Venison is perhaps the most ethical meat we can eat in Britain today - actually, it might be the most ethical, native protein available to us all year round.
The word "venison" comes from the latin verb for hunting: venare.
For centuries, venison was restricted to the wild meat that landowning families sourced on their estates. The Normans and the Plantagenets demarcated much of England into royal forests, preventing farming on those lands in order to promote the growth of deer, wild boar and specific birds they enjoyed hunting.
So, it became almost impossible for ordinary Britons to eat any venison unless they poached it, and the penalties for that were severe.
This entrenched a perception that venison was intrinsically high-end or elite - this continues (unfairly) to this day. It isn't helped by the fact that a deer is an exceptionally handsome creature, in a Landseer'ish sort of way!
When Country Life magazine launched a campaign in 2008 for the UK to eat more venison it had to brook fierce opposition from a public inclined to sympathise with good-looking mammals.
Deer numbers have never been higher. The six free-roaming British species total well over 1 million animals, who thrive even though 350,000 are shot and tens of thousands are involved in car accidents every year. Wild venison is thus highly sustainable.
The animals destroy large tracts of British farmland: a single deer can devour an entire bed of lettuce in about a minute. They strip the bark from trees and munch their way through flowerbeds and fields. At a time when many grain farmers are facing significant difficulties owing to pressure from the supermarkets, promoting the consumption of venison might offer them some help.
Yet in the UK we don't eat a lot of own-reared venison. Instead we export the wild meat and import farmed venison from New Zealand. It seems the taste of wild venison is too strong for our modern palates.
Venison is high in protein, low in fat and full of vitamins B12, B6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids.
We want to see that change. Venison doesn't need to be strong and gamey, it can be very delicate and close in strength of flavour to a fillet steak.
We have worked for a number of years with Packington Estate...one of our partner farms...who rear the most incredible venison. Our focus is to de-mystify and democratise venison and try to ensure this wonderful meat is available all year round AND is open to buy for all.
Ethical Butcher & Packington Estate venison will be available soon.