• A good knife is essential. Make sure your knife is clean and sharp before carefully packing it away with your hunting gear.
• Specialized gutting knives are good for inexperienced hunters as they reduce the risk of puncturing the gut [Editor’s Note: or severing the tendons in your fingers!].
• Take a clean carcass bag or cheese cloth to protect the meat from flies, dirt, grass and other potential contaminants that you don’t want to end up eating.
• Alcohol-based hand cleaner is useful for sanitizing your hands when soap and water aren’t available. They can also be used to clean your knife and other equipment.” – New Zealand Hunting Guide
"Without a sense of humor, you’re better off dead" " — Roger Rabbit
This morning, after a short swim and a long latte, I decided it was time for the hardware store. The girl at the juice place drew me a napkin map and I went straight from there, sandy feet and all. I walked in the automatic glass doors armed with a measurement conversion application on my i-phone and a penciled list pinched from ‘huntinglife.com’. I decided to ignore the two pornographic wet spots my bikini had made on the front of my shirt and the fact that my bum hung out of my too-small beach shorts, hoping that if I did the store staff might do the same. I made it in unnoticed and bee-lined it to the back.
The stakes are easy to find, conveniently arranged in the garden section. Metal or plastic? Both. Then, wire cutters – cheap ones, but good enough for last minute repairs in the field. So far so good. I add a measuring tape and some trash bags—off list. Last stop: twine. Looking, looking; then, NABBED! The large, older gentlemen from behind the counter finds me. “Can I help?” “Twine” doesn’t seem to translate. He says he doesn’t have any but I figure it’s my fault. I rack my brain for another word for twine. At this point I realize that he has noticed my fairly obvious guilty conscience and seedy attempts to avoid eye contact. He looks from my list to my flip flops to my basketful of body-disposal supplies. “What is it for?” Shit. Shit, shit, shit. I try to come up with a story. I look in my basket: Wire cutters + wire + trash bags + stakes = a horse’s head in your bed? Come on, think! Too much red wine with the Thai takeout last night – I’ve got nothing. I fold under pressure. I look at him as apologetically as I can. “I’m going to catch a bunny.” I’m such an asshole. I look down at my hands, embarrassed, and wait for him to call someone and for that someone to take me away.
“Oh.” Pause. “With a snare?” Uh-oh. I knew this was stupid. I shake my head, just a little – not enough to be dishonest but enough to cast some doubt, then sneak a look around the perimeter for bee bee guns, or pellet guns, or any guns for that matter – I’d have gladly bought anything that seemed like a rational rabbit killing tool to save face. I briefly consider ditching the basket and running out the front. “Well, I guess you could try nylon but I think you’d do better with thin rope. You don’t want it to stretch” he says, unmoved. Classic. Really? Is it really the case that an American tourist fresh from a one-woman wet t-shirt contest on a killing spree is no big surprise? He asks me where I’m going to set my snares. I tell him. Another bad idea: totally not private land. I ask him what he thinks. He shakes his head and starts walking towards another aisle. I follow. I’m sweating and probably wear a nervous wince. As he rounds the corner he launches into a diatribe about his garden; how frustrated he is; the various methods he’s tried; that he thinks about killing those damned rabbits all day at work and when he gets home they’ve eaten his last head of lettuce; that he doesn’t care about even his own objections to poison he’s had it up to here and his wife is pissed and he hates to do it but he’s giving in to the 1080 and there’s a town hall meeting tonight on the Rabbit Extermination Program for the area and he and the missus are going and do I care to join? For a split second I consider it, but then I chase him down the hole. I tell him I’m planning to eat my bunny. A small rise, one eyebrow. He hands me the rope. He rubs his chin. “They’re good in stews,” he says – then he walks back to his counter. I think I like it here.
I pile the goods in front of Mr. Fudd. As he’s ringing me up, I notice a bit of shiny red plastic out of the corner of my eye: Judge Doom’s gloves. The ultimate barrier between me and my reservations! An impenetrable crimson barricade to block the unmentionable! Wait—is this cheating??? Who cares. They go up to my elbows and they are coated in PVC. I grab them off the rack and put them on the counter. I last a whole two seconds, then burst into uncontrollable, maniacal giggling. I am mortified.
As a kid it was so simple: Bugs good, Elmer bad. Good guy vs. bad guy. As an adult things seldom remain so black and white. There’s almost always a bit of ambivalence about who the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guys are. In popular culture Hitler is the standard for pure evil and Ghandi for pure good but the spectrum in between has every shade, not to mention the fact that (though it in no way forgives him) Hitler was reputedly a great guy in person – the sort of fellow you’d love to have a beer with, to use the parlance of our times – and (though it in no way diminishes him) Ghandi was reputedly hard to work for. In my present Elmer V. Bugs conundrum and in Bugs’ favor, it’s awkward to be associated with a civilization that simultaneously tends toward a policy preference for native animals and a policy preference for non-native humans. Each preference has had its moments of inhumanity, and, at least in the case of the latter, monstrosity. Even if the only opposition between the two preferences is tropic it still deserves a bit of consideration. Insofar as we are capable of reflection, capable of a rational determination of boundaries and definition of right and wrong (or good and bad), our treatment of animals deserves consideration alongside our treatment of people.
So…what to do with those pesky wabbits??? Next to my (canvas) bag of tools, I am in need of some definition. I start with my central question: Is it ethical to eat meat? To which there are at least two subsets:
I. Is it ethical to eat meat?
a. If so, how?
b. If so, what?
These, in and of themselves, have their own parameters which blend together at various points. I.E.:
I. Is it ethical to eat meat?
a. If so, how?
i. Gun, snare, stake, axe…
ii. Organic, not organic; kosher, not kosher; halal, not halal; invasive v. native; wild v. domesticated
iii. Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Vegan, Anti-lactose, No pork, etc.
iv. Working conditions, minimum wage standards, gender inequalities, shipping distances, shipping practices, land ownership/ exploitation…
b. If so, what?
i. Goat not dog, shark not whale, cow not horse (sometimes), kangaroo not koala…
ii. (Mixed with how): Freerange v. Not, Antibiotics v. Not, Organic v. Not, Local v. Not, Farmed v. Wild, heart not lungs, liver not brain (sometimes), muscle not fat (not usually)…
iii. Cost, availability, in season vs. not in season…
So in many ways, ‘a’ and ‘b’ are the same question. Of course, ‘how’ and ‘what’ can pale in the face of ‘how much’, specifically, at the check-out counter. Then tack on ‘status’. I find myself strategically placing the Chinese broccoli on top of the low low priced (and fat!) kangaroo I buy in the market, for fear that it is not a ‘cool’ meat. Or at least not a meat of the rich and superior, like fancy game or grass fed slow massaged bovine bottom….more in line with the mutton, minced beef, the tough, no-longer-laying chickens of the proletariat. I buy it anyway and I feed it to my guests. In Australia, there are no native ‘hoof’ed animals, some natives tell me over cocktails. So the cows destroy the top soil. Not so with the kangeroos—they are abundant, good for the land and good for the barbeque. Conveniently, farmers hate them. Pass the chutney. Which brings us back to the bunnies. How important is it to eat the right meat in the right way? What is right?
Well, bollocks to that…I have a snare to build.