busy A10 to a field where we can sight the gun and continue to chat as Steve sets up the targets and lets down his guard. He wasn’t born into this sort of life, he explains. His father was a shopkeeper back in the days when everyone knew how to shoot, and of course he taught his son. Steve loved crawling about in the early morning dew more than anything else and when a job came up on an estate he jumped at it. He’s pretty much been here ever since. ‘We all look after each other, see? I keep the predators down, and the songbirds, the pheasants and other wildlife can flourish.’

I ask lots of questions about the rifle but only understand the answers because of research on the internet the night before, knowing that Steve – like most shooting men – will presume I know what he is on about. I know a rifle has grooves inside the barrel, so-called ‘rifling’ to spin a bullet and deliver a more deadly accurate shot. It is used for killing ground game. A shotgun, which fires a spray of pellets, is used to kill birds. We use a .22 calibre rifle, referring to the diameter of the bore or inside of the barrel, with a wooden stock. Steve handles the gun with ease, never pointing the barrel at me and handing it over only when I sit on a stool with a rest for the gun in front of me. There is no ceremony in coming face to face with a deadly weapon, though it feels strange. I press my cheek against the cool wood and smell gunpowder and oil, like the gun room at home where Dad used to keep his antique guns and my late mother’s jewellery box. Being so close to the metal sets my teeth on edge.

The gun is heavy and wobbles at first, making black rings appear around the edge of the telescopic sight. I breathe in and as I breathe out relax, as I have been taught, until the gun is steady and I can get my eye the right distance from the sight. The view clears, the cross hair appears and I gently squeeze the trigger.

Steve is impressed with my aim and after just a few shots we drive into a valley where cows graze a lush water meadow. Steve has set up a makeshift hide by covering a gate in hazel branches and setting out a chair and support for the gun. Almost as soon as I get in position a rabbit – or vermin, as gamekeepers call them – hops into view. I am waiting for Steve’s order since he can identify the younger rabbits that won’t be breeding yet by their sleek fur and relatively smaller size. ‘Go on, he’s perfect, shoot him.’ There is no black rim, the cross hair hovers over his shoulder, my heart is pumping; I can’t afford to think about this too much. I pull the trigger.

The rabbit somersaults into the air, lands and impossibly dashes forward. ‘Again!’ But I can’t, my hands are shaking. Steve takes the gun but it is too late – the rabbit is gone. He lifts his face from the sight and holds out his hand. ‘Well done, your first kill.’

‘But … But it’s still alive.’

‘No it’s not, it’s just in the thistles there.’ I take his huge, warm hand. I don’t feel pleased, I feel like I have done something horribly, horribly wrong. We hurry over the field to where the rabbit should be, but there is no blood. ‘He’ll just be over the fence,’ says Steve. We struggle over the barbed wire and start bashing away at the undergrowth. There is no sign of the rabbit. I am beginning to panic. I pick up a stick and thrash at the nettles and poke in among the thistles. At one point I hesitate – I’ll be stung if I go in there – and then curse myself: how could I put a few stings above the suffering of an animal? My mind is racing. What if we don’t find the rabbit? Why didn’t Steve bring a dog, even if it was a bloody poodle?

‘He’s gone,’ he says.

‘Really?’ I want to keep searching.

‘They have a massive surge of adrenaline when they are injured; they can get quite far. He could have run as far as the burrow.’ Now I am cursing myself for being so egotistical. Why did I embark on this stupid project? What was I trying to prove? I am a bad person. A bad person who has caused terrible suffering just to try and make a point at a dinner party. I whip the nettles so hard my stick breaks. I can’t speak or I’ll cry. I’m trying to keep calm. ‘Come on,’ says Steve. ‘We’re not going to find him now.’

As I struggle to get my shaking legs back over the fence he laughs at me. ‘See what I mean? The difference between a countrygirl and a girl in the country.’ As soon as we sit down back at the hide I want to go over and over it again, searching for comfort.

‘Could he still be alive? Could he survive?’

‘No, no he’s dead, you hit him alright.’

‘Then … then he’s bleeding to death?’

Steve doesn’t answer for a moment. Then, ‘He’s dead. He will have died quick,’ he says. ‘He just got to some cover and we can’t find him.’

‘Oh my God, could he be bleeding to death in the burrow?’ I think about the babies; they call them kittens.

