SQUIRREL meat is staying on the menu by popular demand despite outrage from animal rights activists, a Crouch End retailer has said.

Andrew Thornton started selling the woodland animals at his successful shop Budgens, in the Broadway, Crouch End, four months ago as part of his green agenda.

The issue sparked controversy from animal rights activists who accused him of profiting from a "wildlife massacre".

But despite the furore, curious shoppers eager to sample a bit of squirrel, which cost £3 or £4, have flocked to Budgens.

Mr Thornton said: "Since the story hit the headlines, we've had a lot of interest who want to try squirrel for themselves. If we'd had any in stock, we could've sold hundreds.

"I maintain my position. I think eating battery farmed chickens is more cruel than eating squirrel. Squirrels are going to get culled by farmers who do see them as a menace. So what is wrong with eating them? They live on a healthy organic diet of nuts and berries and they are pretty tasty – particularly in a stew."

Animal welfare group Vegetarians International Voice for Animals (Viva) said the culling of squirrels, for whatever reason, was inhumane.

Juliet Gellatley, Viva founder and director said: "Culls of thousands of grey squirrels by so-called 'conservation groups' to boost populations of red squirrels are irrational, inhumane and destined to fail, so it is very sad that Budgens are allowing profit to be made from wildlife massacre."

She added: "If this store is attempting to stand out from the crowd by selling squirrel, the only message they are giving out is that they are happy to have the blood of a beautiful wild animal on their hands for the sake of a few quid."

Mr Thornton said he did not stock the squirrels to order, but when they were available using an unnamed supplier from an Essex farm.