Rachel Carrie is an impossibly glamorous, immaculately presented, 35-year-old environmental consultant and mum from Yorkshire who likes to hunt her dinner, rather than buy it from a supermarket.
She’s a crack shot — one of Britain’s top female game shooters — so she usually has a freezer full of fallow deer joints, muntjac haunches, rabbits, the occasional hare, maybe a side or two of wild boar, and tray upon tray of pheasant breasts.
She prefers her pigeon fresh, ideally served pink, and nestled on a nice salad.
Rachel Carrie, 35, poses with a rifle and is one of Britain’s top female shooters and enjoys hunting her dinner rather than buying it from a shop. When asked about her preference for pigeon, she says it has to be fresh, ideally served pink and nestled on a nice salad
When she’s not stalking or shooting, she is enthusing online about the environmental benefits of sourcing game from the countryside around her home — from field to fork — and posting photographs to her 58,600 Instagram followers of herself looking blonde, gorgeous and very made-up along with whatever creature is about to become her dinner.
(She was once voted one of the world’s top ten hottest hunters by website ranker.com.) As a result, over recent years, she has been trolled, bullied, accused of being a murderer and a terrorist, and even sent death threats via social media.
‘Some of it’s so extreme,’ she says, her fake eyelashes trembling. ‘One of them wrote: “Why don’t you shoot your son in the head like you shot that deer.” ’
But it has not been plain sailing for the environmental consultant as she has received online abuse since being voted one of the world’s top ten hottest hunters by website ranker. She has been accused of being a murderer and a terrorist, and even sent death threats via social media in response to her hunting pictures
Another missive: ‘Hoping we’ll find your tiny brain blown off by a shotgun, dripping down rocks . . .’
Nothing, she adds, has ever been done to moderate such comments.
‘If it was targeted at any other social group — race or sexual orientation — they would be arrested. But when it’s against a hunter, no one seems to care.’
Instagram has started censoring some of her content for containing ‘graphic violence’ and she has also received reports on Facebook for her photos carving rare meat (pictured)
So, for years, Rachel has simply blocked and deleted, but continued to hunt and post online, desperate to get the message out there that eating game is good for the environment, for health and for the countryside. She has even written a glossy cookbook — Game & Gatherings — containing all her favourite recipes, from ‘pigeon poppers’ to ‘wild boar and venison faggots’.
However, recently, she claims, Instagram has started ‘censoring’ her posts — many of them photos from her cookbook — due to their ‘sensitive content’ or for ‘containing graphic violence’.
She has even written a glossy cookbook — Game & Gatherings — containing all her favourite recipes, from ‘pigeon poppers’ to ‘wild boar and venison faggots’
The offending images included an open muntjac sandwich and some unplucked pheasants on her kitchen table, alongside a message that read: ‘Guess what’s for tea?’
While banned may be too strong a word, Instagram did apply what it calls a ‘sensitivity screen’ to the images, so that her followers could decide for themselves whether to look at them (it has since said this was applied in error and removed it).
In these vegan and veggie-obsessed times, it is understandable that not everyone will fancy goose koftas or wild boar cutlets for dinner.
And, yes, a photograph of a very rare, bleeding rib of venison (she shared that image on Facebook) will not be everyone’s cup of tea.
She claims people have become more extreme in their views on being a carnivore and ‘a lot of children out there don’t know that pork used to be a pig and beef used to be a cow!’ The hunter takes a cheeky picture with an unplucked pheasant and teases her followers ‘guess what’s for tea’
But graphically violent? Surely not. They are simply pictures of meat. And it’s meat that, Rachel stresses, comes from animals that have led natural lives, instead of being cooped up in horrendous conditions on factory farms.
‘It’s madness,’ she says. ‘People are becoming more extreme in their views. A lot of children out there don’t know that pork used to be a pig and beef used to be a cow!’
So Rachel has taken it upon herself to educate and ‘reconnect’ us all to nature, the countryside and the animals that feed us, whatever the backlash may be.
Which is why, this week, she is erecting vast, billboard-sized images of a very pink-looking muntjac open sandwich all around the UK, to promote her cookbook.
Rachel said she went vegetarian briefly after reading a pamphlet about pigs in terrible conditions but this did not last long as she went hunting with her father. She spoke about the first time she ate rabbit for dinner: ‘I was happy eating it because I knew where it had come from’
The first will go up in trendy Shoreditch — aka vegan central — in East London, which surely can’t be coincidence. (She’s not saying.)
‘It’s a really worrying sign of where society’s going if we are wrapping people so much in cotton wool that we’re not allowed to show them that what they’re eating used to be an animal, for fear of offending their sensitive side.’
Rachel was never really the sensitive sort. She grew up near Selby, in North Yorkshire, ferreting and hawking with her father (who worked in waste management and scrap metal) and looking after various animals — dogs, chickens, a pony, a pet fox, poorly hedgehogs — with her mother.
Always strong-minded, she briefly went vegetarian when she was seven, after reading a pamphlet about pigs in terrible conditions.
‘It was good of my mum,’ she says. ‘We were living hand-to-mouth, and it must have been hard enough bringing up three kids in a Portakabin without one suddenly declaring she was vegetarian.’
By the age of eight, Rachel had her own chopping board made from a tree stump where she skinned and butchered rabbits. She started working in the environmental sector after leaving school at 17
But it wasn’t to last. A keen dancer and gymnast, Rachel soon became anaemic. Her worried dad persuaded her to go hunting with him and his Harris’s hawk by bribing her with the promise of five new pets — ferrets, naturally — in the hope that she would get the bug.