Steve doesn’t answer immediately. ‘I’m not going to lie to you. This is reality. I’ve missed before. I’ve injured an animal twice in my life. Deer, big animals. It’s what happens.’

I am trying to listen, trying to block out flashbacks to childhood. Why didn’t I think of Watership Down before? I hated that film as a child. It only took my sister singing a few lines of ‘Bright Eyes’, the Art Garfunkel song on the soundtrack, and I would burst into tears. I remember the rabbits hiding terrified in the burrows. I remember the blood sliding over the screen. The saddest sequence of all comes back to me now, the moment of death, the sooty spirit rabbit dancing around the sun: ‘All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you …’

Steve can see I am distressed and is desperately trying to make me feel better. ‘Why is there a rubber on the end of a pencil?’ he says.

‘So you can rub things out?’

‘Because we all make mistakes.’ So we can’t rub things out then, I think, not once they are done. Steve tries another tack. ‘You know fishing? Think of all those fish. Do you know what they do? They don’t bash them over the head and kill them quick. No, they suffocate to death; that’s agony, that is.’ I still can’t respond. ‘What about pheasant shooting?’ he says. ‘Pheasant shooting is not perfect.’ I am momentarily pulled out of my Watership Down moment. This is unusual for a gamekeeper. ‘Yes, shotguns aren’t that accurate, not like rifles. Shot gets in the birds all the time and they fly on; they’re not always killed outright. That’s why we have dogs, to pick them up quick.’

I am grateful. It’s true. I’m not so bad, am I? I was trying to do something good – to make people think about killing. This is easy to justify; we are all indirectly letting animals die every day. Ok, the slaughterhouse might be a more accurate shot than me but it must go wrong. All attempts to kill humanely can go wrong. At least I went out and tried to do it myself. At least I know that now …

‘You had this smile when you turned up in my yard,’ says Steve. ‘But it’s gone now.’ I do feel different. I feel like a killer. I try to smile. ‘C’mon, you’ve got to get back on the horse.’ It has started spitting with rain, the evening has cooled, and what with us crashing about in the undergrowth the rabbits nearby have all gone. But there are a few coming out again now, further away. Steve gets out another rifle, a high-performance .17 calibre that is more accurate and powerful. It looks more like an American gun, with a green stock and huge telescopic sight. I don’t feel comfortable with it, preferring the familiar wood and iron. ‘Come on, this’ll get you one of those bunnies over there.’ He sets me up again and, although my heart is racing and my breathing is shallow, I take the gun.

At first the sight wobbles around, I need to calm down, but I bring it under control. Steve looks down the barrel as well, his eye behind the sight, his breath against my cheek. I know he wants to make up for the disastrous start to the evening. ‘I’d just love you to get a rabbit, Louise. I would.’ I just want to go home and curl up and cry, I want this to be over, but I also want to please Steve. ‘Look, under the yellow flowers, two bunnies.’ I can see the rabbits in the sights. My heart is beating in my chest and I have to concentrate to breathe. I swing the barrel back and forth; they are both about the same size, small – they must be young. But can Steve really tell? Is it a doe? Do I really want to kill again? What good would that do? It would just make things worse, more suffering for my stupid ego. What if I miss again?

The rabbits hop away. ‘It’s OK,’ says Steve. ‘Take a deep breath, try again.’ I know he has to be finished by 7 pm and it is much later now, but he also desperately wants me to go home with a ‘something in the bag’. More kits come into view. I can see them through the sight, nibbling the grass, turning towards me, standing on their hind legs to check for predators … ‘but first they have to catch you digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning’. I have the cross hair over the shoulder again, I have to get it right. I don’t know why I am doing this.

‘Come on.’ I can feel Steve willing me to pull the trigger. I stare and stare, my thoughts galloping, trying to think of a reason why I am doing this, until another rabbit hops out of sight. Steve sees I have lost my confidence and thinks it’s because I don’t trust the gun. We swap places and he takes a shot. I jump at the sound of the gun and realise I am shaking, my nerves still on edge. I wonder how these people, mostly men, do this so casually. ‘Well, it went over the rabbit’s head,’ he laughs. ‘Come on, we’ll try another spot but we’ll have to be quick.’

‘It’s OK Steve,’ I say. ‘Maybe I could come back another day?’ I am trying to smile like I did earlier, to put him at his ease, but really I want to be alone.

