NWF Book Club: The Mindful Carnivore

The Mindful Carnivore by Tovar Cerulli
In The Mindful Carnivore–A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance Tovar Cerulli looks at his connection to nature through the lens of food. He talks about his time as a strict vegan who was searching for a way to minimize the impact on what and how he ate, connecting to the world through gardening and eating a plant based diet. The story then continues as he grows older, looking back at his childhood enjoyment of fishing, and a deeper examination of what it means to be vegan.

We follow Cerulli through his time as a devout vegan as he transitions first to returning to fishing and later turns to hunting. This is not an issue that he takes lightly but feels that his connection to nature, the world, and the food that helps him, and all of us survive is deepened by his experience with hunting.

Join in the Conversation

We all connect to the world in different ways; be it boating, fishing, hiking, gardening, or hunting. For many, including Cerulli, hunting is a way to connect with nature and the outdoors. Hunting is also a complex topic, one which deals with our moral obligations to the world around us and a respect for the creatures that we share the planet with.

The morality of hunting is not an easy one to discuss and there are many opinions on both sides of the argument. Conservation as we know it today would not be the same without the support of hunters, anglers, and many others who believe that our natural world deserves protecting. The National Wildlife Federation has a strong history of working with hunters, anglers, gardeners, bird watchers, scientists, outdoor enthusiasts, and families to help protect our wildlife and wild places for future generations.

The following are questions to help guide you through a conversation around some of the issues and ideas brought up in this book.

  • Once Cerulli has returned to fishing he begins to talk about the acceptability of fishing over hunting. For many of us (myself included) a responsible near vegetarian diet can include fish and other seafood. On page 86 he confronts the idea that fishing is a much more accepted form of obtaining meat than hunting. That we associate ourselves with mammals but not fish, making it easier for us to take the lives of aquatic creatures than the feathered and furry creatures living on land. Do you feel that there is a difference between hunting and fishing? Do you have a greater connection to mammals and other terrestrial animals than fish?
  • Some of the most famous and well respected conservationists such as Teddy Roosevelt who is responsible for so many of our nation’s parks and protected areas were also hunters. Hunters and anglers remain strong voices for conservation, fighting against issues such as Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, AK and coal export from the Pacific Northwest. They also stand up for issues in conservation and climate issues. Starting on page 99 Cerulli talks about the history of conservation through the hunting and fishing lens. What drives you to speak up for our wildlife and wild places and what role do you feel hunting and fishing has in this?
  • Our world is not always in balance. On page 169 Cerulli talks about the problems of overpopulation of deer and the impacts that this can have on the environment. Many times the lack of predators can create an over population of species such as deer and elk which can damage their habitat. Cerulli talks about the response of certain areas to allow hunting in these areas in order to help control the population. What are your thoughts on this?
When Elephants Weep–The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaief Masson and Susan McCarthy

June’s Book

In June we will be reading When Elephants Weep–The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaief Masson and Susan McCarthy. This book offers a profound look at the emotional lives of the animals that we share the planet with. From sadness to joy, jealousy, and anger animals express ranges of emotions similar to us. Discover the depth of this emotion that helps us better understand our planet and its inhabitants.

Thoughtful Moments

• I can’t help but feel the joy when my dog looks back at me while playing catch or feel the annoyance from the chattering squirrel in the tree as it hurls acorns at passersby. Where can you see emotions in the animals in your life?
• When we think of animal emotions should we look at them in the same way we look at our own emotions or should they be viewed in a different way?

Published: June 1, 2012