Top positive review
35 people found this helpful
on September 4, 2012
Meat Eater does something simple, but amazing: it presents hunting, fishing, and trapping for what they really are: a primal connection to wild creatures through using their bodies to fulfill our most basic needs.
Steven Rinella skipped the contorted, snobbish, and apologetic philosophical hogwash that has characterized generations of hunting literature. He skipped the self-indulgent glamor of hunting trophy kill tales. This is not hunting pornography; it's real stories about a real hunter pursuing animals for all the reasons that people actually do that.
The book is composed of stories that illustrate these various motivations to hunt. As a child, it was because his dad and brothers did. In college, because he needed food. He went crazy for steelhead and bonefish fishing because it was so damn exciting. He hunted for adventure in the Missouri Breaks, and Dall sheep for the challenge. And always, it was for every one of those reasons--and to satisfy a deep, primal, desire that needs to explanation or apology. And yeah, to get meat.
There's another thing about these stories--they're awesome. Really well-written, and full of subtle insight. I read the whole thing within 20 hours of getting the book in my hand. As an avid hunter who spends many winter nights reading about it, I felt, "finally, someone who thinks about hunting like I do."
Rinella doesn't shy away from the moral and ethical questions that surround hunting, fishing, and trapping (hereafter I'll refer to them all as "hunting, because they are). He explores them not in an abstract sense, but from the more credible point of view of his own personal experiences. He doesn't cowardly justify trapping with imaginary ecology (saying that the animals are overpopulated); he speaks of the youthful fantasies of fronteir life that fueled his passion to live as a trapper. He isn't afraid to challenge some hunting practices, or to describe death in its real and vivid detail. He isn't afraid of the emotion that electrifies the hunting experiences; he taps into it and makes the reader remember and relive (if it's a hunter) or understand (for non-hunters) how real it is.
That is the book's power: it's the first true hunter/non-hunter crossover book, that speaks intelligently to both sides and tackles the questions that both sides grapple with. But after all that is said, he stays grounded in the most basic fact: hunting is about food. In that sense, it is as morally unassailable as gardening and gathering.
My only problem with the entire book was a factual one, in which Rinella mentions that Africa and the Americas were overrun by Europeans because they were populated by hunter-gatherers. Actually, sub-saharan Africa was not overrun (the people there still have dark skin) precisely because that continent was fully agricultural way before European colonialism--the takeover of forager territory by agriculturalists in Africa had occurred thousands of years earlier by other people from within Africa.
That notwithstanding, this is the best narrative or philosophical hunting book I've ever read, and the first I'd recommend to anybody.