Ray Mears: Eating witchetty grubs on TV is “disrespectful of the culture”

"It's rather like someone coming to Britain and saying, 'Eating a roast potato, isn't that weird?'"

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TV survivalist Ray Mears has spoken out against popular entertainment shows that put people into the wild to “overwhelm” them – a process he labelled a “massive injustice” because “one person may swim and the other may sink but the person who sinks shouldn’t be allowed to sink.” 

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His comments were made at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and allude to shows like Bear Grylls’ Mission Survive and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! on ITV.

In the past Mears has dismissed TV rival Grylls as a “showman” and a “boy scout” but it was I’m a Celebrity that he appeared to single out for criticism during his event last night, labelling the fetishising of the consumption of witchetty grubs as “disrespectful of the culture”.

He added: “It’s rather like someone coming to Britain and saying, ‘Eating a roast potato, isn’t that weird?’ The witchetty grub that the aboriginal people depend upon is a vital, important source of protein. It was a very important thing and it has a religious significance and so for us to go and make fun of that without showing any kind of respect is very disrespectful.”

In a wide-ranging discussion, Mears also came out in support of expensive game hunting, stating that while against cheap hunts, he’s “largely in favour” of higher-end shooting excursions. 

Asked for his views on hunting, the bushcraft expert replied: “It’s a very big subject so there are different types of game hunting. There is the lower end of game hunting – cheap hunts that we see on television – and there’s the expensive game hunting where people spend a fortune. I’m largely in favour of the expensive hunts because if we don’t put a value on wildlife, we won’t have wildlife – particularly in Africa.”

He went on to elaborate on his views, explaining his opinion that expensive game hunting creates a purpose for animals that ensures their existence. “I’m a pragmatist. I’m not really interested in the hunter, I’m interested in the animals, and there are places in Africa where you can go and photograph the wildlife and see it up close and the local population make money from that and there’s a value in the wildlife and everyone’s happy.

“But there are also places where there’s wild game but tourists don’t want to go there because it’s not beautiful – it’s ugly or scruffy and if there’s wildlife there it will be destroyed. So if there’s a hunter who’s prepared to spend a fortune to go there and the hunting is properly organised so largely the hunters are shooting an excess in population or animals who live past their sell by date in terms of breeding then I’m in favour of that. But I would say this is a situation we should review in 50 years time and see where we’re at.”

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Asked if he was a conservationist rather than a moralist, Mears replied: “We must put the animal’s welfare first and sometimes that means that hunting is part of the solution. The big problem we have at the moment is the conservationists and hunters don’t talk to each other. There’s a massive mistrust and caught in between is the game. We need to be able to talk to each other pragmatically about solutions to problems we face.”