An­i­mal at­trac­tion

Whenever veg­gie Becky feels like a piece of meat, she gets her scalpel out...

Real People - - QUICK READS - Becky Dick, 25, Stroud, Glos

Scan­ning the counter, I re­jected the chicken, beef and ham baguettes and in­stead grabbed a cheese of­fer­ing. Eigh­teen months ago, I’d de­cided to stop eat­ing meat. Any­thing that walked or flapped was now on my ‘for­bid­den’ list. I can’t stand the way some an­i­mals are raised for slaugh­ter, cooped up in tiny pens. But if I’m hon­est, the main rea­son is my skin. A mate sug­gested I stop eat­ing meat to try to blitz my acne.

And it worked, so now no meat passes my lips – apart from fish, so that makes me a pescatar­ian as op­posed to a veg­e­tar­ian.

But half an hour later, af­ter my veg­gie, so­cially con­scious lunch, I picked up a scalpel...

Poised, I worked out the best point to push in the blade.

Press­ing it in, skin and fur peeled away, blood trick­ling onto my work­bench.

I then set about sep­a­rat­ing the rab­bit’s head from its body.

The al­ready dead rab­bit that is... I may be a woke, meat-is-murder pescatar­ian at lunch, but the rest of the day I’m a taxi­der­mist, busily mount­ing dead an­i­mals!

When I tell peo­ple what I do com­pared to what I eat, they usu­ally ask, ‘Isn’t that a con­tra­dic­tion?’

‘Not at all,’ I ex­plain.

It’s not like I kill the an­i­mals in the first place – most come to me as road­kill. I won’t work with any­thing that’s been illegally shot.

As a girl, I’d been fas­ci­nated by the still-life dis­plays of our feath­ered and furry friends in mu­se­ums.

I mar­velled at the frozen forms, and went on to study dec­o­ra­tive arts at Not­ting­ham Trent Univer­sity.

‘You want to what?’ said my mum, Jo, shocked when I said I wanted to do a place­ment with a taxi­der­mist in 2014.

My boyfriend Nim was more open-minded.

‘I think I’ve got your first spec­i­men,’ he said, weeks later, hand­ing me a dead squir­rel he’d found on a tram line.

‘Just the job,’ I said, plac­ing ‘Steve’, as we called him, in the freezer next to the fish fin­gers.

On the morn­ing of my place­ment, I took Steve in to David, the taxi­der­mist who’d show me the ropes.

I was sur­prised to dis­cover that an­i­mals aren’t ‘stuffed’.

The head and fur are taken off and draped over a foam mould in the shape of the an­i­mal.

‘It’s like pulling a sock off!’ I grinned to David.

Hav­ing steeled my stom­ach with Youtube videos, I gin­gerly set to work skin­ning and mount­ing Steve.

It was gory work, I won’t lie, but once Steve was re­stored to his former glory, I felt a huge sense of sat­is­fac­tion.

He was now a work of art. These days I’m a qual­i­fied taxi­der­mist, work­ing one day a week on an­i­mals, while pay­ing the bills with my dig­i­tal learn­ing co-or­di­na­tor job at a col­lege.

The big­gest an­i­mal I’ve worked on so far is a bad­ger, and my dream is to pre­serve an ex­otic tou­can. And the most fid­dly?

Pesky pi­geons: their skin is too del­i­cate and those flip­pin’ feath­ers go ev­ery­where!

Rather like my lunches, meat in my world gets stuffed.

I’m fas­ci­nated by still-life dis­plays of birds

Me at work in my stu­dio

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