Sit quietly, and I’ll begin.

I sit quietly in the late evening light amidst bracken and undergrowth, awaiting tomorrow’s dinner to come out to feast on some lush green grass; I stare up and watch a majestic barn owl sweeping stealthily over the hedgerows with the same idea as me.

A shrew is sat next to me, oblivious of my presence. I heard it scurry through the dried grass behind me, then up beside me. I didn’t move. I hardly breath. It carries on its way without a blink.

11822635_10155970825070374_9133926041935036108_nA pair of roe deer cautiously move through the longer grass one hundred metres ahead of me. They are the second pair to join my line of sight.

Rustling from my right. I bring my eyes around slowly, hoping that tomorrow’s dinner is finally coming out to eat. It’s noisy, clumsy even, not at all like I’m expecting from my reluctant dinner guest to be. A badger struts out into the field a couple of metres to my right, then carries on across the field.

Other than the inquisitive grey squirrel, and the mink that curved and slew from one hedgerow to another, I’m starting to wonder if tomorrow’s dinner is even going to show.

It’s getting darker. The Buzzards and Kites aren’t around at this hour, so it can’t be them that are causing a lack of bravery in my future stew.

Sat to my right, and slightly behind me is Ali. He’s 9 now and bright as a button when it comes to what we are here to do… or not do, as things are seemingly playing out.

11822436_10155995436775374_4542131996419759813_nThe night swallows the dusk and we call the stalk off. There’s no sense of disappointment as we are happy enough to have witnessed a peaceful, yet nocturnally busy section of our beautiful countryside and some of its inhabitants.

I eat meat and eggs and I have animal produce based products throughout my wardrobe, my house, my car, my workplace… much like most of the people I know – even the vegetarians. I know a majority of animal produce comes from factory farmed animals – and this doesn’t make me particularly thrilled. Factory farming is cruel, sickening and… well, you don’t care because you don’t see it. Like most people I still buy the stuff because there’s not much of an alternative.

Meat generally comes in tins, in frozen bags, or on polystyrene trays covered in clear film, so you don’t get the guilt of the process it took to get to that stage. In fact all animal produce, be it food, clothing, perfume, drink, paint, glue, string, car interiors, key fobs, wallets etc is pretty far detached from the source. You don’t get the guilt; you are far, far removed.

I’m not about to go and live in a yurt and survive on air, and I’m not about to go vegan, and I’m not about to say how all you supermarket shoppers are bloody murderers (because I’m still one of those murderers… albeit begrudgingly) but in my own small way I want to distance myself from the factory farming that goes on. One simple way to do this is to go and hunt meat from a renewable source: I can then ensure a quick and clean despatch whilst at the same time getting a 100% free range, healthy, clean living animal on my plate. It does go against my love of animals, although it’s an immense leap away from the harrowing supermarket meat hell.

In Northern Arctic Sweden we plan to be as self-sufficient as we can be. Grow our own fruit and veg, raise rabbits and chickens and go hunting for food and trade with the locals. Firstly though I need to get some hunting skills under my belt, as the last thing I’d want to do is to turn up with all the gear and no idea.

563631_10152372152000374_412049778_nI am a target rifle shooter (much like the Olympic prone shooters), and I am in the higher percentage when it comes to accuracy and precision. In simple terms, at 100 metres I could pierce a male teenage rabbit’s ear so when it gets home its father will give it a huge lecture on ‘So this is how you want to live your life eh? Earrings now is it? Hmm? You’ve not been the same since you started hanging around with the rabbits from the warren down the street! They’re a bad influence on you my lad!’… I digress…

5 shots at 50 metres

I am a good shot. I decided to put this to good use and go out to feed my family. I knew I could shoot a rabbit without it knowing a thing about it. The last thought would be full of blue skies, green fields, fresh air and then nothing at all. My third greatest concern was how I’d feel actually doing it.

As it turns out I did feel remorse, but not regret. It was a clean shot as expected (a rabbit is easy compared to the competition target size I am used to) and I felt good knowing that it didn’t know a thing. It didn’t even flinch at the muted crack of my suppressed rifle. Heck, if I had the choice it’s they way I’d want to go; a free spirit blissfully unaware of everything apart from the sun on my back and my lungs full of fresh air and freedom, and then nothing. Sure beats crapping yourself in an old persons rest home whilst eating jello and watching ‘Songs of Praise‘ on a Sunday afternoon.

This rabbit was not shot for nothing. As I stroked his fur smooth and placed him in my game bag, I actually thanked him for the meal that I’d gratefully have. Seriously. If you don’t respect it, don’t do it.

wpid-wp-1438332881496.jpegNext up was my second greatest concern: Alex.

