There may be hope yet
By Darren Marcy
STAFF WRITER | November 24,2013
Over the course of about a week and a half recently, I was reminded of something in which I firmly believe and even had it reinforced in my feeble little brain.
It started with my attendance at two presentations at Green Mountain College where I listened to well-respected writers Tovar Cerulli and Jim Sterba give talks about wildlife and associated topics.
That followed with a trip to Jim Harding’s class: “Hunting: History, Ethics, and Management.”
A few days later I was at a game supper in Pawlet, and it all came together the next day at home with my wife and our daughters in our family room.
How did all of these things tie together?
Welcome to my life.
Let’s start with Sterba, who spoke about his book “Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds.”
There simply isn’t space to even give a decent synopsis of Sterba’s presentation or his book so I encourage you to read Sterba and Cerulli’s books. If you have any interest in these subjects, they’re both worth your time and money.
Sterba talks about how we have done such a good job of recovering wildlife populations, many of which were at the brink a little more 100 years ago, to the point that today they are flourishing.
At the same time, we have spread like blobs (my word) across the map as sprawl spills out of cities and into wildlife habitat.
“More people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in America than anywhere on the planet at any time in history,” Sterba says.
Which is good, unless, as he says, “you are one of 4,000 drivers who will hit a deer today, your child’s soccer field is carpeted with goose droppings, coyotes are killing your pets, the neighbor’s cat has turned your bird feeder into a fast-food outlet, wild turkeys have eaten your newly planted seed corn, beavers have flooded your driveway, or bears are looting your garbage cans.”
On top of that, fewer people are connected to nature. We watch it on TV and read about it on the Internet while sending donations to protect it.
We are, as Sterba says, “Nature Fakers.”
“Sprawl man has gotten out of the predation business,” Sterba said. “He doesn’t hunt deer or allow others to hunt on his land either. Huge swaths of deer habitat have been put off limits to the most effective predator of deer.”
Fast forward four days and Cerulli is in town talking about his book, “The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance.”
Cerulli is from Vermont and tells the unique tale of becoming a vegan, only to return to being an omnivore, to deciding to become a hunter.
“Hunting was incomprehensible to me,” Cerulli said. “Meat eating was incomprehensible, but hunting was especially.”
But, after returning to a lifestyle that included meat, he saw the impacts we all have on the land including agriculture to support a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Pesticides, land clearing, mechanized farming. Even at organic farms, they were shooting deer and smoke-bombing woodchucks.
So when he returned to eating meat, he decided he wanted to be part of the process of procuring it.
“I decided if I was going to be eating these creatures, I needed to be involved in it in some way,” Cerulli said. “It seemed important not to just go to the supermarket and buy meat.”
And hunting, he said, was also a way to deepen his relationship with where he lived.
Cerulli said he struggled with his first kill and wasn’t sure he would ever do it again.
As anybody who has killed an animal knows, it’s not pretty. In some cases, it can be horrifying to witness.
But it’s part of the process and watching an animal die will connect you to your food like nothing else will.
Cerulli says one of the definitions of Mindfulness is: “attentive awareness of the reality of things.”
“Eating can cultivate that,” Cerulli said.
Fast forward again, two days, and I’m standing in Harding’s class in front of a group of students that don’t fit the stereotype I had created for them.
There was a camouflage cap or two, and some dreadlocks, but most of these people just looked like, well, young folks.
They were attentive, respectful, thoughtful and seemed honestly interested in discussing some ethical aspects of the hunt. If not, they faked it well, and I appreciated it.
Fast forward two more days and I realized that, at least for a few of them, they weren’t faking it.
I was at a wild game supper in Pawlet and a young lady from that class came up to me and said hello. I was honored she would do that, and somewhat surprised to see these students there.
But I realized, these students were living what they believed in. I can’t speak for them, and don’t want to put words in their mouths, but I want to believe that they, as young folks who are sick of the “stuff” this world is throwing at them, are seeking deeper meaning in things. They want to be connected to their food.
They want healthy, organic, locavore, lean meat that isn’t pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones in feedlots across the country, or maybe even a different country, and then shipped thousands of miles to your store where it’s wrapped in cellophane.
I would think we all would want what hunting offers. It’s just that a lot of us don’t like hunting, because we’re not connected to the land. Because we’re nature fakers. We like our meat showing up in cellophane so we don’t have to be part of it like Cerulli desperately needed to be.
And the end of that night, the good folks in Pawlet sent me home with a to-go container of deer, bear and moose meat.
The next day, I got it out of the fridge and heated up some of it.
I live in a household of nonhunters. More accurately, I live with three animal rights activists. They don’t like hunting.
I asked them to try the meat. They knew what it was and at first balked, but I convinced them to at least try it.
All of them tried at least two types of meat. And they liked it.
My wife ate quite a bit and my older daughter ate multiple bites of each type of meat.
They both admitted it was good.
My 7-year-old just couldn’t get over what she was eating, although she admitted it was good after a couple of bites.
There we sat. Three anti-hunters and me, eating three different types of wild game meat — and liking it.
Maybe there is hope.