The sun was still stirring in its deep sleep as I got dressed. My hunting boots eagerly awaited my feet to fill it with life. Apart from the scent of coffee and heated croissants, I smell something that excited my senses more…the strong pine scent could not mask it…. It is the smell of anticipation. It deeply pervades in me as an ancient instinct inherited from the Neandertals. I let it freely resurface time and again when I have this rare opportunity to go hunting for creatures in the forest for food.. yes, food…. and an intense sense of pride, which I am in dire need of right now. I let anticipation fill my being, sharpen my senses and arm me with courage. I let it trigger my hunger as a predator in search of its prey.
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I grab my trusty old rifle. The feeling of metal on my hand seems to transfer its coldness to my persona. I need to be cold and merciless because my usual warmth will only get in the way of my feverish urge to shoot down an innocent animal. I must allow the beast within me to take over my civility.
As I go through my door, the chilly breeze greets my face and I look beyond the darkness. The forest beckons me to explore its majesty and take from it what I want. My eyes marvel at the awesome trees, so beautiful in their vigilance to guard the forest and shade it from harm. These trees have been witnesses to life being brought forth as well life being cursed by death in the hands of greedy men.
My feet begin their journey as they squish squash on wet grass. Living in the city, a weekend in the woods is a much needed respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Communing with nature is such a potent shot in the arm to bring back the zest and energy to go on with living once back in the metropolis. Pondering on that thought, I decided to re-evaluate my purpose for the day. I asked myself why am I so gung-ho to hunt? What is it about the adrenaline rush of a kill? If I was on holiday in the woods for some rest and rejuvenation, then how come I am up before the break of dawn instead of sleeping comfortably in my warm and soft bed?
Walking in the woods make me think deeply about a lot of things. Perhaps this was what I truly needed and the hunting was just an excuse for me to find the peace that nature provides. Just being enveloped with fresh air, green trees, the scent of pine, the sound of chirping birds and the sight of flora and fauna is relaxing enough. However, I cherish the clearness I get in my head after I struggle with the murky thoughts that occupy it initially.
Recently, I read the article, “An Animal’s Place” by Michael Pollan. It is a discussion on one of the most controversial moral issue of our time – animal rights. Animal rights advocates fight against the injustices done to animals – harming them in ways to make life more convenient for humans. These animal advocates cringe at the inhumane treatment of animals who they believe deserve our utmost respect. However, certain individuals stand up on the defensive, that animals are inferior to human beings, hence man can do as he pleases in order to survive. The fact that animals kill each other all the time is one natural law that maintains the balance of nature and the survival of the fittest. On the other hand, domesticated animals, being used to be cared for by humans have lost its ability to hunt and take care of their own needs.
Polland (2002) finds middle ground in advocating for humane treatment of animals since these creatures indeed deserve respect. He cites a long-time vegetarian who says that he will only eat the meat of an animal he himself kills to ensure that the animal did not suffer a barbaric death in order to give life to another being. Polland upholds the views of animal rights advocates, but not to the extreme end of a total rejection of poultry and meat. In its purest form, Polland’s essay points out that animals must be accorded humane treatment, allowing them to live their short lives approximating their natural habitat and with the least pain and suffering. They should be respected for their life’s purpose. In the case of farm animals, life will be meaningless if they are not to serve as sustenance for man’s survival.
Survival, being the key word, made me stop at my tracks. I am surviving. I am actually doing more than that in my life in the city. I do not need to hunt for my dinner. What I really want is to feel power, and hunting down a small animal that was meant to be eaten by humans will work well for me. In the stillness of the early morning, I saw at the side of my eye a passing rabbit. I aimed for it and from a distance, looked into its reddish eyes. It looked liked it belonged where it was – comfy in the grass amidst stones and bushes. My heart melted and instead of the hunger for blood and screams of possible prey I felt a little while back, I felt a strong drive to nurture it and protect it from the wild. I suddenly lost the appetite for hunting. I decided to leave that to real hunters while I enjoyed my pleasurable walk down the woods.
Nature can do that to you if you only let her…calm down your wild impulses to destroy, and encourage your full being to let life live. Indeed, even if I went home empty-handed, I went back to the city rested and rejuvenated.
Pollan, M. “An Animal’s Place”, The New York Times, 2002, Web.