Hunting in the human way: Killing
Most people today come from a modern urban culture and can no longer make a kill nor can they walk barefoot across the desert or drink the water from the rivers and streams that are there. We cannot make a kill due to mental blocks that has developed in the last generation or two. We cannot walk through the desert barefoot because most of us have never been barefoot long enough for our feet to toughen up the way there's supposed to. We cannot drink the water because our internal biology has changed so that we can only drink sterilized water.
And of course this has a history that is worth understanding, it starts with ideas and philosophies from Western Europe that landed on the East Coast and became known as manifest destiny. While it itself was a collection of different peoples and culture it defined the Western movement.
At the forefront of this civilization that was marching across this vast wilderness, were small farmers hunters and trappers.
It was to them that jobs like getting rid of the wolf, hunting for food and farming the land fell to. However now through the ebb and flow of culture, the small farmers, hunters, and trappers find themselves looked at like the wolf .
They are often looked down upon called things like redneck and hillbilly and other things because of their closeness to the land. One of the reasons for this is they still kill farm animals and game animals themselves.
The closest thing to killing anything that most of us will ever experience is on TV. That is true of whether it's about killing an animal or killing one another or whether it's simulated or real footage.
While this television version of killing is often used to initiate an emotional response it really doesn't come anywhere near the emotional impact of actually killing something and then butchering. To anybody who has ever actually experienced killing an animal and then taking it apart in the field can testify that it is very different than watching it on TV.
There are things you just don't get through the TV. One of them is the smell. When you break open a deer or a rabbit or even a game bird there is a sense of smell that is quite unique to a freshly killed body it is not the same as one that is rotting or is in a state of decay. And for some people who are not used to the smell it can initiate a gag reflex. Of course in the process of butchering one sees and feels all the various parts of this animal in a very powerful way. You feel and see the muscles the skin the texture of the lungs the heart and so on. This is no longer part of our everyday experience but it was for all the generations leading up to perhaps the last two or three.
And through this, the people in the past and a few people today knew emotionally and intellectually where the meat they ate came from and this affects their psychology and culture. While some people have become vegetarians to get away from this, even vegetarians must kill plants in order to eat.
From my experience the killing of animals cannot be done in an emotional vacuum but it must be understood that this is natural to us and it is difficult for us to escape this part of our nature. That is why people who do not experience this in reality will often get involved with videogames where killing is the primary focus. It may be the killing of animals, people, or some sort of imaginary monster but it is still killing or at least imaginary killing.
However this imaginary killing can never have the emotional or psychological impact of reality no matter how good the graphic artist is. There are two reasons for this. One is the moment of the kill is something that can only exist in reality because its essence is reality. For someone who has never done this it, is difficult to explain in words and can really only be understood through experience. The other reason virtual killing does not deliver any real pain and in the real world hunting killing and slaughtering animals involves pain.
While hunters and farmers will often go to great extents to minimize the pain it is still there, and it’s not just the physical pain. Most of your higher animals can feel the pain of fear and terror and the pain of losing one of the herd.
In hunter gatherer societies and farming societies killing animals was part of everyday life. When people killed these animals there was no hatred or anger directed toward the animal. They were not viewed as the enemy, and this is still true today.
However, often times people from an urban or city culture find this difficult to comprehend and believe. They are more likely to see hunters and farmers as violent, ignorant, and hateful people. However people from a more traditional culture view this as a necessary and normal process in producing food.
Another issue that is not appreciated or understood as well as it should in modern urban culture is that hunting and killing a deer is very different from killing a cow.
And the differences are many. To kill a deer sometimes takes days of preparation and pursuit that culminates in the moment of the kill and in traditional cultures gives status and prestige to the killer.
The slaughter of a cow is usually perceived as work that needs to be done and done the right way. That entails a humane and efficient killing of the cow and then the proper dismantling of the carcass, with their expected use in mind and other culturally accepted norms.
And while killing a deer and killing a single cow can be done and understood in a traditional human way killing in the modern world it is often done in a very different way.
That is of course the industrial scale slaughterhouse were one person can kill thousands of animals a day and never butcher single one.
