Meat, hunting, and home decoration…

A few months ago, I kicked around the idea of starting up a weekly limited feature focused on topics that some people might consider controversial, unpopular, or otherwise not appropriate for polite company. Nothing much came of the idea then, but it has stewed in my head ever since. This is the next of what I like to think will be a recurring series of Friday evening contemplations. If you’re easily offended, or for some reason have gotten the impression that your friends or family members have to agree with you on every conceivable topic, this might be a good time to look away. While it’s not my intention to be blatantly offensive, I only control the words I use, not how they’re received or interpreted.

It’s hard to go out for groceries without seeing another brand that’s introduced a new variety of plant-based ham or some other all natural, vegan certified, socially responsible food product. That’s fine. Some of these products aren’t half bad tasting and I’m happy to allow the substitution where it makes sense. 

Even so, you’d be hard pressed to fully break me of a lifetime of omnivorous eating. If I haven’t been shown satisfactory evidence that bacon can be made from turkey, there’s really very little chance I’m going to suddenly be convinced it can be made from pressed plants. In some cases, taste really is king.

I go through all that to demonstrate that I’m an unashamed meat eater.

I grew up in a place where hunting and fishing were a regular method of supplementing what ended up on the dinner table. Even though my days of wanting to sit in the cold waiting for a deer are long gone, I respect the hell out of people who are out there doing it for the right reasons. Despite what PETA tells you, taking game for sustenance or to control nuisance species are perfectly valid things to do and is considered a wildlife management best practice.

Trophy hunting, by contrast, pretty much makes you a douche. Yeah, I’m looking directly at whoever out there cuts off the antlers and leaves the carcass laying on the side of the road. Look, I love duck and goose hunting – but I don’t enjoy the taste of duck or goose, so I settle for taking clays and staying out of the blind. Going out just for the thrill of the kill or because you need a stuffed and mounted giraffe is about as asinine reason to hunt as I can imagine. 

That’s not the kind of statement that will endear me to some of my gun toting brethren, who would be perfectly happy to keep blasting a hundred ducks at a time with a skiff-mounted punt gun until they empty the river.

To enjoy any kind of legitimacy, hunting has to be about conserving the resource today and for the future. The most dedicated hunters I’ve ever known have approached the whole process with a reverence for the animal and full understanding that an animal was losing its life so that the hunter could eat. If your hunt is all about home décor choices, then honestly, I don’t even want to know you.

Giving Tuesday…

There are approximately 47 billion organizations out there scrambling for your charitable giving dollars today. I present the following list of those I choose to support today, for Giving Tuesday, and throughout the year. As always, it’s a list that focuses on helping animals, because people are awful and it’s so often the animals, both wild and domestic, that pay the price for that. I’d ask that you consider them when putting together your giving plan for the year.

Delaware SPCA – The mission of the Delaware SPCA is to prevent cruelty to animals. We bring our mission to life through programs that provide shelter and adoption for unwanted and homeless pets, reduce pet overpopulation through affordable spay/neuter, and enable pet retention by providing low-cost veterinary services.

Cecil County Animal Services – CCAS serves as the County’s Animal Control Authority and provides quality care to animals in the community through the management of an open-admission shelter.  Additional programs and services provided through this Division include the Pet Pantry Program, Adoption and Foster Services, Behavioral Helpline, Pet Loss Support, Humane Education, Project Safe Haven, “Seniors for Seniors,” Pet Visitation Program, Volunteer Initiatives, and Pet Re-homing Intervention.

Ducks Unlimited – Ducks Unlimited is now the world’s largest and most effective private waterfowl and wetlands conservation organization. DU is able to multilaterally deliver its work through a series of partnerships with private individuals, landowners, agencies, scientific communities and other entities.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 18 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.

World Wildlife Fund – WWF works to help local communities conserve the natural resources they depend upon; transform markets and policies toward sustainability; and protect and restore species and their habitats. Our efforts ensure that the value of nature is reflected in decision-making from a local to a global scale.

