Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] NMOC - Enemies of Sustainability

Kate Parker Adams kate at dnki.net
Wed Oct 6 13:35:29 MDT 2004

When I was growing up, hunting and fishing often meant the difference
between having food and not having food.  While there are few areas so
isolated (save Alaska) that grocery delivery to local stores isn't fairly
regular, there is also the issue of having money to buy groceries.  There is
also a barter trade involved, as I would babysit for venison and the my
parents would give me cash, etc.

Sure, scavenging berries is possible at certain times of summer, as is
gathering other types of wild crops or gardening or picking berries or fruit
or nuts for cash.  It is difficult to think of any sort of food that can be
grown or found in the winter other than what you can hunt or fish for.  In
an urban setting, I have seen a fair number of immigrant families gathering
up river fish like carp and herring to supplement their diet.

I don't understand people who spend megabucks on high-powered rifles and
equipment, lash what they kill to their new $30,000+ pickup, then take it to
a butcher to clean and prepare little food packs for the freezer.  More than
a little too automated for my taste, as well as a waste of money. If a .22
rifle, a shotgun, or a nylon line isn't going to do it and I ain't hungry, I
don't see the point.  I'd far rather head out with a camera.  I know a
number of those raised to hunt who now use a high-powered 36mm instead of a
12-guage, even if they strap on a bow for credibility (and, sometimes,
self-defense).  One old friend, now an editor at a rural paper, told me he
takes the camera and joins up with a hunting party.  He gets all the elk and
deer he can eat in exchange for the photos.

There are reasons people hunt and are driven to hunt, and we can't forget
those.  I have never met a vegan-activist-animal rights type who was other
than urban or suburban and could even begin to understand survival hunting
in the "developed" world and that is why I feel compelled to set things
straight about the necessity for some to kill and eat animals.  If you have
a stark choice between letting your kids go hungry or killing something,
what is the ethical choice then?  And don't lets start on "alternatives" for
"those people" because if there were any when I was growing up, my mom would
have happily put down her .22 and her gutting knife and exploted them (and
did when we moved to more urban areas where there were alternatives when
money and food ran low).  There are issues of food distribution like Mike
mentioned or like I have experienced that cannot be ignored.  We should not,
however, use them to excuse stupidity of excess in the name of instinct or
human nature or even sport.


-----Original Message-----
From: powderworks-bounces at cs-lists.cs.colorado.edu
[mailto:powderworks-bounces at cs-lists.cs.colorado.edu]On Behalf Of
Michael Blackwood
Sent: Wednesday, October 06, 2004 9:13 AM
To: the_oil_fish at yahoo.ca; powderworks at cs-lists.cs.colorado.edu;
julian at monkeyfamily.freeserve.co.uk
Subject: RE: [Powderworks] NMOC - Enemies of Sustainability

Bruce wrote:

>PS: Julian, isn't an ethical society one which also places a premium value
>on the dignity and >availability of meaningful work? I'm not disagreeing
>with you about treating animals well, >but "finding a balance is a very
>complicated issue. I agree that fox hunting is a pompous and >intolerable
>'sport' which should be banned outright. But seal hunting (which is more
>brutal) is not >so cut-and-dried IMO, given the devastation a ban visits on
>a community.

And, as the token Newfoundlander on the list, I have to chime in here about
the seal hunt.  The only species serously hunted (ie for commerical reasons,
not subsistence) is the Harp Seal.  Currently, the
Newfoundland/Labrador/Greenland harp seal heard is the largest wild mammal
herd in the northern hemisphere, at at least 4 million animals, and possibly
up to 6 million.  Each adult female has a pup each year or two, and with
that in mind Canada's current small hunt is sustainable in perpetuity, and
could even be sustainably expanded.

Historically, the ENTIRE carcass was usable, but public outcry has soured
the markets.  The pelts have obvious value, seal blubber is rentered into
seal oil, which is a great dietary supplement, and the meat was eaten by
locals or exported in cans.  The bones were usable as fertilizer.  This is a
very valuable resource that has been crippled as an income source for rural
coastal communities.

IN THE PAST, pups were taken for their white fur, but this is no longer the
case, and hasn't been for 20 years.  In the 19th century when the industry
began in Newfoundland (then an independant country, we didn't join Canada
until 1949), the main product was oil for industrial use, with pelts being
sold to furriers and the meat being the first fresh meat in rural diets
after a long winter.  (Seal is still a cultural heritage meal in
Newfoundland, and if we were a visible minority, or didn't speak English, I
doubt the PC crowd would have been so quick to call us barbarians for our

Is the seal hunt violent?  Yes, but in exactly the same way that the
"processing" of cattle in a slaughterhouse is violent.  Seals, Cats & Dogs
are the 3 branches of the Order Carnivora, and as such we respond to the
"cuteness" of seals because their faces remind us of common pets.  When a
poor unloved cow is done in with a quick blow to the head behind a brick
wall in a slaughterhouse, no one threatens sanctions on beef-producing
countries.  Canada faces sanctions because we treat the seals like cattle.
The difference is that seals are "cute" and killed against a backdrop of
white, which makes for great heart-wrenching TV.  The film in the 1970's
that was produced in Montreal showing a sealer skinning a seal alive was
later revealed to have been staged, with the film crew bribing a hunter into
doing that for the camera.  The modern hunt is VERY well regulated by the
federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and all sealers must pass
stringent qualifications to get their licenses.  Sure, a rare few may turn
out to be assholes, but that's like saying that because SOME deer hunters
get drunk in the woods and shoot at anything that moves, ALL hunters are
redneck barbarians.  Basically, the seal hunt is still portrayed as
unsustainable barbarism solely because promising to STOP the hunt is a great
fundraising tool for various groups that at best are thnking with their
hearts and not their heads, and placing the value of "cuteness" over the
value of a centuries-old way of life.

hold together,
Mike "expects he'll get flamed for this" Blackwood

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