You might have expected her to be making duck a l'orange, but it is rabbit that's on the menu for British writer Jeannette Winterson.
The outspoken feminist author is not unaccustomed to being at the centre of controversy, but today she finds herself at the centre of a bizarre debate encompassing such diverse themes as animal cruelty, food miles, nose-to-tail eating, revenge, vegetarianism, parsley and—that stalwart of the fiction writer’s art—revenge, after she posted a series of tweets detailing how she had trapped, killed, skinned and cooked (in a cider vinegar casserole) a rabbit that was raiding her vegetable patch.
Ms Winterson, famed for her novel Oranges are not the Only Fruit, is a keen foodie who has written on the subject and opened her own organic food shop.
The storm in a marmite pot began last night, when she tweeted a picture of the half-skinned rabbit, along with a message saying, “Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating rabbit."
She then posted pictures of the rabbit neatly butchered—and as someone who has attempted to deal with the odd rabbit in their time I can tell you this is no mean feat—and a photograph of her cat dining on the rabbit’s innards, along with the message, “No waste, no packaging, no processing, no food miles.”
She then posted another picture of the cat’s empty dish, with the message: “For all the Tweeters who said my cat would prefer Whiskers (where do u think pet food comes from BTW?)”
Predictably, Winterson was soon on the end of a storm of abuse from animal lovers who accused her of cruelty to the rabbit (a charge she denied, pointing out she used a humane trap and killed the rabbit humanely) or leveled a more general charge of meanness towards the rabbit species.
But what is an award-winning novelist supposed to do? She posted pictures of her roses, planted specially to attract bees, devastated by the rabbit attacks, she pointed out that pest control was an essential part of rural living. “At pest level they must be culled. This year is pest level in the countryside. Rabbits are sold @ market. Why not eat what u catch?”
The debate had migrated to the rarefied airwaves of Radio 4 by lunchtime today in the UK, where Winterson told interviewer Edward Stourton she had been receiving over 100 tweets a minute, and that many of them supported her, and said it was important for “people to understand what it means to eat animals if they do eat them,” and that “they are not made of fairy dust.”
Of her critics who accused her of cruelty and said they would never read her work again, she said they would “have to stick to reading vegetarians” which would rule out Ted Hughes “who snared and ate more rabbits than I ever did.”