May 30, 2009

Only squirrels for you, Smoky

Flatcoat Kaleb fetches dinner. Photo by Sara... on Flickr.

If there were a club around here like San Francisco's Bull Moose Hunting Society, I'd sign up in a heartbeat. Here's how they roll:

The Bull Moose Hunting Society, a hunting club and wild game cooperative based in San Francisco, connects “city folk eager to gain intimacy with the capture and slaughter of the animals they eat.” The society helps soft-fingered newbies through the hunting license process, advises on equipment purchases (including a rifle), and teaches how to track and shoot game, clean a carcass in the field, and butcher meat in the kitchen. Members don’t have to hunt to eat the wild game, either: modeled on systems of raw milk distribution, the Bull Moose meat share means that if members go out to hunt on the weekend (for which they pay extra), everyone else gets a cut of the kill. [Source: The Ethicurean.]
Hogs, we haz them here in California, and wild hogs are what the Bull Moose Society hunts. Also [as I've mentioned before]: there is no better locavore than a good hunter. From a great little essay in the NY Times:
[I]t might be better to relabel [game meat] as free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat. [Source]
Kudos to the SF Chronicle site for publishing the original article on the Bull Moose crew. Can't help but wonder what the comments will look like. No, seriously. Nothing like a whompin' economic downturn to make hunting for dinner a bit more, well, palatable.

I've always been OK with ethical hunting. When I was a kid one of my favorite authors was Ernest Thompson Seton, who wrote in one of his stories: "No wild animal dies of old age. Its life has soon or late a tragic end." And how tragic: eaten alive by predators; dead of starvation, or heat, or drowning or parasite infestation; killed by infection after an injury — no wild animal dies of old age. I think of this whenever I hear an animal-rights proponent say that "our goal is to end animal suffering."

No, it isn't.

I think the goal of animal rights extremists is to sever as completely as possible the relationship between people and nature: to take nature off our radar, so that when we visualize "animal suffering" we won't think of tarantula hawks or Battle at Kruger, we'll think only of puppy mills and factory farms. Puppy mills and factory farms are Very Bad Things, but no reason to look at nature and attempt to remove humans from the equation. I don't think it's a coincidence that the people most familiar with wilderness and wild animals tend not to be vegetarians. And many of the people who know and love nature best are hunters.

I should clarify that trophy hunting has always creeped me out. And idiots and drunks blasting away at anything that moves? Pass the barf bag. But note: factory farms damage the environment a bazillion times more than modern-day trophy hunters and fools with guns. And I hate when a dog-killing PETA type calls someone a murderer for shooting an elk each autumn to feed his family. I'll say it again: if you want "free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat," then you should think about hunting that meat for yourself, and respect those who already take the trouble.
Like all local product, it takes on a significance. You need to learn to cook it well because one of your friends got up on a cold cold morning and went out, shot this animal, then hauled it back to the truck on his own back (or in the case of Shannon, on her own back).

And so, you learn a new skill. You make a few mistakes, but you ask around, you get recipes from people, and a couple of years into it, the concept of making tacos from ground antelope instead of ground beef has become so ordinary that you’re startled when your friends back in that city you left are shocked that you’re cooking with game.[Source]
Say it with me: free-range, grass-fed, organic, locally produced, locally harvested, sustainable, native, low-stress, low-impact, humanely slaughtered meat.

Related posts:
Living Small in Montana: What’s in your freezer? [A fave from The Ethicurean]
Food safety posts from this blog

The following blogs include posts on hunting:
Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
NorCal Cazadora
The Hog Blog
Operation Delta Duck
Home Range
Regal Vizsla


Anthony said...

So what percentage of hunters do you think are the "shoot an elk to feed the family" hunters vs. "shoot something 'cuz it's fun and manly" hunters?

jayjenjo said...

Most of the families I know who have members who hunt only kill game they will eat or will giveaway the meat to friends, family and sometimes charitable organizations.

And they use and eat far more of the critter than most omnivorous people would consider eating.

Most are not hunting for subsistence, but the meat is appreciated and used. They pay the state handsomely in many cases in terms of licensing fees paid to Fish and Game.

Seeing some of the incredible wetlands restoration paid for by Ducks Unlimited and similar organizations, some of it in my backyard, the value to the overall ecosystem provided by ethical hunters is immense.

Luisa said...

I LOL'ed at Anthony's comment, since I'm so used to "pit bull owners are all creeps and imbeciles trying to compensate for their tiny weenies" blah blah blah. [You do know I'm a mild-mannered female schoolteacher, right?]

Topic: the hunters I have known [not many, so it's hardly a representative sample] all cooked and ate the game they killed.

Chaz said...

I know hunters who make it a point to take a buck with a trophy rack if they can, but no matter what they shoot, they EAT IT.
Even a trophy hunter will find that someone in the hunting party will take the meat if they don't want it, and in Alaska if you shoot an animal you MUST take the meat out before taking ANY of the trophy parts such as the horns or hide.
The truth is that the hunting culture and the laws and practices governing it are very much aimed at making good, practical use of the animals harvested, and waste is frowned upon by virtually all hunters.

jayjenjo said...

You might like to have this in your tool box