How would he feel about this? We’d already talked about factory farms and he really dislikes them. He is a big-hearted lad and loves all animals, so hunting them didn’t sit well with him – or rather it caused confusion. He knew on one hand it was far better to hunt and kill a wild rabbit, knowing it was a clean quick kill of a free and happy living animal, but on the other hand it was still killing a fluffy bunny. He was okay, with reservations, so I didn’t push for him to come out hunting with me. He’d have to get used to it due to our future plans, but I wasn’t about to rush him.

After my first hunt I arrived home with the rabbit in a bag so Ali wouldn’t have to see it. I walked into the front room of our house to go through to the kitchen and he asks quietly; ‘Is that a rabbit?’ I told him that it was and offered him a look into the bag. He gingerly looked in from the top of the bag, but really couldn’t get the whole picture. I asked if he’d like to see it on the table outside, to which he nodded quietly.

Once the rabbit was on the table Alex became curious and asked to stroke it. It had lovely smooth fur from its healthy diet, and as the shot had been clean there was very little blood or tissue damage.

It looks so cute...’ he started.

I figured this was it. He still gets upset about one of our cats that had to be put down many years back.Any second now the tears…

…and it feels so soft… and… is that where the bullet went in? Where did it come out?… It must have been quick! He doesn’t even look surprised!‘…

With that, Alex was satisfied that I had done my job correctly. Precise, accurate and painless. He didn’t feel so bad as it was all for a good reason.

I asked if he’d like to see me skin and gut it. This was my biggest fear; not for Alex but for me. I had to gut and skin Mr.Rabbit for the pot. I didn’t even do biology at school because, well… ew. I mean really… ew, ew and ew. Bloik…

Maybe with Ali beside me I’d be forced to man up and….

EEP!!! No thank you!!!‘ squeaked Ali as he scampered off…

Bugger.

Turns out it wasn’t so bad. I appear to have grown up and grown a pair.I had purchased an insanely surgically sharp Morakniv bush knife and the whole incident went smoothly. I say smoothly, but what I really mean is it was a mess of a job, but I didn’t hurl. I didn’t even feel like hurling. Had the blade been dull and had I had to hack and tear at the rabbit, then I may have felt worse for it.

Turns out Ali was more curious than nauseous. As I was butchering the rabbit Ali had come back and was looking through the bucket of internal bits and pieces; asking questions about which bit went where and noting that kidney beans must be called kidney beans because they look like kidneys. He’s very much like my dad in that way; he could look at a scene of human devastation (he was an air accident investigator) and become completely detached from the carnage, locking straight in to scientist mode. To him it wasn’t evidence of a life, but rather clues to the cause of the crash – ‘Look at this poor pilot’s neck!‘ – ‘Yes, you can see the impact must have happened with some lateral force, suggesting the aircraft fell sideways into the ground…

Whilst he was still showing interest I offered him the chance for a hunt that same evening. He’d never really shown much spark at joining me for target shooting, although I  had hoped he would one day (like I did, taking after my dad). He jumped excitedly at the chance though, and has been on nearly all of my trips out since. He makes a wonderful spotter, and he ensures I keep my end of the bargain up by auditing my shots, checking to make sure my shots are swift and with no suffering – He’s adamant that trophy hunting is bad, but hunting for an honest purpose (as long as it is painless) is okay.

Here’s the thing… Like me, he gives the rabbit a loving stroke before I put it in the game bag. He’s not in it for the kill – which is fine by me, because neither am I.

He’s not squeamish, hes incredibly safe and follows instructions to the dot (where guns are involved I am very, very strict on safety). It’s turned from me worrying if he’d be able to even look at me for shooting a rabbit for food, to the both of us having some of our greatest bonding moments ever!11825006_10155985366640374_3636391379000896382_n

Since his first hunt he’s gained some camo gear and a monocle telescope. He’s even enquired as to being able to train to shoot targets so he can one day shoot to eat. As for eating… I cooked a Rabbit Biryani with our first two rabbits and Ali enjoyed every last bite.

11694804_10155852241795374_2628158483857138131_nOne thing that people don’t appreciate about hunting is that you are fully immersed in the wildlife, the countryside, and in trying not to be seen you see some amazing and beautiful sights. For me and Ali the kill shot is by far smallest part of the day – albeit not insignificant as it is taking a life after all: We get our enjoyment out of the environment of the hunt, the smells, the noises, and the other wildlife we see during the day.

