Warning: The following includes an anecdote that some may find disturbing; The rest is a rambling post that some may find rambling.
I saved the life of a frog today.
Almost at the end of my three mile hike (hike slash hunting scouting) I heard a strange sound. Like some sort of tiny baby squealing in pain.
Frantic. Breathless. High pitched. It made me incredibly uncomfortable and even a little scared.
After a few seconds I found the source of the terrible sound: a small snake had the leg of a small frog in its mouth.
The frog was screaming.
I stepped closer to the snake in the brush- just an inch or two off the trail- and the snake released the frog and backed away into the leaves.
The frog immediately bounded off much more energetically than I’ve ever seen a frog bound off. This frog was literally running for its life. Today, it got away.
Yes, I saved the frog, but I also cost the snake a good meal.
I don’t know the moral of the story. I don’t know who I should have rooted for; the predator or the prey? Would the frog not have done the same to a dragonfly? Does the snake not deserve to eat? After all, if it doesn’t eat it doesn’t live. Like every other living thing, including me.
I don’t know that I am up to the challenge of joining this terrible game as a predator… But am I not already a player? To survive I must eat, and to eat other things– sentient and otherwise– must die. There is no debating this fact.
I wouldn’t use the word “comfortable,” but I have come to terms with killing fish. In the past few years I’ve gained a lot of experience and have cleaned and eaten many fish. It’s easy. They taste delicious. Have I desensitized myself to the killing?
Mammals seem so different. Perhaps because like a squirrel or deer, I am also warm and fuzzy. I also have paws and a nose. I also have glassy eyes and little white teeth. Is it my dissimilarity to fish that makes it easy to kill and eat them?
Every few minutes I genuinely vasselate between becoming a vegan and becoming a hunter. I have no faith or set of rules to guide me: I’m on my own. I can’t think of the last time I put so much careful thought in a single choice. Marrying my best friend was obvious; So was moving back to Michigan. Most other decisions I, admittedly, make rather lightly.
Should I hunt?
For dinner tonight we ate some meat from a local cow, an animal I may have met in person before it was butchered. I know this animal lived a good and happy life, wandering around the pastures eating delicious grass. Up until it was killed so I could have beef tacos.
Why should I go into the woods to inflict death on other animals when animals like this one are readily available to me? Do I really need to personally kill animals to appreciate meat? If I care so much about animal well-being, wouldn’t it make more sense to become a vegan?
But there is blood on the hands of even vegans. How many deer were killed to protect the field of soybeans that became that tofu?
I always go back to the argument that I want to face this terrible fact of life head-on; I want to understand what it means to take the life of another living thing so that I may survive. It sounds so brutal, so primal, but is it narcissistic and selfish? Who am I to say what animals live and what animals die?
It’s easy to be confident– even smug– that a particular path is the right one when you’re already on it.
Of course hunting is ok: Humans need meat to survive. If we don’t hunt the deer population explodes and they starve to death. I want to eat venison so I go kill a deer and eat it.
I don’t want any animals to die: That’s why I’m a vegan. Animals have rights too. There’s no reason to hunt animals: Just get your meat at the grocery store.
It’s more complicated than I ever thought possible. There are so many questions to be answered.
I know none of the answers. If I do decide to take my shotgun into the woods on opening day of squirrel season (in eight days, not like I’m counting), I hope the experience will help me grapple with these heavy thoughts and questions.