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BBC True North – The Last Rabbit Catcher (2019)

BBC True North 2019 The Last Rabbit Catcher

Steven McGonigal has made a highly unusual lifestyle choice. He has abandoned a career in the world of finance to pursue a childhood ambition – to become a professional rabbit catcher, employing only the traditional skills that he acquired as a child amid the sand dunes and woodlands of his native Magilligan.

Those skills include netting, trapping and shooting, and involve the use of ferrets and dogs, not to kill his prey, but to deliver them into his hands for swift and humane dispatch. He disdains modern pest control methods employing gas and poisons, which he regards as indiscriminate and destructive to the environment. It is important to him that all of his rabbits will end up in the food chain.

He is aware that he has embraced an uncertain future and what most people would regard as an outmoded career path. Yet he is doing what he feels comes naturally to him and meets all challenges with a cheerful optimism. So far, he will tell you, he has managed to fend for his wife and child and harbours no regrets about his decision. He also feels that he is providing a useful service to farmers, landowners and estates managers, whose land might otherwise be overrun and destroyed by unchecked rabbit populations.

The Last Rabbit Catcher introduces us to an almost bygone world and culminates with Steven at the Irish Game Fair at Shane’s Castle in Antrim, which he attends every year to educate and inform the masses about the methods and techniques he uses, and to extol the virtues of a way of life that is quickly becoming extinct.

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