It makes us appreciate our good friend the rabbit (and what other quary may come our way), and it gives us the ownership and the responsibility to give that quary the respect it deserves.

You can’t get do that with a vacuum packed slab of supermarket flesh.

Some people are very negative about hunting for food. They see all hunters as elephant poaching lion murderers. Yeah, and all car drivers drive drunk, all vegetarians are stinking hippies, all dogs are vicious and so on…

Some say that by me explaining my hunting in blog posts I am in someway trying to justify it to myself.

Cognitive dissonance anyone?

If you do some research on factory farms and can still say that my single, painless bullet is more barbaric than one of those mass meat producing inhumane factories, then what you’re really doing is trying to justify to yourself that you’re somehow in the right, not that I’m in the wrong.

 If you don’t like it, then that’s fine with me; just don’t try to justify your views by trying to make me out to be the one at fault.

 

 

 

Shoot to Eat

I’m about to do something new.

It’ll probably upset some of you.

Some of you will see the logic and understand, and probably find yourself in a position much like the one I’m kind of in right now.

I eat meat and I wear leather. I eat eggs too. The fact is there are many things that I encounter either knowingly or unknowingly that require an animal to be killed, or kept constrained, to enable me and you to do and have certain things.

I love animals. I’ve always had pets. Fish, cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, chickens, a snake and even a rescue crow.

I couldn’t bring myself to shoot one though. Even taking the decision to have one put down at the vets is unbearably tough, but I put the animal first and do what is best for it. Having a severely ill pet that is being kept alive on medication isn’t the nicest thing for an animal; It’s no way to live.

I’ve seen people at the vets with one legged cats whose backsides are prolapsed, cataract in both eyes, dribbling blood, breathing painfully and drugged up to the hilt to stay alive because the owner ‘really loves them‘. Bullshit; if you love them, then you really need to know when to let them go.

I’ve paid to have terminally ill chicken put down before; I could’ve physically done it myself, but it was a pet and I couldn’t mentally bring myself to do it. Did we eat it afterwards? Hell no! She was a pet. Even our hens that died naturally were never eaten. They had names!

My lad with our beautiful rescued hens.

My lad with our beautiful rescued hens.

It was keeping the chickens that made me question what we as a species do to other animals that we harvest for their various meats, skins, eggs, milk, shitty coffee etc. They were all rescue hens; ex-factory farm egg layers, beyond their useful lives and heading to a shredder whilst alive. We rescued many over time, and the eggs they gave us in their retirement were the best ever! Better than any top quality, top price ‘free range’ store purchased eggs. The eggs were vibrant in colour and so full of flavour. If you’ve not raised chickens and had real free range eggs, then you wouldn’t appreciate what they are like. Our girls had full freedom in the garden. They had great food, shelter, water, healthcare and love.

Even shop brought free range eggs are a con. To be ‘free range‘ each hen must have a minimum amount of room to itself.

Factory hens are so cruelly and closely packed together that they are wedged together and upon release (to be shredded)after a ‘useful life’ of about 18 months, some can hardly walk. Some even break their legs trying because they were so tightly packed their legs never developed. Sickening.

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Battery hens. A few left to run around outside makes this ‘free range’…

But free range hens are okay, yeah? Well, a few are, but others egg producers bend the rules so that they can say that their hens are free range. They wedge most of their birds together in cages, but let a handful run around outside. Because a few run around outside, on average each bird at the factory farm has a lot more space – enough to legally say they are free range hens. Yeah, free range can be just as bad as non-free range, but at least you pay more and think you’re doing the right thing.

This is who your egg came from.

This is who your egg came from.

It’s the same with sheep, cows, pigs etc. There are some very good farms out there that really look after their livestock, and despatch them humanely, but a greater number of animal produce suppliers just do enough to be able to operate legally.

A nice bit of bacon?

A nice bit of bacon?

I’m against hunting for fun. Killing something just because it is rare, or its a challenge, or just because you can, is not something I appreciate in the slightest. I’ll happily eat, wear, use animal products, but I detest those that hunt for fun.

Some people go to far with animal rights though. Some people don’t fully appreciate animal husbandry and the good it does for the animal population.

Foxes. Yes, they can do all sorts of damage, and sometimes need humane culling. Ripping them apart with dogs after baiting and chasing them on horseback is not humane.

Badgers, rabbits, rats, pigeons, crows, deer etc. They can cause all sorts of problems to livestock and agriculture. By letting their numbers get out of hand you can end up with a lot of sick animals with insufficient food sources for them to live, and the larger numbers cause detriment to the environment and other animals. By careful land and animal management the balance can be kept. Only an idiot cannot see this.

