The special hunt in our area is underway. As I sit and type this, our quiet dirt road is hazy with dust kicked up from the dozens of vehicles that have been traversing it this morning. They are here for one reason, and one reason only…to hunt pheasants.
Most of the pheasants they pursue grew up 300 yards out my back door. They were raised to be stocked birds. They were raised to be released to the wild, to supplement and protect wild bird populations, to provide a hunting opportunity.
Pheasant hunting in this part of the world is sacrosanct. It is a ritual my own father enjoyed, on these very acres, over thee decades ago. I’ve answered phone calls from parents, grandparents and even great grandparents who plan to share the hunt with the younger generation. Hunting brings in much needed money to our local economy. Hunters come and stay in our motels, buy our gas, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores. And license fees pay for the salaries of wildlife professionals who live in the area…folks like my husband, the local game warden and habitat and construction personnel. Our income, in turn, is also spent locally. We eat and shop and send our daughter to school here, as do my husband’s coworkers. It’s an important circle, one that helps keep small towns everywhere afloat through some lean times.
On an intellectual level, I understand this, the role these pheasants play in society. I support this role, or I would never have gone to work for a wildlife agency or married a wildlife industry professional. As a carnivore, I know that the meat I put in my body comes from another living creature, and it’s life is sacrificed for my own. Often times, it is a creature that died at my own hands. I don’t hide behind the anonymity of a grocery store or some delusional notion meat comes only from animals who have lived a long, healthy and happy life and are ready to die so that we can eat them. The reality of it is just not that pretty.
But today, a part of me feels as gray as the skies above. Because at my core, I love animals. I’ve enjoyed watching these birds grow and change and just…be.
Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?
So today, I’m conflicted. These birds and hunting provide our livelihood, and for that I am grateful. But I feel complicit in what will ultimately be the inevitable demise of many.
O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth…
It’s a moral conflict that I think anyone who raises production animals or hunts feels at least once in their lives. And probably some animal lovers who eat meat or consume other related byproducts feel it as well. The omnivore’s paradox, if you will. For me, I feel it each time I’ve taken an animal to market or pulled the trigger. We spend months, sometimes years, caring for these animals. We keep livestock fed, clean, dry and healthy. We conserve land, improve habitat and spend money on law enforcement to keep wildlife populations thriving. The end result, however, is they wind up dying to provide food for our bodies.
Ay, there’s the rub.
But in that contradiction, I believe, is our humanity. Contemplation. Compassion. Wonder. Questions. Understanding. An evolved level of consciousness. Even guilt.
And today, I guess I’m okay with just being human. No more, no less. A little sad, but understanding. Just, human.