The Hunter and the Hunted

Hi, my name is *** and I am a vegetarian…

But I have a little secret too. I come from a family of hunters. In fact, my grandfather and father were top marksmen in their younger days. Riflemen, hunters, pros.

 

 

Here, birdy birdy

 

I remember that, when I was very small, the sound of the gun would scare me. But I was also intensely fascinated by the puff of feathers and the bloodied mess of the dead bird. So I used to run away when my dad was about to shoot and then run back to see what the bird looked like; limp and lolling around in his hand. I do not think of this as an unhealthy or cruel thing for me to have done; I see it as a very natural fulfilment of my curiosity.

When I was about 15 or so, my father took me out to shoot my first gun. It was a shot gun. I cried, because I was terrified. But even worse, my boyfriend at the time was taken out on a hunting expedition to shoot pigeons. He was really unhappy about the whole thing, even though he was a good shot and almost an adult man. The irony.

There was a lot of power in the feeling of the gun against my shoulder, but an immense amount of fear too. I was quite proud of having managed it and I later kept the cartridge with the date penned onto it. When I was in my 20’s my uncle took me out for target practice. Again, I was stressed and nervous, but managed to hit the target every time. I guess I inherited their aim.

Having grown up in a family of huntsman, I harbour a paradoxical perspective: I am a vegetarian who believes that hunting is okay.

But let me qualify that statement: I think that ethical hunting is okay.

Gasp. Any “true” vegetarian will tell me that the term “ethical hunting” is an oxymoron – that by killing an animal you are infringing on their rights.

But I think it all really depends on the premises on which you base your beliefs. For instance:

  • I don’t believe the factory farming is ethical because I believe that animals live and die in a cruel way
  • I believe that people are too far removed from their food, so that they cannot appreciate the life of the animal that they are eating
  • I believe that factory farming has a vastly negative impact on the environment

However, I can easily remedy my conscience when it comes to the hunting of wild game. As it stands in South Africa, perhaps not all game is as “wild” as it seems and there is, possibly, poor treatment of stock and cramped living conditions on game farms. The whole concept of the game farm is now a manufactured and farmed enterprise.

 

The majestic kudu

 

However, that bokkie runs free; eating, breathing, procreating and running when and where it wants, until that one day, while innocently munching on its grass, lights out! The hunter himself is forced to confront that animal, even if it for a brief moment in his scope.

I cannot see this as cruel. If hunting is undertaken in a respectful (understanding the value of the animal and not wasting any of it), conscious (knowing that the hunting is sustainable) and ethical way (by ensuring that the animal does not suffer), I see no point in condemning it.

I also know that my views have been clearly marked by growing up as a young South African in a family of hunters. But here is the thing; both my brother and I have chosen to become vegetarians and we are even willing to take this further. We are both keen environmentalists and do-gooders; I even chose to dedicate my career to environmentalism. I can only think that my life has been enlightened and enriched by these manly men who go out in their kakis and brown boots and come home with something for the pot. I have even allowed myself to respect them for it.

You see, when I really look it from all angles, hunting is not always a question of might over right. This is not always about the power dynamics between the hunter and the hunted. There is something innocent and natural about the process. And, if I had to choose between my own life and that of an animal, I would choose mine.

Going back to the fence

I am here to apologise to those one or two souls who actually read my blog. I have been busy expanding. I have been writing frantically for various other blogs, without the anonymity that this blog affords me. In case you are wondering, I kept it this way for a reason; partly to protect those I write about and partly because it allows me more freedom to express myself. But more than that, there is no regulation of my writing and no regulation of my thoughts. It has been one of the more therapeutic things that I have done, and so I have no regrets.

Writing for other blogs, and having my name alongside my article, has left me emotionally tired. I will try not to bore you with the details.

I read a lot of online news and opinion pieces. Incessantly. Sometimes I think that the writers are absolute geniuses but I always try to avoid the comments section. A blog that I love is by a man called Chris McEvoy who I think is the funniest person I know. He recently wrote a blog called “I am Julius Malema”, although people who are not South African will probably fail to get the humour. Nonetheless, the important piece of the article is where he says:

“Because I still hold some faith in humanity, I don’t believe people are as mad, bad or sad as they appear online, but any extraterrestrial intelligence, tapping into cyberspace to monitor the Homo sapiens Zeitgeist, could be forgiven for thinking our planet is entirely populated by assholes who spend most of their waking hours telling other assholes that they’re assholes”.

I never thought that I would be encountering said assholes, *ahem*!

Writing serious pieces based on my opinions has taught me, in the space of one article, some fundamental faults about myself; as well as being liberating, thought-provoking and such a rush.

One lesson I have learnt is that there are no spaces for people who are fence-sitters, including me. I have enjoyed my balancing act; I think it shows my open-mindedness in that I am able to see both sides of an argument without taking sides. It has resulted in a relatively benign existence; free of major confrontations or fall-outs. When I have voiced an opinion, it is only because I feel justified in doing so because someone’s actions or beliefs are impacting on me in a negative way.

This is not to say I don’t have opinions; it just means that I prefer to go about voicing them in a meek way, going to great lengths to avoid stepping on too many toes in the process. I am not sure if I do this all the time, but it’s something I like to believe of myself.

Sitting on the fence makes for poor arguments. But I also believe it’s like a meeting place for objectivists, rationalists and realists. I like to believe that our opinions are not based on emotional responses to provocations, but rational ideas based on whatever evidence has been presented to us through the course of our lives. Perhaps?

Sitting on the fence means that I will never be able to label myself anything controversial. In a previous post I grappled with the feeling that everything I know of me is subject to change and is almost impossible to label correctly. However, even if I am possibly too flexible and unable to hold down any real beliefs, I am glad that I am me.

The “me” that I am is going to be tested, as it already has been. I wrote about being a vegetarian and was shown that my beliefs are ignorant and wrong. Sometimes comments were downright nasty. It was quite a blow to my ego and left me feeling alienated and confused.

For a reality check, and for some light relief, I decided to read back on what Chris had said about those that hide behind the anonymity of the internet to voice their opinions on topics which they profess to know heaps about. He is right in some respects, people can be assholes. But others also have a point and these arguments or ideas are good to learn from.

So, what have I learnt?

I have learnt that I prefer the fence, and for a while at least, I think I will be hanging out in my blog a lot more. Being judged is so exhausting.

 

Who am I if I cannot be me?

I am labelled. I do it to myself and, in turn, I do it to others.

I call myself a vegetarian but up until a year ago, I ate meat and still called myself a vegetarian. When the world called me a hypocrite I wanted to scream my frustrations. Who are you to tell me what to eat anyway?

At least I am trying to change.

I call myself a liberal, but sometimes I think like a racist, sexist and homophobic right-winger. I grew up in a small town of racists, sexists and homophobes and in a country where this feels like the norm.

I am the one writing about how we should all get along.

I call myself an environmentalist but the green movement is drowning in pseudo-science fed to us by militants with rotten cores. There are too many people just in it for the money. Who wants to be a money-seeking but bunny hugging environmentalist in the shackles of the capitalist economic model?

The movement is subverting its own values.

I call myself a feminist but I still dream the white-picket-fence dream. I believe in equality of the sexes but I also want a man to be a man. I am petrified of being alone but I value my freedom and my independence from others.

The f-word always comes out like a swear word.

I call myself an African, but I do not have a black skin or a black heritage. I have a mother born of England, who does not know what it means to be religious, racist or conservative and a father born of South Africa who fought for an Apartheid State.

Can I be from neither heritage and both at the same time?

When it comes down to it, I am most proud of what I am not.

I am not you, I am me.