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January 22, 2008

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Bill Heavey: Allies in Strange Places

I got a letter from a Mr. R. L. Fischer of Pittsburgh the other day, passing on the transcript of an interview in which the subject delivered  “the best justification for hunting” that Fischer had ever heard. The person being interviewed was a non-hunter, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Food Column editor of the L.A. Weekly, Jonathan Gold. And it aired on every hunter’s favorite radio outlet, National Public Radio. 

That’s right, a food writer from La-La Land on the liberal elite’s favorite radio. Gold, an adventuresome eater, described both his extreme discomfort and a kind of epiphany he had while eating a live prawn in a Korean restaurant in Los Angeles.

“...it was not dead, this prawn, it was extremely alive and it was wiggling its legs and it was wiggling is antennae. And its eyes were like swiveling madly in its eye sockets, and it was looking back at me, seeing me as actually the predator, the creature that was going to eat it.

“It was getting too close to the actual nature of consumption, which is killing a living creature with our teeth...(but) the taste of the prawn, the taste of the meat of it, was extraordinary. It was sweet, it was like there was life pushing through it.”

The interviewer then asks the million dollar question. Was Gold of the opinion that it mattered, that it was morally better to eat an animal if the eater was more awake to the fact of the animal’s life and that it had had to be killed to end up on his dinner plate?

He responded: “I think it matters a great deal. I mean, one of the greatest metaphors in western civilization was that of Christ who gave his life so that others might live. And I don’t want to be sacrilegious and I don’t want to belittle that myth in any way, but a pig is giving his life so that we might eat, a chicken is giving its life so that we might eat. And I think the least we can do is to think about that chicken, to think about that calf we are eating. Not necessarily to be sad for it, but to celebrate it, to be aware of it being that what it was, that it wasn’t just this bioengineered protein that somehow managed to find its way onto our plates.”

I was thinking about this all day yesterday while butchering my deer, which took me and a friend about five hours. It was something I hadn’t done in a long time. It brought home to me once again the strange miracle of our lives: of the fleeting now-ness of them, of the violence of existence, of the vividness of any given moment as it flies. And of how all living things are part of a mystery far beyond our ability to comprehend.


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Blue Ox

Life feeds on life. Remember that.


I think the businesses in the hunting industry have over glamorized the size of the antlers, horns or whatever the trophy. Businesses have taken this and successfully run with it.

I know a lot of people that harvest a buck every year. Then they take the usual back of the truck photo with the tongue hanging out, that does not impress me. That does not demonstrate respect for the animal.

Maybe we should take some lessons from the Germans and other European countries who value the animal as a whole not the by the size of the rack.

My father who was stationed in Germany for 8 years learned quite a bit from the Jaeger’s and has passed the traditions on to me.

Just my opinion, I am getting stoked about the SHOT Show anybody else out there going?


Pretty heavy subject matter!

It's hard sometimes, to realize that what's on your plate, was once the fauna tripping through the flora!
I also think that from time to time, too much emphasis is placed on antler dimensions and field dressed weight! Some people, at times stated in these blogs, (The Gun Nut, Field Notes) like to extoll their ability to kill deer at extreme ranges! Some like to talk about numbers killed, taken, harvested, reduced to bag... you pick the word or phrase!
We need to thank God every time we release and arrow or slip a trigger sear!!!


John D

Well written, Mr. Heavey. The words of Mr. Gold echo my own in past struggles with a girlfriend who was anti-hunting, yet ate meat. Once we got through the idea of facing the sacrifice an animal makes, her trouble was with the fact we enjoy what we do. I always said there was great delight is stripping away the constructs of this dirty little society and reveling in what we are – predators. There was also great delight that came with ending that relationship!!


Right John D

So many people want that T-bone but are unwilling to do the "deed" themselves. To me that shows selfishness and sloth!



God created the earth as a wild and violent place. Man is to have dominion over it, and to do so, man must have a wild, fully engaged heart. The earth will not be tamed, and neither should man be so. A tame man cannot tame a wild thing.

Part of the nature of man is the necessity of killing to survive. The earth is our sustenance, and we must know how to reduce it to serve our survival.