‘OK.’ He looks disappointed for me. ‘Well, you know you can come back anytime you like.’

‘Yes, of course.’

We drive back through the meadows; the rabbits are still coming out and the cattle are undisturbed, like nothing has happened, but I feel completely different. Back at Steve’s house, I hurry to get away and let him get to the pub. I thank him and shake his hand and get back in my car. I know exactly where I am going. The countryside seems darker now, although it is still light. A muntjac deer crosses in front of the car. The hedgerows, so pretty before, are full of shadows. I drive straight back across the busy A10, look left and right, look again. I can’t get close to where we were shooting so I park the car in the middle of the lane and just hope no one needs to get past; there don’t seem to be many houses down here. I grab a birch walking stick I won in a raffle and set off at a run. I feel desperate now to try and make amends for what I have done. My breath comes in gasps and I am glad; at last I can express the panic I feel. It makes me light-headed but it’s a release.

Back at the barbed wire fence I rip my sweatshirt but I don’t care. I start searching where Steve and I were looking, but perhaps we were wrong? I realise my legs are still shaking. Why is there no blood? I crouch down to get further into the trees. I think about where rabbit burrows are. By the riverbank? I wade through the brambles to where I can see glimpses of a stream and jump down into the water; there are no signs of burrows but are they rabbit droppings? They can’t be. I see there is a hole, too big for a rabbit. A fox perhaps. I get down on my hands and knees and sniff. It is musty – it must be a fox – or a badger. Why don’t I know? I feel crazed, like an animal, like part of this wood. I scramble back up and continue searching, lying down to look under the nettles. It smells dank, like autumn.

It is getting dark under the canopy and I can hear the rain on the leaves. Something primeval tells me I shouldn’t be here, alone in the forest at night. As my breathing calms down and my heart slows I realise this is fruitless; the rabbit is nowhere to be seen. I am going to have to give up this search and this idea of killing animals – even if it was well intentioned. What was I thinking anyway, setting out on this silly quest? I will have to become a vegetarian of course, maybe a vegan. I can’t forget what this feels like.

As I walk back towards the fence I half-heartedly thrash around with my stick again. I poke a thick clump of thistles right by the fence and feel something soft. It can’t be. But even from the end of the stick I can feel it is a body; a soft, warm, dead body. I look down and there he is, sleek brown fur. I pick him up and see his face; his eyes are open and down his muzzle is a beautiful white blaze. I can feel his shoulder blades under my fingers, his dead weight. I ought to say something. ‘Thank you?’ I whisper. ‘I mean, sorry.’ I realise I don’t know what to say. I should have looked up some Native American prayer for this moment, something appropriate, but really I have nothing useful to say, nothing that will bring life back. The rabbit also has a white chest. They are the most extraordinary markings: the blaze is the shape of Harry Potter’s scar, like he’s a wizard of Farthing Wood. How is anyone meant to be able to kill their supper when we have been brought up on a literary diet of talking woodland animals?

But I’m glad I’ve found him; at least I know the suffering is over. I see where the bullet has entered near his spine. I broke his neck; he didn’t get far, we just didn’t search close to the fence. He is warm and a desperate thought comes into my head: perhaps he is still alive? Perhaps I can take him to a vet? I struggle through the fence and start to run; I want to make this better. I go past a dog walker, but he doesn’t turn a hair at a girl running down the field with a half-white rabbit. ‘Come on Coco,’ he says to a fat chocolate labrador.

I lay the rabbit in the footwell of the passenger seat and drive back to Steve’s house. He has gone and Christine pops her head over the stable-style door to the kitchen. ‘Hi,’ I say. I want to ask her if she will check the rabbit is dead, perhaps give me the name of a vet, some kind of rabbit resuscitation technique? But she just looks surprised. ‘Sorry, is Steve here?’

‘He’s in the pub, The Crown, in Buntingford.’ She gives me directions and I rush back to the car, hardly thinking how I must look in my ripped top, covered in sticky willy, with red-rimmed eyes.

The Crown is a red brick pub, warmed by the sun, and I find Steve in the bar, his back to me, though I know him by the curly hair and the yellow braces. I tap his shoulder and he turns. ‘I’ve got something to show you, you have to come now.’ His drinking companions laugh in shock – who is this mad woman?

‘You haven’t …?’

