This Morning comes under fire as SQUIRREL is cooked in ‘cruel’ segment

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This Morning came under fire by angry viewers after a squirrel was cooked live on Thursday’s episode.

Holly Willoughby, 42, and Phillip Schofield, 60, were served with a risotto made from the rodent by chef Phil Vickery, 61, on the ITV daytime programme.

It comes after a wildlife campaign group claimed grey squirrels should be served in restaurants.

Holly was filled with shock at the thought of the dish – but Phillip was hungry to get stuck in, admitting it was ‘a bit chewy’ as he scoffed up the grub.

Fans quickly took to Twitter, where they blasted the ‘cruel’ and ‘inhumane’ segment.

This Morning comes under fire as SQUIRREL is cooked in ‘cruel’ segment

‘It’s disgusting and inhumane!’ This Morning came under fire as a SQUIRREL was cooked in a ‘cruel’ segment – as Phillip Schofield scoffed a ‘chewy’ risotto made from the rodent

One wrote: ‘I think it’s disgusting that this morning is laughing and joking about eating grey squirrel live in tv surely they are wildlife and should not be killed for meat? Very cruel and inhumane.’

Another added: ‘#ThisMorning cheerfully discussing culling squirrels and murdering all cats. Nice. Humans are evil.’

A third chimed in with, ‘Just seen on This Morning re Exmoor Squirrel Project encouraging people to eat Grey Squirrel the world has gone mad.’

They had been discussing that the Exmoor Squirrel Project, which recently claimed the non-native creatures could be served up in stews, pies and kebabs.

The group is seeking to eradicate grey squirrels on Exmoor, so they can be replaced with native red squirrels.

Organisers are also in discussion with two restaurants about serving dishes containing grey squirrel.

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The project is encouraging local homeowners and landowners to stop feeding grey squirrels, volunteer to monitor woodland for them, and in some cases, with the proper training from the project, set traps in gardens or on land to catch the squirrels.

Conservationists say red squirrels, which have lived in the UK for around 10,000 years, could become extinct here within a decade because of the invasive grey squirrel.

Awful: They had been discussing that the Exmoor Squirrel Project, which recently claimed the non-native creatures could be made into stews, pies and kebabs (stock image)

Awful: They had been discussing that the Exmoor Squirrel Project, which recently claimed the non-native creatures could be made into stews, pies and kebabs (stock image)

It is not the first time eating squirrels has hit the news.

In 2009, Walkers announced that it would begin selling ‘Cajun Squirrel’ flavoured crisps after a competition for the public to suggest new flavours.

The following year, the Daily Mail revealed how a branch of the supermarket chain Budgens in North London’s fashionable Crouch End had begun selling squirrel.

Squirrel pie, meanwhile, was a popular delicacy served up until the last century when it dropped off Britain’s menu, but it enjoyed a revival from the turn of the previous decade thanks to attempts to save its less aggressive red cousins from extinction.

Thousands of grey squirrels were sold to restaurants, butchers and went on sale at farmer’s markets after being legally trapped and shot in woodland and rural areas.

A decade later, an anti-vegan protester was filmed eating a dead squirrel in front of shocked onlookers at a vegan market.

Grey squirrels carry the squirrelpox virus, which causes them no harm, but is deadly for reds.

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While some environmentalists simply want to keep the two sets of squirrels apart, the Exmoor Squirrel Project wants to get rid of greys and reintroduce red squirrels.

Yuck! It comes after a wildlife campaign group claimed grey squirrels should be served in restaurants

Yuck! It comes after a wildlife campaign group claimed grey squirrels should be served in restaurants

Gross: Holly was filled with shock at the thought of the dish

Gross: Holly was filled with shock at the thought of the dish

Ew! But Phillip was hungry to get stuck in, admitting it was 'a bit chewy' as he scoffed up the grub

Ew! But Phillip was hungry to get stuck in, admitting it was ‘a bit chewy’ as he scoffed up the grub

Oh no! Holly Willoughby, 42, and Phillip Schofield, 60, were served with a risotto made from the rodent by chef Phil Vickery, 61, on the ITV daytime programme

Oh no! Holly Willoughby, 42, and Phillip Schofield, 60, were served with a risotto made from the rodent by chef Phil Vickery, 61, on the ITV daytime programme

Kerrie Hosegood, acting manager of Exmoor Squirrel Project, who owns a forestry firm called Three Atop Woodland Services, says grey squirrels have caused an estimated £40 million worth of damage to UK trees.

She said: ‘I have eaten grey squirrel before, after skinning and deboning one, and it tastes quite nice — gamey, like rabbit.

‘It is perfect to leave in the slow cooker and eat in a stew.

‘We want people to help control the grey squirrel, so are offering training.

‘Landowners and homeowners can help tackle the problem of grey squirrels which destroy trees.’

The grey squirrel is the main reason for the decline of the red squirrel, having replaced the native squirrels across almost all of England and Wales.

Furious: Fans quickly took to Twitter, where they blasted the 'cruel' and 'inhumane' segment

Furious: Fans quickly took to Twitter, where they blasted the ‘cruel’ and ‘inhumane’ segment

Wildlife groups carefully monitor squirrel populations and carry out targeted control of grey squirrels in areas where red squirrels are at risk of extinction. 

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The Exmoor Squirrel Project, however, wishes to reintroduce red squirrels by getting rid of grey squirrels, and already carries out trapping and shooting of greys.

Mrs Hosegood said: ‘A grey squirrel will strip bark to get to the sap underneath, and we need to protect our woodland and native trees.

‘I don’t think any animal should die in vain, though, so it makes sense that we eat these squirrels.

‘It would also be great to donate grey squirrels to animal sanctuaries and zoos, which may be struggling with the cost of living crisis, to be used as food for their carnivores.’

TOP 10 SQUIRREL RECIPE IDEAS

Squirrel is high in protein, low in fat and tastes ‘gamey, like rabbit’ according to those who’ve eaten it.

But what are some of the dishes you can have grey squirrel in? MailOnline looks at a round up from restaurateurs across Britain…

  • Lasagne
  • Pancakes
  • ‘Critter fritter’, or croquette
  • Pies
  • Kebabs
  • Stews
  • Squirrel goujons
  • Roasted squirrel with apricot salad
  • Slow cooker squirrel and dumplings
  • Squirrel and mushrooms in a creamy sauce 

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