Of Rights and Wrongs
desert," Hack said as he climbed the shed's steps to get a handful of feed to toss to his chickens. "They've drained wetlands, and killed lots of wildlife in the process, to be sure you could get your broccoli in winter. In Florida, they're stealing water from the Everglades for your oranges. Again, wildlife is the loser."
Suellen didn't know what to say. "I still don't believe I was ever directly responsible for causing the death of any animal. Not like someone who eats meat."
"Just buying that house killed animals, Suellen," Hack said softly. "Before you moved in a whole covey of quail used the overgrown meadow that's now your front yard. And when you burned those brushpiles, you sentenced to death all the cottontails that had hidden there. Your husband sawed down that old snag, and the flicker family will live there no more.
"And your cats, oh how they prowl. I see 'em sneakin' all over, chasing squirrels and rabbits and songbirds. I know, I know, it's only natural. But each time a human being moves farther into the country, it's usually bad for wildlife and habitat. Doesn't matter if that human is a vegan or carnivore. It's simply the way of the world."
"Well, maybe...just maybe, it's okay for you to live the way you do," Suellen grudgingly admitted. "But I'll never get used to all those weekend warriors trudging into the woods the first day of deer season. That is obscene," she sputtered.
Hack thought about her statement. He thought about all the hunters in their blaze orange hats, loaded in their 4-wheel-drives heading out to the country. "Suellen," he said. "Humans were hunters for a much longer time than they were farmers or factory workers or computer whizzes. Some of us - like yourself - don't have the inclination to hunt any more, that's true. But some of us do. The need just burns in our veins.
"It isn't about hurting animals, or dominating them so we can feel good. It's hard to explain, I know, but when you hunt you realize you're just a tiny part of a great big whole.
"Sure, I have a good life here. I can get down on my hands and knees and feel the earth, touch it and taste it, if I want. I know everything comes from it, and everything will return to it.
"A person who works 40 or 50 hours each week on an auto assembly line can only imagine the way life is here on my farm. They are so busy providing for their family, the only time they can strengthen that bond with the unknown, with nature, is when they get away to fish or hunt on weekends.
"It would be great if every hunter could go out every day of the year, just like our ancestors did for millions of years. It would be great if we could have our totems and our rituals and our purifications that would bind us closer to the earth. But it's just not practical.
"Modern humans have to work in cities, live in subdivisions, shop in stores where all living things, vegetable and animal, have been reduced to just a glob encased in plastic, tin or plastic foam. To me, that's not natural. That's what's sick, not the poor Joe or Joanne who is trying his or her best to understand their places in the overall scheme of things."
Suellen finally said, "I'm still not sure I can ever truly approve of some of the things you've tried to explain, but I do see we have many of the same concerns."
Hack said with a grin, "The longest journey begins with a single step. Heck, you and I, we aren't all that different. We both care - a great deal - about living things. We just show that love and respect in different ways.
"I guess when it comes right down to it, what I've been trying to say is whether we're vegans or hunters, farmers or city folks, we all have the right to live our lives the way we see fit. That's what this country is all about."