International Fund for Animal Welfare – The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. 

Endangered species…

I’m almost universally indifferent to rules, regulations, and policies about people. Mostly I’ve grown up with and still believe that in the absence of special situations or circumstances, most grown adults should be able to tend to their own needs. It’s one of the defining characteristics of being a fully fledged adult across all the vast animal kingdom. Put another way, when bad things happen to people, you’ll rarely find me batting an eye.

There are easy ways to gin up my ire, though. This morning, the Department of the Interior managed it in spades when announcing rollbacks of key provisions of the Endangered Species Act.

Taking a hatchet to the regulations emplaned to protect our most threatened species and their habitat is one of those issues that will get my attention every time. It should get yours too. It should be hard to delist a species. It should be hard to encroach into protected areas. Determining what species and geography are protected and to what degree that protection extends should be an act of science, not an administrative policy decision carried out with little oversight and even less understanding of its consequences. As a professional bureaucrat, I can tell you from hard experience letting the scientists have a say is going to be better.

I want to say this one time, loud and clear, so there is absolutely no doubt about my position: If you are making decisions based on “left” policy dreams or “right” policy desires, you’re a bloody idiot. Make the decisions based on the best science we have available… and when, somewhere down the road, we have a better scientific understanding of the world, change again.

The cattle industry supports this deregulation effort. There are ways to protect critical habitat that won’t undermine the beef industry. The oil industry also supports reducing the effect of the Endangered Species Act. Here too there are ways to regulate that allows the United States to reap the benefit of it’s underground treasure without relegating species to museum pieces. I don’t oppose all regulation on spec, but I do oppose stupid, one size fits all regulation – just as much as a oppose stupid, once size fits none deregulation.

The best approaches are almost never an all or nothing proposition. Pretending that we can’t protect the environment and grow this economy makes you sound like a damned fool. Arguing that we can’t build another house for fear of killing every animal alive makes you sound like a hippy lunatic. There’s a middle way and we can find it.

My credentials as a meat eating, 4×4 driving, gun toting, flag waving Republican are beyond reproach. It’s why I have no compunction about splitting with the party on individual issues. My pro choice stance already makes me anathema in some fair number of Conservative circles, so standing apart on one more issue is hardly a deal breaker for me

I’ll fully endorse any legislative effort to “tighten” up the language of the Endangered Species Act to roll back these new policy changes and to make such changes harder to publish in the future… though I don’t hold out much hope of the current dysfunctional collection of representatives to get that job done any time soon.

And still people ask me why I like animals more than people…

It was rainy and warm this morning. Ideal weather for finding a turtle on the move this time of year. I even made a point of going back in the house to grab a rain jacket in case I came across one of the local eastern box turtles on the road in need of a hand.

I found one, a fully grown adult, sitting at the edge of the blacktop a few hundred yards from the turn out from my neighborhood. Three massive cracks in his shell, no response to stimuli. I’m guessing he took a glancing blow from a tire – enough pressure to crack the shell, but not enough to crush him. I’m not sure why I bothered to check if he was alive after seeing the damage done. Even if it weren’t the still early hours of the morning, there’s no place within an hour’s drive that could have treated him. I suppose I could have at least offered a quick end to his suffering.

Two more miles on, there was another, splitting the double yellow line. This one was crushed beyond any reason to consider stopping. I drove on, with quietly building rage leaching out into every cell of my not insubstantial body.

Look, I’m a carnivore. I don’t have any moral objection to steak or bacon. Killing an animal for sustenance is an act as old as our species. If you’re going to kill something, you’d damned well better have the intention of eating it, though. Otherwise, you’re just a sick fuck getting his rocks off on causing pain and suffering because you can.

Turtles are the very definition of a harmless animal – they don’t destroy your crops or your yard. They aren’t going to eat your cat or endanger your livestock. Their only mission in life is to walk around foraging for their next meal and making little turtles. That’s it. One, or probably both of these boxies was killed by someone who had to make the conscious decision to do so. The fact that it’s illegal to drag this kind of person out of their vehicle and beat them to bloody death with a tire iron is what I consider possibly the biggest flaw in the American legal system.

