East Texas Blues: Thoughts on Hunting, Culture, and Veganism
November 28, 2011 3 Comments
I just spent the Thanksgiving holidays in East Texas. Saying what I’m about to say could get me kicked out of Texas, but here it is: the Piney Woods, in their way, are the embodiment of all that’s wrong with much of rural America. The landscape, which is marked at times by stunning beauty, is more noticeably pocked with decrepit trailers and long-exhausted cars. The above-board industry is the timber mill while the more entrepreneurial economy hums underground, feeding the booming demand for crystal meth. Housing projects surround the local high school and people at the local grocery, situated just behind the tired-looking football stadium, seem haggard and worked-over. Internet signals are a flash in the pan. Roads are unpaved and confederate flags are iconic. The only behavior that I see having any ameliorative impact on the collective culture of East Texas, the only human expression that I see giving any hope to people whose lives are clearly defined by struggle, is one of bloody aggression. People here hunt.
I’m well aware that people hunt everywhere there’s anything to hunt. But it’s different in East Texas. It’s in the blood of this place. The actual act of killing a deer or a boar or a duck is only the smallest part of the perceived pleasure. The deeper fulfillment comes in the accessories–which, if you own enough of them, add up to a way of life: the truck, the tires on the truck, the mud on the tires of the truck, the cammo attire, the buck knife on the hip, the bright orange cap, the plug of chew, the case of beer, the pack of cigarettes, the banter, and the unfortunate animal tied to the rack after a day of shooting-the-shit with your old high school buddies while ensconced in a deer blind. I absorbed these images. I caught inflections of these stories, smelled the tobacco, listened to the rumble of the trucks, and bore sad witness to the pulpy results of the hunt over a long weekend, a hunting weekend, in East Texas. Then I found myself sitting at stoplight wondering about a question every vegan advocate has been forced to contemplate: is there hope? I’ve written a pile of words about why it is wrong to exploit animals. But, as I looked around East Texas, it occurred to me–to take away hunting would be take away East Texas. My words would be a pile indeed–a pile of shit. I was awoken from my reverie with a honk.
There’s no doubt where I stand on this matter. No form of cultural expression can even remotely justify the senseless brutality of hunting. I continually wonder: what kind of man gets his rocks off by blowing away an animal for no reason? But no matter: my recognition of the cultural depth of this act (when I returned to Austin I had to endure three stories about people who had shot deer over the weekend) reminded me that those of us who, through whatever action we take, fight for the benefit of the voiceless, should steel ourselves for a cold truth. Change will come. This I believe. But (for those who live in sophisticated urban centers with large populations of enlightened vegans this will be harder to accept): we shouldn’t plan to see much of it in our lifetimes. I say this not to be gloomy or self-pitying, but–really-to remind myself that the piles of words I’m dumping out now might someday join others to lay a foundation for a world that extends justice and compassion to all animals. In the meantime, all we have is our inner voice telling us to keep pounding away at what we know to be true.