In Defense of Killing: Part 3

First steps

Several months later I attended a seminar with Temple Grandin and other experts in the meat industry. Grandin didn’t show but I came away with a handful of disturbing statistics. The most off-putting was that any pound of normal grocery store ground beef could contain upwards of 3,000 different cows. I was well aware of problematic tales of the beef industry ranging from environmental issues of carbon emissions, deforestation, habitat loss, and general inefficiency, to humanitarian issues of low wages, misplaced resources and unsafe/unsanitary conditions but hearing it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, brought new immediacy to those issues.

In an early discussion with my father over dinner I became indignant and adopted the closed-minded opinionating of a college freshman. I called my father a hypocrite for eating meat but being unwilling to accept the even the idea of doing the killing himself. At one point I even took the argument to a cringe-worthy nazi analogy; an intersection in any discussion that invariably marks the end of reasonable discourse and generally triggers a rapid change of topic.

“So how’s work been going for you lately?”

I mostly avoided even broaching the subject with my mother but if I ever hinted at taking a conversation in the hunting direction I was asked how work was going immediately. Hunting friends were encouraging but quickly tired of my ignorant questions and non-hunting friends were just disinterested.

While all these issues and images tumbled and vacillated in my brain, no doubt contributing to the process, I’m crediting myself with more conscious forethought and moral immediacy than I deserve. Hunting was more the kind of vague goal that you’re no sure enough about to put to paper or speak aloud as a declaration of intent.

As I sometimes do when dabbling with an idea, feeling it out, and to some extent letting circumstance make a decision for me, I sent out some emails about hunter safety education classes not expecting much of a response. It wasn’t long before an email arrived in my inbox from I had flashbacks to my initial conversation with Racist Ryan but I forged ahead and replied confirming the date and time. I had committed and I felt the elation of a journey into the unknown set into motion.

I drove into the eastern rural flatlands of Colorado and turned at an unremarkable barely marked exit onto a dirt road indistinguishable from any other of the hundreds of roads delineating geometric subsections of the featureless land. I pulled up to the Kennel Club and walked into a room watched over from 180 degrees by taxidermy: foxes, deer, elk, coyotes, pheasants, chukar, and, of course, the requisite jack-a-lope. The two living animals in the room were a pet skunk and a shaggy wirehaired terrier with one eye. I was the only person present above the age of 12 and not accompanying a child. I was out of my element.

A row of firearms sat on a table in the front of the room for children to pick up, examine, and play with. Though the weapons came with strict disclaimers about never pointing the barrel at anything you don’t intend to shoot, it was disquieting watching small children eye-down pistol sites and make shooting noises in front of their approving, even proud, parents.

The class was mostly as expected. Poorly produced, over dramatized, scare tactic videos from the mid eighties, exaggerating worst-case scenarios, show-and-tell passing around of different caliber shells, species identification, and general gun safety. There was a lot of NRA styled talk about “protecting our time honored traditions” but surprisingly there was also talk of respecting an animal giving its life for your food, wilderness preservation, and even sensitivity to the beliefs and sensibilities of non-hunters.

I was still adjusting to the stereotypical jack-a-lope aesthetics that seemed ingrained in hunting’s culture but I was beginning to feel more supportive than inquisitive. After two full days I left with a blaze orange certification card and an unhealthy amount of pride about my high score on a test created for children under 12.

I had completed the first requisite of being allowed to kill an animal. Now began the task of learning how to kill an animal. I could feel the inertia of the experiment pushing towards an inevitable end but I still didn’t know how I would feel when the time came. Could I do it? I didn’t feel much doubt that I could but I left a placeholder for a rush of unexpected emotion. I thought of Christopher McCandle’s unbridled regret and remorse at the moose he killed and wonder if I’d feel pangs of similar remorse.

To begin the series from the beginning start HERE.

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