I know the rabbit is dead now. ‘Yes, I found him, come on, you have to see.’ We hurry out into the street where I have parked my battered Ford Fiesta on a double yellow line. I reach into the passenger side and bring out the rabbit with the white blaze. Steve takes him with more than a little reverence.

‘Well I never, I’ve never seen anything like this before.’ He looks me straight in the eye. ‘You’re special, Louise. You are. You went in there and you crawled around in the nettles till you found him. You’re passionate, aren’t you? About what you are doing?’

‘Well of course I am, I had to.’ How could I explain what this meant? To feel responsible. ‘I had to find him.’ I realise Steve’s blue eyes are brighter than before; they have gone turquoise. ‘Steve, are you crying?’

‘I’ve got a big heart, Louise, that’s all. Just a big heart. I’m kind, I care, that’s all.’ We hug, a tight squeeze from a total stranger who a few hours before I had never met. He admires the rabbit again. ‘You flinched, didn’t you?’

‘Yes.’ I curse myself once again. I had been told to breathe in, breathe out, stay calm, squeeze the trigger, but it must have been nerves. I hadn’t realised I would be so scared. I hadn’t realised how it would make me feel. A small flinch and the bullet went high, into the neck, not the heart. ‘I need a drink.’

‘I’m bloody buying you one.’

We go inside and I order a glass of the cheapest brandy. Steve’s drinking companions are quite taken with this strange girl in a damp sweatshirt, with muddy knees and leaves in her hair. ‘Darling, stay and have another drink with us,’ says Mick the window cleaner. ‘Let’s see this rabbit then.’

‘No, no,’ protests Steve. ‘People are eating.’ He motions to the others to keep their voices down as commuters come in for their evening drink.

‘That’s kind of the whole point,’ I say, thinking of my mission statement for the first time that evening. Here they are probably dining on local ‘wild rabbit’ but none of them want to see the body.

‘You’ll have to stuff him, of course,’ says Steve. ‘He’s so handsome.’

‘I’m not sure. Does that mean I can eat him too?’ His death cannot be for display.

‘Course!’ Steve replies.

‘Oh, OK, but I want to take him home just now, I want to show my dad.’

‘That’s fine, just put him in a brown paper bag and put him in the freezer and send him to me when you’re ready. And come back, do you hear? We have more vermin to kill – signal crayfish and squirrels.’ I have met a proper countryman and I’m grateful.

I thank Steve and his companions and get back into my car. Driving back it is raining, the bunting has been taken down and the light of the day is sinking into the earth. I leave the radio off, wanting to think about the experience and the rabbit still lying in my footwell, bleeding onto an old tax disc.

When I get back to my brother’s house, I am still pumped on adrenaline and tell them all the story in the doorway. ‘I made a gamekeeper cry!’ They all laugh and although I tell them how awful I feel, how I missed, no one focuses on the suffering; they seem to be able to brush over it, just like we do every day. They all want to see the rabbit. My sister-in-law screams. ‘You’ve killed someone’s pet rabbit!’ He is so pretty, but certainly wild.

My dad is amazed. ‘Well I’ve shot hundreds of rabbits but I’ve never seen one like this …’ He also seems a little hurt by my adventure. ‘Darling, didn’t I ever teach you how to shoot a rabbit? Surely I must have …’ No Daddy, you didn’t, I think. And not for the first time, I wonder why. I guess I never showed an interest. I sat in the back of the truck, I covered my ears and looked away. But then did my brothers really want to do it? Is it because I’m a girl? A coward?

It’s too much to think about tonight. Instead I sit up late looking at an almost full moon and going over everything that just happened. I don’t want to forget the rabbit with the white blaze. He has taught me what it feels like to get it wrong. That is the risk we take when we kill an animal. Is this the price for being a carnivore? I also wonder about how I feel now, now I have found him. I do feel better, but should I? It doesn’t make anything any different, unless I believe he died straight away with no suffering or that this is some kind of sign – and that is ridiculous.

Steve phones, although it is near midnight. I presume he is checking I got home ok after the brandy. ‘No, I wasn’t worried about the journey, I was worried about your head,’ he says. ‘You’ve had quite an evening.’ I realise that I was acting quite strangely, clearly a little traumatised, quite manic.

‘My head? Well yes, I do feel a little different.’ My heart, too, I think; it still feels constricted, a little bruised by loss,

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