We ought celebrate this miracle with wonder and majesty (not as wild-eyed fools). This is not a game...it is life and death, and we are in it and of it.

We should endeavor always to remain aware of this and be in awe of it.

Brian T

I'm a believer in somebody who said:"I harvest vegetables. I kill game." Yes, I am mindful of what I'm doing and forever grateful for the means to celebrate the enduring vigor of life on this planet. No, I do not suffer from any moral indigestion.

Trae B.

thats the kind of stuff you write about that makes me respect you Mr.Heavey

Othmar Vohringer

Great article. My father, a hunter and meat processing plant owner, taught us to respect all living things because they give their lives so we may eat. I still adhere to these teachings when I hunt and process livestock at out plant. Respect means to me, to take great care in ending the live of the animals so that they do not suffer and utilize everything of the animal.



Ill say again as I have on different F&S and Outdoor life blogs it is an immense responsibility to take life.I.E. from fish to a hamburger a life is given. I wish more people would realize this. Sure as hell didnt think it would be a chef from la la land. He is going to piss some folks out there off but maybe just maybe they will think about it next time they put a piece of meat in their mouth.

Steven Lake

Thank you God for all our blessings


Pretty much sums it up Steven.


Mr Heavy, this is off subject but I wanted to thank you for the article on your father. I am 41 and my Dad is 68. I never told him I loved him until i read your article. We have butted heads for most of my life but the love of Father and son is undeniable. I also have a 9 year old son and 2 stepsons 3 and 12 and they will be told that I love them. Mr.McCafferty did a pretty good job too in this months F&S. Again Mr Heavy thank you, My Father and I are 500 miles apart but we have never been closer.

bill heavey

Greg, you absolutely made my day. Thank you.

It took me forever to tell my dad I loved him. It's so important and for some reason we men make it so hard to do.

Do better by your boys than our fathers did by us. Tell them you love them. Hug them every day. They may seem embarrassed at first, but I guarantee you that every boy alive is hungry for the physical affection, non-judgmental interest, and approval of both his biological father AND from the men he looks up to.

Women, generally, have done a great job of looking after girls in our society. We need to start doing the same for boys. One of the first ways is for us as men to show them that real men talk, hug, and even cry. We have a silent epidemic of troubled boys in this country. They have more academic and discipline problems in school than girls, get expelled more often, lag girls in college enrollment, and who commit suicide four times as often.

Time for men to step up. bh


Bill I couldn't have said it better myself thanks for all you do

Chad Love

I'm generally a lurker on this blog (I'm a Gun Nut regular so that disqualifies me from often posting to blogs of taste and sophistication...) but I too wanted to say thanks for the column on your father. It touched me deeply.
I have two small boys (one seven and one still a toddler) and I find myself thinking a lot these days of the interaction between fathers and sons, the complexity of that relationship especially in a time when there are so many external forces directly competing for your child's influence.
My parents divorced when I was 10 and my brother was three. I went on to live and breathe hunting, fishing and generally raising hell out in the woods. My brother did not. I've often wondered why, and the only conclusion I can come to is that my father's influence, however fleeting and sporadic, helped shape me into who I am. My brother wasn't afforded that opportunity.
I think that influence or lack thereof has a profound and far-reaching impact on a young boy. I have also long since reconciled with my father. My brother has not, and I think that too goes back to issues rooted in early childhood development.
I completely agree with your assertion there is an epidemic of failure when it come to raising our boys. We've abdicated our responsibility and duty as role models to any number of pop-culture surrogates.
Raising a child today is all about trends and which one everyone happens to be following at a given moment, at least until the next one comes along and the experiment starts all over again.
As an example, consider the recent bestseller "The Dangerous Book for Boys."
Now, I have a copy, and it's a great book. I'm not knocking it, but it came out at a time when everyone was debating this very point of what's wrong with our boys. There was a prevailing buzz that perhaps we weren't allowing them to "be boys." So you have boks like "Dangerous Book" and books on "Nature Deficit Disorder" (another excellent book, BTW)extolling the virtues of unfettered, unstructured exploration of nature.
Great ideas, and if even a small percentage of parents and children are influenced by it then it's worth it, but I'm starting to see copies of all these books show up in the used book bins and on remainder tables along with all the other parenting books and I can't help but think it's a perfect metaphor for how we're utterly failing our children.

