October 2003

The hunt for cheap meat

By David Grant Long

For my money, there’s no denying that we Americans are as bloodthirsty a lot as you’ll find anywhere else on the globe, with the possible exceptions of Rwanda and Cambodia.
We’ve got a murder rate that far outshines any other developed nation, after all, and much of our alleged adult entertainment involves life-ending violence of one creative sort or another. (Hasta la vista, baby! and so on)

Apparently there remains in our chromosomes some atavistic gene that’s responsible for this blood lust, so we’re not really to blame. We just can’t help it, you know?

Look at hunters, for instance.

For the pure joy of drilling a few holes in a deer or elk, they’ll gladly spend thousands of dollars on guns, licenses, ATVs, lodging, Dinty Moore beef stew and the spiritual libations essential to any successful hunt. Add the cost of butchering and packaging, and this figures out to more bucks per pound than the choicest steak or lobster, for gamey-tasting flesh you would probably send back at a restaurant.

So obviously it isn’t the economic or culinary reasons that makes blasting some beast so appealing.

And those who defend hunting as a sport are really talking through their Day-Glo orange hats. I hunted when I was younger, and I can testify it takes very little skill or courage to draw a bead on some unsuspecting prey through a telescopic sight and drop it.

In my mind, real sport involves a contest between equals, and try as I might, I can’t imagine an unarmed herd animal standing much of a chance against someone with 20-20 eyesight and a 30-30 rifle. (Although I did see a hilarious video on “When Animals Attack” in which a deer assaults a hunter while his wife films on.)

But at least the animal stands a chance of getting away from a regular hunter, the sort that actually goes into the wild. What brought all this to mind was a TV expose I saw about the evils of hunting on private, fenced preserves, where a variety of exotic animals can be stalked and dispatched by anyone willing to pay a hefty tab.

Undercover “Dateline” cameras captured several pathetic scenes in these places, a particularly memorable one being a semi-tame Corsican ram with arrows sticking out of it cowering against a fence before it was finished off with a bullet to the head by a “guide.” (Many of these places encompass only a few hundred acres, so the idea that anyone would need a guide to get around is pretty far-fetched.)

I say, sure, slaying these penned and docile creatures is a lot like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel, but so what?

It must still be satisfying the same deep-seated craving that hunters of grizzly bears experience when they finally get a crack at some rearing, teeth-bared ursine monster deep in the Canadian woods.

So the show gave me an idea that might open the door to fulfilling this primitive urge in many more of us and, just possibly, reducing the level of violence amongst us higher sentient beings at the same time.

While it’s true that most human carnivores no longer have much taste for wild flesh, they consume great quantities of bland domesticated meat. That’s myriad tons of beef, pork, chicken, turkey, mutton, lamb, veal and so on obtained from creatures that are mostly slaughtered by machines with little human involvement.

Meanwhile, many folks obsessed with killing something are spending good money that could be used for their kids’ college education just for the chance of coming across some unfortunate creature in the woods.

Are you beginning to get my drift here?

What a tremendous waste of animal lives when each and every one of them could be providing someone with a thrill that many claim can’t be obtained any other way.

So here’s the plan: Open public shooting ranges offering a panorama of prey ranging from raging bulls to pecking pullets next to every stockyard, hog factory and chicken farm in America.

For a few modest dollars, anyone with an itch to kill a warm-blooded object could scratch it, and the businesses would earn a nice supplemental income while having to hire fewer people to process their products.

Admittedly, bringing down a long-horned steer or a Devonshire sow probably isn’t going to impress one’s friends or provide a suitable trophy for the den wall, but that good feeling will still be there.

At the same time, these sports facilities might sharply reduce human-on-human assaults, in a way similar to the theory that free access to pornography deters sex crimes by providing an alternate release for the urge.

Maybe if more of us inflict violence on so-called lower life forms, see, we’ll have less desire to harm one another.