Like many others, I have returned to my home territories to glut myself for the winter holidays. What a joy to behold, a fridge and freezer crammed with Christmas goodies. I am lucky enough to be born to a European middle class family at the dawn of the 21st century, no longer burdened with the worry of finding my next meal. Indeed, the topic of this post was inspired by conversations with friends and family in bistros and pubs celebrating the season with food and drink.
Hunting for survival made Humans what we are today, evolutionary honed to track, stalk, kill and eat the meat of our prey. Some of my vegetarian friends would argue that this evolution extends to the development of our metal capacity to choose a diet free from the suffering and waste caused by carnivory. Nevertheless the hunt continues, with certain, mostly indigenous populations relying on wild meat to survive.
An inherited ancestral instinct is still felt in societies detached from this necessity. Under the sometimes necessary guise of wildlife "management", the practice is today more of a leisure pursuit. Safari hunts glorified by Hemmingway and Roosevelt, the recently challenged fox hunting and deer stalking in the UK, and the gun toting rednecks of the US all highlight the to me seemingly needless and brutal waste of life. Despite this, it is hunters who have been the drivers of the implementation of many conservation policies and the founders of national parks which today provide the last refuges of numerous otherwise vulnerable species. Furthermore, managed hunting tourism in areas such as that prevalent in Southern Africa provides a legal source of income and discourages local uncontrolled poaching.
Hunting to provide food seems evidently moral, although with expansions in agricultural efficiency, is this really the case? This Christmas our family has gone for a wild-bird, not a battery turkey but a free range flyer. Does this show a progression of animal welfare and human hunter gatherer consciousness, or should I be sticking to nut-roast and Brussels’ sprouts? I will leave that decision to be made on the 26th of December. Happy Christmas readers!