Then tens of thousands of people will eat the meat from these animals, having never seen the animal let alone participate in killing it or butchering it.
And this is very different from the hunter, who has to go into the field and find the animal through possessing a detailed in-depth knowledge of it, or the small-scale farmer who not only knew and raised the cow that he kills and butchers, but also the generations that came before it. So we see that the hunter and the small-scale farmer have both an intellectual and emotional understanding of where this meat has come from through their own personal experience. However the average person from a suburban culture does not have the experience to fully understand this issue, and while such a person has an intellectual knowledge of where this meat comes from. Most people from this culture have never killed and then eaten anything let alone butcher it themselves.
This has had an effect on both the modern urban culture and what is left of the traditional human culture.
One of the more interesting places that we can see this is in the supermarket were cans of tuna fish are marketed as "dolphin safe" and for many of us this might seem to make sense and worth paying a little bit more for. However if one thinks about it is just downright silly, and I dare say that there are many vegetarians who have thought things out and see that this statement is nonsense.
So let’s look this statement over and see what their trying to say and to whom, and what the actual consequences are.
For one it would indicate that it’s okay to kill thousands of tuna so long as you save the lives of five or ten dolphins. And of course this would imply different values on fish and dolphins, with of course, the fish being worth almost nothing and the dolphin worth going to great extents to save their lives. This overlooks the fact that the dolphins are predators who were about to kill the tuna and eat them just like humans. Of course, having saved the lives of these dolphins we now have taken away their food source. If this does not starve them to death outright it will certain reduce the population eventually. So we can see in the label "dolphin safe tuna" is something that part of urban culture but perhaps even human culture.
Fishing, even in this modern world, is still a popular outdoor sport that for the most part has little social controversy, yet involves killing and pain. The reason for this is that most people simply do not have any feeling for fish. There are number of reasons for this. One reason is the eyes of the fish have the look of something that is already dead, even when it swimming around in the water, and when you pull one out of the water is usually quite cold and does not have any sense of being warm-blooded. Another attribute that fish have is that when you first pulled them out of the water their movement mimics the spastic out-of-control movement of an animal that is soon to die, or that is already fatally injured, and fish do this even if uninjured.
Then there is the overall look. They are often shiny, brightly colored, and give the look of something made out of stone or perhaps even metal.
And sport-fishing has one more attribute that I think is very important understanding why it is still popular to this very day, and that is the fight. This fight is often intense and spectacular even for a relatively small fish like a trout or bluegill and this fighting triggers something in human beings that is deep and primeval. This is something that one does not usually experience in other forms of hunting and killing.
Now we can say that there been three distinct ages as far as human beings killing animals for food. There was a time when we killed as hunter-gatherers, then from there we killed as small farmers. Up to this time the average person could expect to kill and butcher a lot of animals in their lifetime.
Now we are in the industrial age where we eat a lot more meat but the average person almost never kills or butchers anything. This has led to the development of three distinct philosophies concerning killing. The latest we can call industrial and this is where people refer to animals as livestock and treat them accordingly. The next one of these philosophies one might consider labeling it traditional. In this philosophy people took the prosperity and leisure time of the industrial revolution to go hunting, fishing, and small scale farming, but not for financial profit. Then there is the philosophy that we could call modern which is primarily derived of people who live in cities or in a civilized environment. Here we find people whose primary inner reaction with animals is through pets. And thus they tend to project human values and characteristics on to animals. In the present social and philosophical environment we find that the industrial and modern philosophies are growing and that people with a traditional philosophical relationship to animals getting smaller in number.
However now we find ourselves at the dawn of a new age. Now science is working on and no doubt will soon perfect the production of meat that has been cloned and grown in a vat. This “meat” will never experience fear or pain or be "animated” by a conscious thought. Here we should remember that the predators always shaped the prey and the prey is always shaped the predator and as we enter this new cycle one can only wonder what will be the shape of things to come for us and them.
What will we be, when we as humans kill no more and we partake of this strange substance. It seems that someday we will know the answer to this intriguing question.