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