Some may consider this an apocryphal litmus test, but I believe if you show me a boy who can walk right by a log, a rock or a piece of tin without having the curiosity to turn it over and see what's underneath it, then I'll show you a boy whose father is failing him.

Curiosity and wonder. If you're not willing to get out in the woods or creeks and share that with your son, then what's the point of fatherhood?


Chad you are amazingly articulate. I think you're boys will be just fine. If I can do half as good as you said above I will be happy.


You're? heres my sign, sorry

Chad Love

Greg, it's only because I'm trying to compensate for an inability to speak clearly and concisely so profound it must be heard (but only once) to be believed.


This is an excellent post. One of the main reasons I want to teach my kids about hunting is that I want them to understand that for them to eat, another living thing must lose its life.

Since fewer and fewer of us have the opportunity to raise our kids on farms, hunting has become an even more important way of illustrating this point.

R. L. Fisher

If Gold had used the word "story" instead of "myth" when referring to Christ, I would have felt better about it. However, I was astounded when hearing the program on NPR that his reasoning took him where it did. He was right on target in his ultimate philosophy. I know so many folks, even religious ones, who would not be able to make the connections he did. Some will not eat wild meat, some will not cook it. For politicaly correct purposes, their reasoning is blocked to the truth.

Scott B

What is it about butchering your own deer? I have done dozens of them, and every once in awhile I'll get too busy and have to take one to the local meat cutter. I tell myself this doesn't matter, that I will enjoy the professionally-done meat as much as the stuff I process myself.

But the next deer I do myself IS different. It just all comes back to me; how satisfying it is to make your own meat. To honor the animal by removing every edible piece of tissue from the carcass yourself, trimming it, wrapping it... There is no way to feel more connected to the hunt than this. I cannot unwrap a package of venison without seeing the entire hunt unfold in my head and to fully appreciate that something once beautiful and alive died so I could live.

I am a father of 8-year old twins (who have been raised on venison, by the way!) and of my many hopes for them, this is one; that they understand and appreciate this connection to the land that eating wild game gives us.

Sorry if I'm dragging on, but here's a story. One day when my kids were 4 or 5, we were eating lunch and I looked out the sliding glass door that leads to our backyard. We live in farm country, and little cottontail rabbits were bombing out of this CRP patch that abuts our property and running into our backyard. Right behind them was a weasel! After a little chasing around, the weasel caught a rabbit and dragged it off into the weeds.

Well, of course there was the usual Disney reaction from the kids, lamenting the bunny's death and cursing that evil weasel. Well I went right into teacher-mode and told them that weasel was no different than us, eating deer (which are pretty too!) and trying to stay alive.

My wife looked at me and mouthed "T-M-I" (too much information) but I just smiled and let it sink in. Well, they still talk about that incident 3 years later. I don't know, maybe they just liked being compared to a weasel!But I like to think they understand they are predators...and one day will act on that knowledge by hunting with me!

Larry Ross

Mr. Heavey:
I believe that the food writer mentioned in your article has hit on a great truth. In our "modern" world today, kids don't have a clue where meat and farm products come from. They may know intellectually, but not from experience or in a real hands on way.
As a person who has always had the utmost respect for the game that I killed, I have tried to pass on that ethic to my friends, children and grandchildren.
Wild game and fish provide us with some of the best times of our life in their pursuit. The very least we can do is to show respect for the food and sport that they provide. There is something spiritual in eating venison or fowl that you have taken in fair chase hunting, personally field dressed and cooked.
Those of us that have been fortunate to live a life that has involved such pursuits have an obligation to educate and involve others in learning to appreciate what God has provided for us.
Thanks for a great article. Keep up the good work!


Hey Mr. Heavey you had better be careful some of these guys are damn good writers


R.L Fisher: I, too, am blown away by Gold's take on Christ's sacrifice; that He gave his life that others might live. Never had I realized more his words, when He took bread, broke it and said "Take this all of you and eat. This is my body." I'm a Catholic, and it was while reading Gold that I understood better what was going on at the Last Supper. Amazing!

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