Highlands & Islands

The gamekeeper who was vegetarian for 18 years

Megan Rowland Image copyright Megan Rowland
Image caption Megan Rowland's work in land management involves deer stalking

A woman who grew up a vegetarian has told how she has ended up working as a gamekeeper.

Megan Rowland does deer stalking as part of her job in the Highlands.

She said: "I was brought up a vegetarian, for 18 years. I never knew anything different."

After eating meat from livestock raised on crofts run by her parents and a friend, she said she felt it was only right she learned the processes behind the food on her plate.

Megan told BBC Radio Scotland's Mornings with Stephen Jardine how an ambition to have a job in the outdoors also played a large part in her life choices.

Eighteen months into a degree course, she decided to quit university to gain work experience.

Image copyright Megan Rowland
Image caption Megan says her work also allows her to continue her interest in wildlife

She said: "I worked at RSPB Scotland, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust and Scottish Wildlife Trust and did various bits and pieces over three years.

"A colleague took up work as a deer stalker, and I had recently taken up eating small amounts of meat as a friend of mine had a croft and my parents had a croft too.

"So I thought 'if I am going to eat meat then I want to see the process myself'.

"I went out deer stalking, had a moral dilemma, and shot my first stag.

"It changed my whole perspective on something that growing up had been a very emotive issue, that is still emotionally charged and that people feel very strongly about, as I did and still do.

"But my perspective changed on what happens and how it happens. Deer stalking is very clinical process. You are harvesting a wild animal and it is putting healthy food on the table.

"Death (for the deer) is as quick as it can be," said Megan, adding that stalking involved making sure the deer selected to be shot were unaware of the stalkers so to "minimise stress".

Image copyright Megan Rowland

She said wild deer were managed for different reasons, including to control their numbers to prevent damage to peatlands in Caithness and Sutherland and forests in other parts of Scotland.

But she said her work also allowed her to continue her interest in other wildlife, including observing birds of prey and insects.

Megan is one of the few women in Scotland doing the job that she does, and has been in the Women in Wellies initiative which aims to encourage more women to consider work in land management in the Cairngorms.

She said she felt accepted in a line of work dominated by men, though added: "It does take some people by surprise to have a wee lassie taking them out stalking."

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