I’ve seen articles that say climate change could wipe out humanity or at least kill us off by the billions… frankly that doesn’t sound like the worst possible outcome I could imagine.

Give a little…

It’s Giving Tuesday and despite my well-earned reputation as a Grinch among men, there are causes I feel strongly enough about to break open my wallet. You won’t find any namby pamby feed the starving or house the poor tomfoolery here, though. In keeping with my basic life philosophy that people are generally awful, but animals are amazing, this year’s donations have gone to:

Cecil County Animal Services – Though minimally staffed as an arm of county government, CCAS does phenomenal work as an open-admission shelter. They aggressively pursue partnership opportunities with local rescue organizations and businesses and are supported by a small, but faithful group of volunteers. I haven’t found a way to “just send cash” as this is a government operation, but they maintain an extensive Amazon Wishlist of things the animals in their care need to thrive. This one has a special spot on the list because one of my own herd got his start with them as a failure to thrive medical emergency kitten. 

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – IFAW operates here in the US and in countries around the world, intervening to protect habitat and assist animals in need. In their own words, “Our vision is a world where animals are respected and protected. With offices in 15 countries and projects in more than 40 countries, we rescue individual animals, safeguard populations, preserve habitat, and advocate for a better future.” 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation – Chesapeake Bay and its watershed is probably the single geographic element that most defines my beloved home state of Maryland. If you’ve never watched the sun come up over the salt marsh, or spent a summer morning working a trotline for blue crabs, or seen a flight of migrating waterfowl drop down on the water, you’re missing out on some of life’s great pleasures that are all too easy to take for granted as a native son. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation describes their work as: “Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 18 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.”

Plumpton Park Zoo – Yes, yes. I know places like zoos and aquariums are controversial. True-believer rabid conservationists will insist wild animals should only be in the wild. That’s a fine theory and if places like Plumpton were sending out expeditions to acquire new exhibits from the four corners of the globe, I’d agree. The fact is, most of the animals in a place like this have never set foot in the part of the world where “they’re supposed to be” and can never be reintroduced to that world. They’re here, now. They need supporters and advocates here, now. In a part of the world where most people will only ever see run of the mill domestic animals and pets, places like Plumpton Park play a key role in exposing a population to animals that they will never see outside of a television program. If we can use that as a base to instill an interest in wildlife and wild places, not supporting them would be irresponsible. 

There are a number of other organizations that I like to donate to throughout the year – as specific needs arise in their programs. Those are usually more targeted donations, aimed at helping one particular animal or program along the way. The point isn’t just to single these four out so much as it is to encourage you to find a cause you can get behind – whether that’s with your time, your money, or you social media platform.

There’s no lack of worthy causes, so what are you waiting for?

Duck… duck…

One of the perks of working where I work is that the whole area is something of a wildlife refuge. Eagles, turtles, deer, all manner of animals are at home inside the fence. Of them all, perhaps the most obnoxious is the Canada geese that never seem to know what side of the road they want to be on. That’s bad, especially if their wanderings happen to intersect with a road you’re trying to use. It’s like the little hoodlums can sense when you’re in a hurry and take great pains to subvert your efforts.

When they’re on the wing Canada geese are majestic enough; flying in their “V” formation, honking like there’s no tomorrow. On the ground, there’s nothing majestic about them at all. They’re winged shitting machines with no regard for anything or anyone.

I bring that up because this morning the entire walkway from the parking lot to the front of the building was peppered with goose feces. Hundreds of piles of reeking, slimy, stepped in goose turds. That’s what greeted me on the way into the office this morning. If I’d have been caffeinated enough in that moment to realize the universe was sending me one giant, stinking warning sign about what the day was going to be like, I could have avoided great angst and gnashing of teeth today. I’m going to be taking that as a lesson learned.