I'd shot it about twenty minutes before and picked it up only to drop it at once, shocked by the swarm of fleas that were wriggling across its belly. I loathe fleas; I detest bugs of any description - mosquitoes, spiders, earwigs, woodlice - but fleas inspire a special horror for me. I picked it up by one paw and carried it another few yards and then I saw that the paw itself had its own lively colony of these insects - and I had to let it fall again. I waited a few minutes in the hope they'd flee the corpse - but when I looked again there were, if anything, even more of them.
Trying to grit my teeth, I picked it up and thumbed the pee out - then I dropped it again. Finally, I carried it to a fallen tree and laid it on the trunk; dozens of fleas were skipping off the body onto the bark and vanishing as they jumped away - bringing me to another shudder of nauseated disgust.
I waited - looking around, feeling like a fool and hoping that no cheerful dog-walker would happen by to find me by frozen beside a rabbit I couldn't bring myself to gut - but still they wriggled in the fur on its belly, still they writhed on its paws. I tried to stir them away by combing the fur with the blade of my knife and then with a stick; the shadows were lengthening around me as the sun went down.
Attempting to master myself, I sliced open its belly and - picking it up by the paws - flung it so that the guts flew out into a ditch behind the tree. Then I looked into the body of the rabbit: it was utterly crammed with small, white, semi-translucent larval tapeworm cysts: there seemed to be hundreds of them clinging in masses like bunches of grapes around the liver and the stomach.
I stood and looked at the rabbit I'd shot; I thought about my declared certainty that cooking will destroy any trace of tapeworm in rabbits; I thought about my snobbery towards supermarket shoppers who, I like to imagine, try to distance themselves from the visceral reality of meat production; I thought about the picture I hold of myself as an ethical hunter - my reluctance to waste food, my insistence that I'd only take the life of an animal if I was then going to eat it; I thought about all this - and then I picked up the dead rabbit, threw it into the ditch and walked home.