Sunday, September 21, 2008

Moose, Schmoose.

Can someone please answer me this: why do we care that the Republican veep pick, Sarah Palin, hunts moose? Why is her penchant for hunting any different from Huckabee's fondness for pheasants or ducks? Or Cheney's partiality towards quail? Does the target have to be poultry for the hunting to be excused? I think the good people at Bird Lovers International might disagree. Moose seems to be a perfectly respectable meat, playing first fiddle in recipes such as Jellied Moose Nose or Moose Sausage, but often also used interchangeably with venison or elk.

This particular piece tries to argue that moose are somehow more morally reprehensible to kill than smaller, more agile animals such as ducks and deer. Besides being personally offended by this bizarre relativism, as an individual of petite stature, the argument makes no sense. Does that mean that we should forsake hunting all large animals and only hunt those that make their conquest more of a competitive, skilled sport? The author disparagingly suggests that Palin's only contribution to the ticket would be to add mooseburgers to the White House menu, without even an ounce of critical analysis explaining why this would, in fact, be a bad thing.

The disturbing nature of this moose obsession that exploded on blogs, across media outlets, and in comedians' repertoires is two-fold. First, it reeks of sexism. The discourse surrounding sexism in the media is still either focused on Hillary loyalists and their die hard allegiance to the former First Lady, whom they believed was unfairly treated by the sexist media and DNC, or the sexism of those Palin-critics who question her (EXECUTIVE, haven't you heard?!) experience, allegedly just because she has ovaries. What they fail to mention is why hunting is all of a sudden taboo when it's attached to a female candidate but easily forgotten when it comes to a male one. A quick blog search at reveals that a whopping 2010 blog entries have been published on Palin's moose-hunting in the 23 days since she was announced as the veep pick for the GOP ticket, while only 106 entries have been published on Huckabee's affinity for hunting in the 603 days since he announced his run for the White House.

Second, judgmentally lumping Palin's moose-hunting together with the rest of progressives' assessment of her as a qualified candidate only distracts us from real issues and makes us look like liberal assholes who, for some reason, accept venison at high prices in upscale restaurants, but look down our noses at the largest animal in the same deer family. Look, I may not like Palin's positions on reproductive rights, education, the separation between church and state, the war in Iraq, or pretty much anything else she has taken a position on as yet, but, when it comes to moose, I think we could all learn a little something from Alaska. [note: whether wolves should be shot down from the air to conserve the moose in question is a topic for another post]

One of the most interesting parts of Alaskan moose culture that Kim Severson reported in the NYTimes the other day is that there happens to be a state law in Alaska requiring that all meat from a hunted animal be salvaged for eating; even when a moose is hit on the road, an official roadkill list is consulted and volunteers immediately rush to the scene and start butchering the animal. The meat is then distributed to churches and soup kitchens so that families in need can feed on the meat.

It seems like these conservationist measures could be used in similar fashion to former President Jimmy Carter's advocacy for responsible hunting and preservation of wildlife. Here was a president who is still internationally acclaimed as a responsible environmentalist and avid hunter--bedfellows that might not necessarily be as strange as the recent bout of quail-hunting-face-shooting politicians suggest.

Another lesson Palin could learn from Carter might be his honesty concerning the equipment that hunters need for their operations. Carter was able to turn his keenness for hunting into an admirable call for stricter gun control. He criticized the NRA's irresponsible and manipulative messaging that claimed to fight for hunters' rights, while really lobbying for the manufacture, transfer, and possession of 19 specific semiautomatic assault weapons--NONE of which are used for hunting.

Guns kill moose, but as long as that meat is feeding people who would otherwise go hungry, I'm fine with it. When guns kill people, however, there aren't any official roadkill lists or charitable organizations to consult--nor should there be, of course.

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