This weekend opens hunting season, and a friend suggested I put the dogs' blaze orange vests on, just in case. Gun hunting is not allowed in our square mile of town, only bow-hunting, which started a month ago. Nonetheless, caution is the better part of valor, as they say. I don't want to be one of those unfortunate stories in the newspaper. All four of us wore our vests today.
My feelings about hunting have gone through several phases in the course of time. Living in Maine, it is hard to feel entirely anti-hunting if you have any appreciation for history, tradition, the outdoors, and local culture. Every fall there are photos in the paper of some young person proudly posed with their first deer, or moose, or wild turkey. Autumn conversations with people in all walks of life get to the question - "Have you got your deer yet?"
During our first fall here in Maine, J's secretary at the hospital told him happily about a first time experience she'd had over the weekend. "I shot a deer in a dress and heels!" she said with a grin. She was ready to go to a wedding when a deer showed up in her back yard. One does not squander opportunity like that, I guess.
It is a rite of passage for many a young son with his dad, or a daughter (but frankly, not as common for women). They may save a rack of antlers for their wall, but the trophy is not the primary target for the vast majority of Mainers. They are shooting for food. A friend of mine just got a moose for the first time in 8 years. He's been trying to get a ticket in the annual lottery that allows you to hunt for a moose for that long, and finally got picked this year. He didn't get his moose until the last day, very happy, and will be eating a lot of moose all winter.
So there's my appreciation for the sport, the hunt, the tradition, the food supply. Still, the pictures of dead animals in the paper are kind of gross to me. I love to see living beasts in the forest, but the sight of their de-animated corpses repels me. It is only a visceral response, and I understand the contradictions in it. I like beef and chicken and pork, but I don't want to be a part of the slaughter. I DO like to buy meat that comes from humanely treated animals, so in that sense, a deer that has had a great life in the woods should be one of my top candidates.
This is an area where I clearly have some blinders on, and need to become more rational. I respect the choices of vegetarians and vegans, but I have no problem with humans consuming meat. We could get along without meat, but there is nothing unnatural about our eating it either. The objectionable part of meat-eating is the cruel treatment of animals and the vast expenditure of resources for supply and transport.
Though I have a freezer stocked with local beef from farmers I know in Maine, I am guilty of purchasing easy meat in the supermarket too. If I were truer to my own ideals, instead of buying a Stop and Shop chicken, I'd be out there trying to get my deer.