Reviewed by: Martin Auldist
The ethical food movement has been gaining momentum in recent years, particularly over the last decade or so. There have been countless books written on the subject, all putting their own spin on how and what we should be eating in order to have the least possible impact on matters of ethical importance such as the environment and animal welfare. The Mindful Carnivore - A Vegetarian's Hunt For Sustenance is another book about ethical food choices, but it is one with a difference. This book tells the story of one man’s seemingly unlikely transition from vegan to hunter as he comes to grips with the fact that killing is inextricably linked to living, and that harvesting wild meat is a low impact way of sourcing important animal protein.
The book is written by American author, Tovar Cerulli. Despite growing up in a rural area and learning to fish at an early age, Cerulli turns to veganism in his late teens. It was a switch borne out of an ideological objection to the thought of animals having to die so that he could eat. Gradually, though, Cerulli realises that the agricultural production systems that produce his vegetarian diet also result in the death of animals, often many more, through alteration of landscapes and habitat destruction. Even in his own organic vegetable garden, Cerulli struggles with the need to control the wild creatures that destroy his home grown food. Eventually, following medical advice that his diet was lacking in certain proteins that were difficult to obtain from plants, Cerulli turns back to meat. It is not, he decides, the eating of meat that troubles him, but the manner in which it came his plate. Did the animals he consumes live well before they died? Were they raised ethically? Did they die swiftly? Cerulli comes full circle to the same conclusion that many hunters have reached: that the only way to really know where his food comes from was to harvest it himself.
The majority of the book details Cerulli’s journey away from ‘killing by proxy’, as he describes it, towards becoming a successful deer hunter - and the enlightenment that his quest brings. We tag along as Cerulli, coached by an uncle, undertakes his firearm safety course, purchases a rifle, takes it into the woods and, eventually, tags his first whitetail deer.
It’s probably fair to say that Cerulli devotes far more conscious thought to his food choices than many of us. At times the issues that concern him deeply seem rather tedious and, in places, he is also unfairly critical of agriculture. Nevertheless the main message is one with which we can all agree: that hunting is a “least harm” way of obtaining healthy, free-range meat that can be entirely compatible with positive environmental, conservation and animal welfare outcomes. Overall the Mindful Carnivore provides a thoughtful and informative expose about the food on our plates and what it means to be truly part of nature rather than simply an observer. For that reason it deserves a place on any thinking hunter’s bookshelf.
Written by: Tovar Cerulli
Published by: Pegasus Books
Content: 281 pages
Available from: Reading’s in Melbourne offers free delivery to anywhere in Australia if ordered on-line at www.readings.com.au/books (use the search function to find the book).