Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance

A few months ago, when tweeting back and forth with Tovar Cerulli, I was asked if I had an interest in reading his book, The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance. While I am no literary critic or bibliophile, I do love a good book and having been given the opportunity to review something other than a hunting product excited me. Before I proceed, you must understand that I have been a follower of Tovar's blog for some time and can appreciate his perspective on the outdoors, hunting and fishing. Many people like to debate with Tovar and he always has a good, fact based response. While I know it can get emotional, he keeps his responses on point. Knowing this, I decided that yes, I had a strong interest in reading his book. Tovar and I have had honest, level-headed debates on other blogs based on our opinions, but where we stated facts to make our point. I appreciated what he had to say, so I knew I really wanted to read this book.

Vegetarians have called it “thought-provoking” and “beautiful,” and have urged others to read it. Hunters have commended the questions it raises about what it means to take an animal’s life, and have said that it gives them new insight into vegetarianism.

The quote from Tovar's blog is very true. I have been very standoffish from vegetarians because most that I encounter try to ram it their views down my throat and say hunting is wrong. They tell me I am a murderer and what I do is reprehensible. Then I explain my hunting background as the eldest male in a family growing up with little to eat, but being blessed with wild game to hunt. Why I hunt is often discussed and while this usually eases the tension a bit, it can be a very testy situation. In his book, Tovar deals with these very same issues and how he approached them. They may not be detailed in the exact manner as I have stated, but nonetheless they are there. I respect what Tovar has to say because he brings something new to the table.

His book outlines his struggle with eating properly, staying healthy and fighting his conscience. What I mean by the latter part is the inner and outer battle he has to deal with regarding vegetarianism vs. hunting. His moral code is not only respectable, but you can feel the struggle he goes through. Even still, the journey he shares is one of understanding and freedom. Debate will continue to exist between vegetarians and hunters, but Tovar lays out some viewpoints rather innocently and lets you choose how to think. He also does not judge you for the choices you make. Consider that when reading the book.

'Now that I was fishing, the water had come alive. Ponds and lakes were no longer mere scenery.'

The quote above describes exactly how I feel as an outdoorsman. Everything in the woods, on the mountains and in the water is alive. That being said, I don't always have to go kill something to have a successful hunt. That is another interesting avenue that Tovar touches on throughout the book.

'Looking around at the taxidermied heads on the fish and game club walls, I wondered how the hunters who had done the killing saw those mounts. Did they see them as proof of their capacity for domination? Did they see them as ways of honoring the animal they had killed, or as ways of preserving the memories of those days, those moments?'

I have often wondered similar questions. I am not a trophy hunter by definition. Any animal I hunt, kill and put in my freezer is a trophy. It is something I have worked hard for and to me it IS a trophy. Now don't get me wrong,
like many hunters will, I do proudly display my mounts from animals I have killed. It's a personal choice, but Tovar still makes you think about it. There's no right or wrong, but rather a question of accountability.

In the book, Tovar mentions living for a spell in New York State and where he lived was less than an hour from where I grew up. This also helped me connect with him on a geographical level. It brought me back home. The smells, the open country and driving through the Finger Lakes int he Fall. You don't have to be from New York, New Hampshire or any specific location to relate to the book. Just be a hunter with an open mind. I do think that the book is more focused at hunters understanding vegetarians and not vice versa, but that is strictly my opinion.

Most of you will be pleasantly surprised when you read this book. By the end you will feel like Willie and Uncle Mark are part of your extended family. I am not going to give all details away here, but I highly recommend picking up a copy. While it started off slow for me, the meat of the book and the ending were thought provoking, powerful and entertaining. It'll give you insight into the mind of a vegetarianan-turned-hunter, the inner battles one has to address and the highlights of some great dynamics between friends and family.

The book is published by Pegasus Books and distributed by W. W. Norton. It can be purchased through local bookstores or online. For purchase links, more info, and details on upcoming events around New England, please visit Tovar's website: www.tovarcerulli.com/book.

1 comment:

  1. I have had a lot of thoughts about that lately after moving to the Central Valley, lots of feed lots. I see cows pushing each other over to get to where some guy is dumping the contents of a lawn mower bag. When I hear people say hunting is cruel and they eat feed lot cattle I think they lost the point. The boar or deer had a better life than any feed lot steer.