That steak before it sizzles on a hotplate is attached to a living, breathing, cartoon-y animal. Who knew?
For those of us who live in sweet urban hamlets where animals are seasoned with herbs and wrapped in plastic containers, we have no idea how they got there. Did they lay down in “processing centres” and die with smiles on their big snouts, sacrificing their delicious meats to the superior human?
Who knew they were dragged screaming into slaughter yards and given a bolt to the head or, if they were killed according to the scriptures of Jew or Muslim, hung out to dry with a knife to the throat.
Shane Dorian, the great Hawaiian surfer famous for his love of pig hunting, lives with eyes wide open. He knows that steaks, before they sizzle on a hotplate, were attached to living, breathing cartoon-y animals with beating hearts and little families.
And he can teach us a thing or two about the ethics of eating meat…
BEACHGRIT: Tell me this, because I know you’re a hunting kinda guy. I saw a photo of Alex Gray with his first kill. And he killed a sheep. Now, killing sheep don’t seem to be a difficult thing to do. Killing boars, there’s an element of danger there cause they nasty, but a fur ball?
SHANE: That’s a perception I can totally relate to and I’m sure Alex can too because until recently he was a non-hunter. When you don’t hunt you have these perceptions, these presumptions, of what it’s like, but for Alex, he’s new to the hunting thing, brand new, and it’s like, and this might be a weird analogy, when you start surfing you don’t throw your kid on a…when you go t take your girlfriend surfing you don’t throw her on a little thin narrow thruster that is five-nine, you throw her on a longboard, right?
Right… exactly right… so it makes sense to kill easy beasts first…
With hunting, Alex, um, sheep are actually…um…people absolutely froth to hunt sheep. The sheep that people hunt are not the sheep that you’re used to. They’re not like sheep in New Zealand that just stare at you. It’s definitely not as easy as you’d think. But, there are game animals that are more exciting.
Are the sheep vicious? Or do you start with tame animals so nothing bad can happen in the initial stages?
Ha ha ha! Yep! They’re rabid. They like nothing more than eating humans.
So, for Alex, it was kill or be killed?
I doubt it. But, but they have meat on them and if you…if you… if you don’t disagree with eating animals there’s nothing wrong with eating a sheep and hunting one. And, his freezer probably wasn’t full before he went hunting and now it’s full of meat and he did it with his bow and he’s probably pretty stoked about it.
Do you believe we’re too removed from what meat actually is and from the act of killing? That it ain’t just a miracle that appears in foam trays, covered in cling wrap, in supermarket refrigerators? That little shanks and delicious hams do come from a cuter-than-heavens lamb or mischievous piglet?
There’s not doubt about it. You know what’s really funny? How people can differentiate, like you automatically, like it’s society and our upbringing, but you automatically decided that a sheep was less sporting than a boar. That they’re a less desirable game animals just because of the way they look. If I put a photo on Instagram of me and my bow and a dead boar with big ol teeth hanging out and looking vicious everyone’s like “Good job! Get those nasty boars!” and if I put a picture up of me and a doe, a female deer, with my bow, people lose their shit. Everyone automatically thinks I’m Satan cause I kill a deer. It’s the same thing. My friends will go spear fish and you can put 50 million dead fish on Instagram and no-one will ever say a thing. But, if you put one Bambi on Instagram people lose it. I don’t see the difference between fish and deer. Do you?
Oh, I’m a vegan. So you preach to the converted. But, back to the sheep thing. They look so friendly! So tame! And, look, here they come up to this nice man in camouflage, expecting a pat, maybe some kind of inter-species communication and…pow! That I struggle with…
Yeah! I know what you mean! But, just to clarify, not that it’s interesting for your readers, but there are some types of sheep that are not difficult to hunt, but there are sheep that have incredible senses, really insane eyesight, and who are extremely paranoid so they are difficult to get close to with a bow.
Can you describe the process of death up close? You must enjoy profound insights of life and death, all the killin’ y’do, sitting astride the doomed Bambi, tearing your serrated edge across its carotid artery. Do you see the life drain out of their eyes?
Hee! Hee! Are you kidding me, man? It’s fucking exactly how you think it is. For me, when I have to do that, not that I have to do that, but when I go hunting, a lot of times that’s the case. You have to finish the animal off. And, to me, I try and do it as quickly and as humanely as possible. It is what it is. I choose to go hunting. I choose to harvest animals for food. When you go and order a steak at your local restaurant you never think about the animal that died for it. But, every single time you eat meat, there’s a dead animal there. And, people are so far removed that they don’t see that But, I think it’s good for you to kill an animal if you eat meat. That way you can appreciate the life that was taken. Like y’said, I think people think that beef is raised in little plastic containers and it comes as a steak. But, yeah, it’s part of the deal when you go hunting. You’re taking an animal’s life. For me, still to this day, every single animal I’ve harvested or killed or however you want to call it, I’ve always felt remorse for them. I feel sad. That feeling has never gone away from me and I hope it never does, actually.
It makes you appreciate the sanctity of eating meat?
Yeah, I mean, it’s taking responsibility for you action.
Can we slide back to the original question? Have you had any awesome moments where you’ve watched the life slip away from an animal you’ve winged? The big brown eyes of the deer staring into yours, understanding that it’s over, but somehow appreciative they will be butchered by a hunter with conscience?
Hee her hee… have I ever what?
You’ve winged deer. You go up to it. It’s gonna die. It looks at you. Those connections, I ask…
Yes. I have had that. And I have had that look where they know it’s over.
What a special moment!
Well, it’s, for some people it’s not a moment at all. They probably don’t even notice it. They just get the knife out and do the old one-two. And they never think about it again. But, for, you know, I’m actually…(laughs)… an animal lover. I love animals. And, I love deer. I love taking photos of them, I love getting close to them. I appreciate everything about them. But, I do love hunting them and eating them.