Kudu male, wandering out of the bushes long enough to pose for a photo.
I took the above photo last year in Kruger National Park. As I was looking at it again on Instagram, as I’ve posted it there, a thought occurred to me. When I worked and lived in Saudi Arabia, there was a fast food restaurant called Kudu. The animal above, if you haven’t read the caption, is also a Kudu. Now, the restaurant named Kudu did not serve kudu. They sold submarine sandwiches with grilled beef or chicken. Although, the running joke is that there is so many feral and stray cats running around Saudi Arabia that it wouldn’t be a stretch if one of them ended up in your food at some point. Not likely, I know, but that was the joke. But this got me thinking …
I have actually eaten kudu before. The animal, as well as the fast food chain food. Truth be known, I’ve eaten a lot of venison. For those of you with stronger sensibilities than I, or vegetarians that cannot stand when us carnivores talk, you might want to look away now. I have consumed moose, elk, caribou, reindeer, impala, springbok, gemsbok (oryx), kudu, eland, warthog, alligator and crocodile, ostrich, and zebra. You can add horse and camel to the list as well. While I am proud to be a meat-eater, and see nothing wrong with it and have no dilemmas whatsoever, others have found it laughable how passionate I am about saving endangered species when I’ll eat their cousins (the endangered species – not the cousins of the people – creepy).
But it’s true. I truly love animals. I keep getting drawn back to safaris because I love seeing these wonderful animals in their natural environment. No cages, no bars, no sad realization that this 100 square meter patch of land is his territory. Now, I think most modern zoos are doing a wonderful job for conservation; but it is still sad. And I will visit zoos when I know the money I’m paying to visit them is going to education, conservation, and the overall well-being of the animals within the zoo and beyond it. And it seriously saddens me that future generations, maybe even the next generation, will not be able to see a wild tiger, elephant, rhinoceros again.
So, I’ll gladly photograph these beautiful animals but I’ll also gladly tuck into them on my dinner plate. In the case of the warthog, I was sitting on the deck of the Victoria Falls Hotel in Victoria Fall, Zimbabwe, enjoying warthog with a red wine jus, a glass of wine red as well, and in the courtyard beside me, several warthogs were running around. And I didn’t think twice about cutting my next piece of meat. Is there something wrong with me?
American comedian Denis Leary, on his brilliant No Cure for Cancer show, brought up the fact that people only want to save the cute and cuddly animals. He launches into a rant about letting an otter go “because I lie on my back and do cute little human things with my hands”. It then comes to the cow who tries to plead his case and fails. I don’t know if there is truth in this or not. I know I wouldn’t eat otter. Well, if I was lost in the wild and it was the only thing to keep me alive, possibly. But if I saw it at a restaurant, I don’t think I could do it.
I guess it comes down to what is culturally acceptable. Well, to the culture that I was brought up in. Elk, moose, other antelope species, have long been seen as food sources. Zebra makes sense to me as well. Horse meat is very popular in many parts of the world. If we’re going to use crocodile and alligators to make purses, shoes, belts, and wallets, we might as well eat them too so there is less waste. Ostrich has long be farmed as an alternative to beef or chicken. And this is going to sound cruel, but there are a lot of them!
I say the culture I was brought up in because well, in some cultures, they eat some stuff I wouldn’t knowingly put in my mouth. Just last month there was a big festival in China were they eat dogs. I couldn’t do that. I would rather starve. I’ll find some earthworms or something. But is this because I think dogs are cute? I’d like to think it was because I was raised to see dogs as pets and not food. But maybe there is a hidden agenda there.
So yeah, I am a meat eater that also likes animals. I’m not apologizing for it either. I will continue to live in awe of these beautiful creatures and be thankful I can photograph them. But for the time being, I will also be thankful that they make up a part of my diet. The conundrum that is Ger just continues to grow.