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Country Gentleman: Omnivores

A venison dish is shown in this photo provided by the C.W. Nicol Afan Woodland Trust.

Homo sapiens evolved as omonivores, hunter-gatherers -- we ate roots, fruits, seeds, shells, fish, birds, animals. To hunt our most valuable and dangerous prey needs close cooperation and understanding. A single whale (like a bowhead -- "semi kujira") could ensure the survival of seven villages, but it could also kill a boatload of whalers. Whether it be from the sandy deserts of the Sahara to the icy, snowy vistas of the arctic, humans have evolved hunting traditions. Religions have rules or taboos on which animals can be eaten and on how they can be killed, butchered, and prepared. Muslims, Jews and Coptic Christians do not eat pork. I believe that this is soundly based on health and the environments in which pigs were encountered.

Having lived for a large part of my life among people who were hunters rather than farmers and herdsmen, their deep knowledge of the plants and other creatures that enhance their lives has deeply impressed me. These people all have rules and rituals by which the treatment is governed.

When a good hunter kills a deer or wild boar it is free until the moment of death after which its body is treated as food.

At home in Kurohime, northern Nagano, the meat we serve is venison, wild boar and sometimes bear. As an environmental conservationist in Japan I see no contradiction in this. (I will state here that I am deeply concerned about the use of leg-trap wire snare; but that is another story.)

The sale of rare and exotic wild animals either as food or pets in Chinese markets is a disgrace. To see precious creatures piled in cages on top of each other, wallowing in excrement, urine and other filth is revolting. Moreover, to witness the way these creatures are killed and dismembered all on the same chopping block, with the same filthy knives, makes me lose all respect for the people involved.

Nature is giving us many warnings about the mistreatment of our planet and all the life we share.

The coronavirus is just one of the plagues to come.

OK. I've said my bit. Now I join my voice to many thousands of others, many of them Chinese or other Asians who feel as deeply as the rest of us. Wild meat is tasty and nutritious. Sensibly harvested, it is a high-value, sustainable food.

Japan has serious problems with a surplus of wild deer, boar and other animals. The Japanese wolf was exterminated over 100 years ago and our hunters are ageing and decreasing in numbers. The animals had to be killed, but then about 95% of the meat was dumped. It was a national disgrace.

In recent years, facilities to handle wild animals killed in mountains and forests have improved and increased throughout Japan. Hunters bring them down and hand them over for data-collection, skinning, butchering and safe, hygienic packing.

Fractured bones, spent bullets, bruised or bloody tissue is discarded. Meat is weighed and separated into categories. These packets are easily handled by a housewife. The meat has no odor. The meat to be sold is of top quality.

In Kurohime we can order the venison we want and it will usually arrive the next day. So convenient! So tasty!

("Country Gentleman" is a regular column by author and conservationist C.W. Nicol)

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