In certain countries animals are hunted and the meat & byproducts are put to use. The animals hunted are generally carefully selected from older animals that are no longer breeding, and injured, weaker animals. The stronger, breeding animals keep a herd healthy, and good genetic material us passed on, and the herd can grow.

Additionally other animals benefit from mans help. For a simplistic example; If deer numbers build up, they’ll eat too much vegetation and will be left hungry. Other animals, such as rabbits that depend on the vegetation will also become hungry and Ill, and often leave an area in search of food, never to return. The deer and rabbits that don’t leave get weak, ill and die or spread illness. Weak deer and rabbits make easy prey for wolves. Easy prey means the wolf populations increase due to an abundance of food.

If too many wolves are allowed to build up, then they’ll eat all the remaining rabbits and deer. You’re left with starving, ill wolves and no deer or rabbits and a decimated environment.

By carefully controlling the number of deer, rabbits and wolves you can actually increase each population and keep it healthy. Yes, hunting can enlarge the population and have them stronger and healthier.

Google the Yellowstone Wolves and you’ll see what an impact animal management can have. A couple of wolves reintroduced new animals and vegetation to the park, and even changed the flow of a river. Whole new species of fish, birds and forest animals came back. Plants that had died out in the area cane back – even down to lichen, insects, bacteria… All from careful animal management.

To recap: I love animals, I hate people hunting them for no good reason, and do not see it as a sport. If a cull is needed, then do it efficiently and humanely, and above a lot of this, don’t be that arsehole who is against any type of hunting if you haven’t bothered to research and understand the good that animal management can do when done correctly.

Back to my something new.

I do like my meat, milk, leather shoes, eggs etc, but I’m not thrilled at how the animals are treated.

So I’m taking up hunting on controlled land.

Hear me out.

I’m a good shot. A very good shot. Over 12 years of top division competition target shooting. I know I can take an animal out cleanly. One minute it’ll be minding it’s happy own business in the huge open fields and woodland , and that’ll be the last thing it’ll ever know. HOW CRUEL!!!!

I’m sorry, but Mrs Feathers the factory chicken had 18 months of hell before being thrown in shredder just so you could have some poor quality egg in your shop brought salad. At least the bunny I shoot will have had a life of freedom, sunshine, good food and free of suffering. Who’s worse? The people buying factory meat from a store, or me?

When we move I plan to hunt larger game in an area that uses hunting to increase the entire animal population by proper husbandry. I plan to only shoot what is sustainable, better for the future population of that animal species and other affected species, and only what I need and can use. I wish to avoid buying factory farmed meat and produce where possible.

MMmmmmmeat.

MMmmmmmeat.

The difficulty for me is the killing. Yes, I know my shot will be true and clean, and I know it is better than buying from a store, but I’m face to face with my fluffy dinner; I’m not distanced from it like the anti-hunt people who buy their tortured slabs of meat in polystyrene trays, covered with clingfilm.

I’ll pull the trigger. I’ll take responsibility for that life. I’ll prepare and eat the meat and I’ll appreciate it all the more for knowing that I’ve not added to the supermarket demand for factory farmed animals.

So if you ask ‘how can you shoot a poor fluffy bunny?!?‘, I’ll ask ‘how can you buy inhumane factory farmed animal produce?

You buy from this, with unsold animals being thrown in to landfill – some still alive:

This is acceptable?

Once wrapped up and put on a supermarket shelf you’ll feel much better.

If you don't see it, it makes it okay. Yeah?

If you don’t see it, it makes it okay. Yeah?

But disagree with this – Free roaming rabbit – only shooting what you need:

Terrible. Fancy shooting a rabbit that's lived in freedom and happiness.

Terrible. Fancy cleanly shooting a rabbit that’s lived in freedom and happiness.

So inhumane! You'd rather eat factory farmed, mechanically reclaimed meat...?

So inhumane! You’d rather eat factory farmed, mechanically reclaimed meat…?

It is a catch 22 for me. I love animals and nature, and even though I’ve done my research & seen it for my own eyes, hunting for their greater good still doesn’t make it seem right; Even though it’s clearly working in certain countries, and is a damned lot better than force fed, cramped, mistreated factory animal produce.

At the time of writing this I’ve still to shoot my first rabbit, but rest assured! I have a well skilled country friend who is taking me through the humane hunting and despatch skills required to go with my already precise rifle work. I’m not half arsing this – I owe my doing it right to the rabbit.

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https://arcticviking.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/shoot-to-eat/