Regan the Hunter

Regan the Hunter

Her 1st Moose

I just had to post this picture of my daughter with her ‘first moose.’  When she texted me this picture I have to admit I had mixed feelings.  On one hand I wanted to be proud of her but on the other, I wondered how she could possibly shoot an animal. When I shared these feelings with my youngest daughter she had an interesting reply.  She said that in essence because I eat meat, fish and poultry I do kill animals.  I contribute to their death by consuming them, I just depersonalize the process.  Really?  I knew that.  I mean here I am Miss Master in Ecoliteracy: Food Security and Sustainability and I am questioning my daughter’s food ethics.  I had to work through this.

Now that I think of it, perhaps Regan is able to hunt because she is vey aware of the ethics of food.  I have always been unhappy with the industrial food model and we have discussed it at length.  My kids grew up on a city lot but we always kept a few laying hens so we could have eggs from chickens that we knew had been able to scratch and peck in the yard and were fed organic, all vegetable laying pellets and our kitchen compost.  We even bathed our chickens and fed them hot leftover oatmeal sometimes. They loved it. When the chickens got old and were not very good layers anymore I would give them to a friend who was a chicken farmer and he would let them roam with his hens and die of old age.  I used to tell the kids ” the girls were off to the retirement farm.’

A dilemma I faced in raising chickens was what to do with the roosters?  Because we lived in the city, it was against the bylaws to keep roosters.  The kids wanted to raise chicks and so we would inevitably get more roosters out of a hatch than we did hens.  At first, I would just give them away but as time went on I guess I thought more about what I was doing when I would buy chickens already butchered in a bag from a farmer and wonder why I was doing it when I could be eating my own roosters.  Again, I was disconnecting in order to protect my sensibilities.

Eventually, I decided that I would be able to have our roosters butchered at an abattoir as long as I brought them in a box, and returned later to pick them up all bagged and looking like I had just bought them. So, that is what I did with the roosters but I didn’t tell the kids until after we had consumed them.  That was also me being dishonest with myself.

As the kids got older and joined 4-H they eventually learned all about animal husbandry and about raising animals for food.  One of the categories in 4-H is showing a ‘market lamb,’ which means that not only is the lamb judged in the ring but also after it has been butchered.  Yikes.  That was a tough one for me but it didn’t seem to bother the kids much.

When my son got to be a teenager he decided to use the money he had raised cleaning chicken barns to purchase a cow.  He really wanted to raise a cow and breed it so that he could sell the calf to raise more funds and purchase another animal.  He always wanted to be a farmer and so he was getting serious about gaining experience.  We agreed to the cow, which he boarded up the road at an old farm.  The owner was amazing to my son and  gave him such a deal keeping his cow on a beautiful piece of land where it was able to eat grass along with his herd and be fed their own hay through the winter.  We visited the cow often and as the year progressed we got excited about the arrival of a calf in the spring.  But alas, the joke was on us.  Being inexperienced in the ways of pregnant cows, it took a visit from the vet to help us realize that our cow was not ‘very overdue,’ she simply was not pregnant. We realized this meant that she must be fat.

Upon this news my son decided that she would need to be butchered so that he could buy a Hereford calf and that he was not going to be in the business of selling calves.  He decided that it would be far more suitable for him to raise a calf all year, butcher it in the late Fall and have the meat presold.  That is exactly what he did and I was his best customer.  I would buy a side and then a friend and my parents would split the other side.  I can’t remember how many times he did that but when I no longer had the meat in the freezer I sure missed it.

Finally, my children grew up fishing.  Their father is an avid fisherman.  From the time they could walk, they would willingly leave their snug little beds to go with him down the inlet in the boat, through the early morning fog for the chance to catch a salmon.  Again, I had my contradictions when it came to fishing.  I loved the scenery, the boat ride and even the thrill of a ‘hit’ along with the exhilaration of reeling it in. But then when the fish would be flopping around the boat I couldn’t bear to “bonk” it on the head to kill it.  I still turn away and don’t look while someone else does the bonking.  Once it is dead it doesn’t bother me to gut it and cook it up.  What is that all about?

My children’s 4-H experience and my son’s foray into farming, as well as our fishing expeditions contributed to our education in ethical eating.  Some might say that we were not eating ethically because we were not vegetarian but let’s leave that discussion for another time.

I began by wondering how my daughter could have shot a moose.  Now that I reflect on her upbringing and how she saw us getting our food it is no wonder she has chosen this route.  She will be eating the meat of the animal she spent many days in the pouring rain and cold looking for.  She will know that it ate the way wild animals should, roaming the wild bogs and forests, eating what moose are meant to eat in nature. She will know that the meat was processed in the most natural way possible without dyes for changing its color or saline solution for puffing it up to look plumper and bigger. It will be wrapped in waxed brown paper and not packaged in Styrofoam.

I have decided that looking at my daughter posing so proudly with her moose makes me proud as well.  She is comfortable and clear about her food ethics. I think it is me who is struggling with my contradictions and there is a lesson for me in her experience!

On that note, I think I will make some Moose Stew tonight just to show my support for her choices.  See the Recipe tab for the recipe.

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