‘We flushed a rabbit out with the ferrets and the hawk swooped,’ she says, eyes gleaming at the memory.
Little Rachel ate the rabbit for dinner. ‘I was happy eating it because I knew where it had come from.’
That was that. She was hooked.
By the time she was eight, she had her own chopping block made from a tree stump in the garden where she skinned and butchered rabbits with a hatchet, giving the meat to her mum and the bits and bobs to her beloved ferrets. Her idea of fun was chasing her squeamish friends around the garden with the innards until they begged for mercy. ‘I think that was my first hint that not everyone loved hunting,’ she says with a laugh.
She is to erect a billboard size image of a pink muntjac sandwich to celebrate the publication of her new cook book, next week
The self-professed animal lover, revealed that her teenage son has been eating his mother’s kills since the age of four. Pictured, posing with a kill of over 40 pigeons
The guns came much later, after the misspent teenage years when she went off-message, eating McDonald’s and all sorts, and after she had left school at 17, started work in the environmental sector and bought her own cottage with a large garden.
She was in her early 20s when her father handed her a gun and taught her to shoot clays.
She proved to be a natural and within a year was winning competitions. Since then, she has shot for Great Britain and was 2013 ‘side by side’ gun barrels champion.
But she didn’t kill anything for several years, until the rabbits and pigeons laid waste to her lettuce patch one day and she saw red.
‘I thought, “I’ve got a gun, why don’t I just use it?’’ she says. So out she went and shot a rabbit and a pigeon, skinned and dressed them, popped them in a pot and cooked them for dinner.
Then, she says: ‘It all came rushing back — the feeling you get from going outside your door, controlling a pest and then sitting down with your son to eat it for dinner!’
Rachel (pictured with a kill) asserts that vegetarians and vegans should regard her as an ally. She added: ‘We are not the enemy, we have a common ground’
Today, she shoots more than 95 per cent of the meat her family eats and says she, her 14-year-old rugby-playing son and her partner (who just happens to be a shooting coach) really enjoy spending time together, plucking and dressing the birds or jointing the venison.
Last year alone, as well as stalking deer, she shot and cooked more than 80 pheasants, 40 ducks and about 125 pigeons.
Anything else comes from a farm shop where she knows the meat’s provenance, unlike a lot of supermarket meat.
‘Most people today are used to going down a white, clinical supermarket aisle and getting a square of pink flesh, wrapped in plastic and more plastic, with no sign of where it came from’, she says.
‘People have become disconnected. So when they see a bird on my table they accuse me of bloodlust. They can’t make the link that it’s just food. It’s just my dinner.’
In recent years she has also become a sort of glamorous game ambassador, appearing in glossy hunting photoshoots, invariably with a dead animal or two, and always trying to get more women on board.
‘Everyone assumes that if you’re a hunter, you’re either a landed country gent or a gamekeeper — but there are so many female hunters now, especially in America,’ she says. ‘Just because you shoot, it doesn’t mean you have to be a caveman. I’m still a girl and I like to look nice.’
She insists that hunting need not be a costly hobby. ‘You can pick up a decent gun for about £400 — which sounds a lot, but if cycling is your thing and you buy a bike…’
Her guns cost a lot more than £400. She says she has two. One is a rifle — perfect for stalking deer.
‘There are six types of deer in the UK and they all have their own unique taste,’ she says. ‘But I love fallow deer. It’s just amazing.’
For everything else she uses a shotgun and bungs it all in the freezer, except the pigeons, which she prefers fresh: ‘They’re the most natural and abundant — they breed all year round, so there’s a constant free supply. And so, so healthy — high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol.’
Last year alone, as well as stalking deer, she shot and cooked more than 80 pheasants, 40 ducks and about 125 pigeons
While she hones her skills every weekend on clay pigeons — ‘I spend hours and hours practising because it’s vital to kill with one clean shot’ — Rachel will only grab her gun when the venison joints and pheasants are getting low in her two giant freezers because, like most field-to-fork advocates, she says she only shoots what she will eat.
Not that this insistence does anything to calm the detractors.
With the British hunting industry worth about £2 billion and five million acres actively conserved by shooting, there have long been bitter rows between the pro and anti-hunting factions.
She says hers are not the only Instagram posts to be censored.
‘It happens across the game community — fishmongers and butchers, especially deer butchery. Even a photo of a fishmonger’s counter has been censored,’ she adds.
She is not trying to turn anyone into a hunter, she says. She just wants people to be more tolerant of others’ choices and to show there is an alternative.
‘In the same way that intensive cattle farming isn’t the way forward, being vegan or vegetarian isn’t as environmentally friendly as people believe,’ she says. ‘But even the Government is promoting veganism and vegetarianism. It’s everywhere!’
Rachel has never been afraid of a confrontation with the ‘antis’, whom she describes as ‘paid thugs who don’t have a clue about animals and conservation’.
Over the years there have been so many run-ins that she is now secretive about where she and her family live, for security reasons.
‘We are all just careful,’ she says. ‘Very careful.’
Meanwhile, she eulogises to her Instagram followers about the delights of fallow deer (‘amazing, amazing, it’s such an underrated thing’), raves about the joy of pigeon salad, tells anyone who will listen that you should ‘never ever’ hang pheasants (because the gamey taste can be off-putting) and vows to keep fighting for her right to embrace it all.
‘I won’t stop eating game and I won’t stop hunting. I won’t stop promoting it and I won’t let my life be treated like a dirty little secret.’