Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How I became a Bambi killer

I've been an apologetic omnivore for years - I eat meat, but I always feel vaguely guilty about it. I think the bottom line is that I'm too lazy and too picky to go vegetarian. If I could know that all the animals we eat were raised and killed humanely, I wouldn't have much guilt at all. Yes, they're all cute(ish) and they all have faces and had mothers, but dammit, we evolved to eat their delicious asses. Okay, that didn't sound right. Anyway, I eat meat and feed meat to my kid and try not to think about the specifics of how it got to my table.

One of my new coworkers fishes and hunts regularly, not just as an occasional weekend thing. As a slightly pretentious eco-conscious environmentally crusadery college student, I would've been horrified. Guns! Killing animals! The horror! But as a much more mellow adult, more power. I honestly have no problem with hunting and then feeding your family with the prey. To each his own, right? When autumn rolled around I found out that once said coworker gets enough deer in the freezer for his family, he'll take requests to be put on the deer waiting list. I had no intention of putting myself on the list, but then our boss pretty much said, "Oh, have you tried venison? You have to get on the list. You're on the list!" and told the hunter to put me on the list. I sheepishly told MB that we were apparently on the hook for a hundred bucks of deer processing, and was surprised when he did a victory dance right on the spot. It seems a coworker of his has been bringing in venison summer sausage to share and MB is a fan.

I had some doubts about actually being able to eat a deer. They're so cute and frolicsome! They're harmless spindly-legged vegetarians! They have big soulful eyes and big soft ears! But sometimes you have to try new things, right? And as another coworker pointed out, you can't get more free range or organic than an animal that lives its life in the wild, doing what it was meant to do. That deer is a deer until the second the hunter takes it. It doesn't get herded through feed lots or run through a slaughterhouse or penned or abused. If the hunter is conscientious, it's a deer one minute and dinner the next. So I left my name on the list and three days later, I got the call and we had a deer. I had to go with my dad to pick it up and take it to the butcher, and it was a bit visceral to come literally face to face with the animal that would be our food.

When we ate the first steaks from that deer tonight, I did pause for a moment and remember what it looked like before, what it was before. I wondered if I'd actually be able to go through with eating it. I have a hard time facing large portions of impersonal pieces of meat, after all. It's the funniest thing, though -- knowing what I know, seeing what I've seen, understanding the balance at play -- for the first time in my life, I met my dinner and was able to eat it without guilt.

Reading:  Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed (which I totally recommend!)

Playing:  Yuletide Beat and Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets by Los Straitjackets


  1. Anonymous7:24 PM

    OK, Getting on the soapbox....

    How, exactly, does one "humanely" kill? And for every "organic free range" deer you may eat, millions of animals are still slaughtered every year.

    Feeding them leaves a carbon footprint. Transporting them to slaughter adds to it. The amounts of antibiotics and other chemicals they are force fed should be enough to make you ill to imagine. And then the waste... ever wonder how many thousands of pounds of meat are thrown away in stores every day?

    Also, we may have "evolved" to eat animals for survival. But look at your teeth. Do you have sharp fangs that can rip through prey and tear off chunks of flesh?
    Look at your hands and feet - do you have sharp claws or talons to catch and hold prey?

    Yes. Humans can eat meat. But we don't need to. I would suggest you watch a really good documentary called "Forks over knives" which shows the benefits of a meat free diet.

  2. I fully agree that the modern "factory farm" system is horribly screwed up and utterly unsustainable. I wish I had the income to only buy organic free range meat, but I don't. Maybe someday we'll be able to remove ourselves from the loop, either through the money to buy sustainably-farmed meat or the ability to rely more extensively on wild game and locally-farmed foods. I can say with some certainty that I'll most likely never become a vegetarian, though I have been wrong before.