Monday, December 15, 2008

November 20, 2008 "A Vegetarian in Hunting Season"

In truth, I'm just a would-be vegetarian. Left to my own devices, I would rejoice in a diet of cheese, eggs, veggies, and dessert. But I cook and eat meat because I'm married to a man who truly would go into a decline if he didn't have some meat on a regular basis.


I prefer pork to beef, chicken to pork, and fish to chicken. And I like my animal protein cut into unrecognizable bits and sprinkled sparingly on top of pasta or rice. Put an anatomically-correct chicken leg on my plate, with its knee cartilage intact, and I'll just sip my wine and concentrate on the conversation, thank you very much.


So it was strictly in the spirit of supporting the community that I accompanied my husband to the village fire department's annual game dinner. This event, which heralds the opening of rifle season for deer and other quadrupeds, is so well attended that long lines form outside the fire hall. This year it was flurrying snow as we waited, but even so a fog of meat-saturated vapors enveloped us. You're in Vermont now, I said to myself, taking shallow breaths. You will remain at your husband's side and make nice with everyone you meet.


In no time at all, we were in front of steaming vats of meat, paper plate in hand. “How about some venison stew?” a burly fellow offered. “Some bear roast for you?” said his colleague. “Got some nice elk sausage here...” said the next. I smiled brightly and kept sidling down the line until I arrived at the turnip and squash section. Seeing my empty plate, the fireman in charge of veg (I wondered if he was being punished for something) gave me a double portion of each. Then I grabbed a piece of blueberry pie and joined my husband.


The next day, I heard shots around our house, and I got out the bright orange scarves and tied them around the dogs' necks. Even though our land is posted, we dare not walk in our woods for the next month or so. And that's too bad, because by the time the season's over there will be snow on the ground, and walking will be more difficult.


As I write, I can see “our” little herd of two does and two fawns grazing in the front field, getting the last of the green grass. Be careful, I want to tell them. Don't wander too far from the edge of the woods. You never know who's watching.


I don't much like game dinners, and I resent it that I can't walk in my own woods because of the threat of errant bullets. And those sweet-looking deer never fail to arouse my protective instincts. Nevertheless, I believe that hunting is a good thing, since it is the most humane way to procure meat for those who must have it--just think how the quality of life of wild game compares to that of cattle, pigs and chickens in industrial farms.


When I consider this, I feel a moral imperative to jump into a camouflage outfit, grab a rifle, and head into the woods to get for my spouse the meat he craves. But learning to shoot--not to mention learning to hunt and field-dress the carcass, and then lugging it home--sounds extremely difficult and time-consuming. Far more difficult and time-consuming, in my opinion, than it would be for my husband and the rest of the meat-eating world to learn to like tofu.


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