We had a traditional relationship with animals. We had many pets we adored living alongside our fur coats and hunting trophies.
It’s a bit odd from our more modern perspective, but it makes sense when you consider that subsistence hunting was the normal way of life for most of our history. We had the dogs living alongside us to help us in the hunt. I’m not talking about the epic assholes who hunt rare animals, I think we can all agree those people ought to have their heads mounted on a living room wall. I’m talking about hunting and then eating in a traditional manner.
My step-dad in Denmark enjoyed hunting and had large dogs.
Here I am with my own Irish Setter. I named the Yorkshire Terrier pjusket, which means disheveled in Danish.
That’s my step-dad’s German short hair.
I learned young how to pluck a duck and “dress” a deer. I also learned that hunters have a special relationship with the environment. They were some of my first influences about conservationism. Hunters paradoxically spend more time in actual nature than many environmentalists and hunters are often most concerned about important issues like climate change because they’re the first to notice the problems. Anyway, I prefer eating animals that enjoyed life in the wild.
I can understand hunting, but I never liked the wearing of fur. I hate the way it smells. I hate the idea of wearing a carcass, particularly in a modern time and place when we have access to amazing performance fabrics that are not as heavy and perform better than fur. There’s no reason to wear fur anymore.
I never particularly liked raw meat either. My family also had lots of pet birds and it is unsettling to recognize the smell of your living pet bird on the dead bird you’re preparing for dinner.
It’s an odd cognitive dissonance, our life as an omnivore. We love our pets, but we also wear animals, eat some, ride on others.
Owning pets in general is a strange habit that few other animals practice. All of which is to say that we got a cat and I’m considering going vegetarian again. He’s obligated to be a carnivore, but I’m not.
Our new cat. He’s four years old and I got him from a shelter. He was visibly depressed in his cage. And he’s not even as smart as the average pig.
Edited on 8 December 2014 to add a note sent by a reader regarding the Museum of Hunting & Nature in Paris. No, I’ve never been! It reminds me of a place I stayed in northern Italy. So much taxidermy.