Most people who know me would tell you I'm not a fan of hunting. To be honest, I'm, more often than not, not a big fan of hunters either. I know too many hunters that stand take pictures standing over beautiful, lifeless animals, smiling because they just shot a living creature for sport. "Man I killed a huge ______" this weekend. Congratulations, you're a killer. This has been my standard thought process when it comes to hunting.
My thinking has been challenged a bit lately through the paleo diet as well as a couple interesting things I've seen on television. A few months ago a show came on the travel channel called "The Wild Within" and then a show came on last night called "iCaveman." I watched them both out of curiosity and of course to see what perspectives they could offer me on the kind of lifestyle I'm trying to live. Both shows were, eh, ok, with their good and bad points. I'm not going to waste the time summarizing them completely, but a little background is probably necessary. In the Wild Within, the host is a modern man, living in Brooklyn, who is a life long hunter and outdoors man. He contends that we have lost our connection to our environment and our food, and for this reason he only eats meat which he himself kills and brings home to his family. This usually happens on vastly expensive hunting expeditions in far off ridiculously beautiful places, but I found it interesting. In iCaveman, 10 people set out to survive for 10 days in Colorado with nothing more than the resources available to Paleolithic man. The main pursuit of this show was to test if modern life actually gives us the mental and physical tools to survive like our ancestors did. The short answer was no, not really.
So, to the hunting. What both of these shows did that really challenged my perspective and made me think was the fact that on both of these shows, when they killed an animal, it was nothing like what I've seen from "typical" hunting shows my whole life. When they killed an animal, there was no "oh good shot, what a beautiful kill, oh man..." type reactions. In both cases, the kills were emotional, gut wrenching, even painful. There was a sense that what they did was actually what they did, they took a life to sustain their own. They weren't exhilarated by a new trophy; they were humbled and deeply moved by what they had done. Both shows also always had the hunters stalking and killing the animals, not setting up killing stations where animals had been trained to congregate and be ambushed. There were tears, heavy hearts, and healthy respect for the lives of the beautiful animals that they killed.
Seeing these things made me think a lot about the food I eat. I love meat, I've always loved meat, and I always will, but I realized that on a day in day out basis, I place very little connection between the meat I eat, and a living, breathing animal. I've always looked at hunters as cruel, cruel people, and some of them frankly are, but I think there is nothing as cruel as eating meat and not acknowledging what it is. Again, I don't think eating meat is wrong, I think it's wrong to eat meat and have no sense of what it means to eat meat. The truth is that in our modern food culture we don't see livestock, chickens, fish, and even some game as animals; they are a product, no different from a jar of peanut butter on the shelf. I used to take this perspective and form some sort of ill advised, self righteous position over hunting, and somehow made it less cruel, when in reality, it was crueler.
So do I want to be a big hunter now, I can't honestly say, but I can say that I feel a deep need to re-connect the bond between my food and what it really is. I don't know when this will happen, but I feel it's very important. I would still place trophy hunters, the guys who get some sort of thrill out of killing animals, a 12 on a 1-10 scale of worst scumbags around, but I believe that those who hunt to feed their families probably gain a healthier perspective than people like me have right now.
****This list of "responsible hunting" from huntright.org contains a lot of what I think is necessary for proper hunting. http://www.huntright.org/where-we-stand/responsible-hunting