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The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 15, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
"A touching and thought-provoking exploration of not only what we eat but how we eat it." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"As a long-time vegetarian . . . I was more than a little wary. . . Fortunately, this book retires exhausted tropes and instead presents a truly original and touching account of connecting with nature.”
Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City
"Both a personal tale of how one man comes to terms with the meat on his plate and a historical look at humanity’s connection to animals, The Mindful Carnivore delivers new insight in the too often simplistic vegetarian-versus-carnivore argument."
"A gripping look at some of the central questions, both practical and philosophical, of human existence."
“One of the most unusual and intriguing books I’ve ever read. . . . Thought-provoking, educational, subtle, and agenda-free.”
New Mexico Wildlife
"This groundbreaking book has enormous potential to create a dialogue with differing groups."
"A touching and thought-provoking exploration of not only what we eat but how we eat it."
Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook
"Cerulli offers penetrating insights into not only where our food comes from, but what our daily dietary choices say about who we are as human beings."
Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Righteous Porkchop
"Elegantly written, thoughtful, intensely personal yet universal, Tovar Cerulli’s The Mindful Carnivore is destined to become a classic."
Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn and Raising Steaks
"Bull’s-eye! Cerulli cuts through forests of argument with a thoughtful and thrilling narrative. We experience his growing awareness of what it means to be fully involved in the web of nature. With him we can wonder at its complex mystery and share in ‘mindful eating’ as a sacred act."
Jan E. Dizard, author of Mortal Stakes and Going Wild
"A remarkably candid, nuanced, and engaging meditation on what it means to be human. The Mindful Carnivore is a bracing read."
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As Cerulli tells a deeply personal story of his own journey from vegan to hunter, he connects his experiences to larger themes having to do with meat, meaning, and the karmic costs of every food on his table--including the brown rice, tofu, and organic vegetables. As you'll immediately guess from the book's title and cover, Cerulli is now something of a venison evangelist. But he wasn't always. After reflecting on the compassionate words of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, he became a vegetarian at age 20. Soon, after learning more about the modern egg and dairy industries, he went completely vegan. Eventually, however, he began to have second thoughts.
"I realized," he writes in his bio for a recent panel discussion, "that all food has its costs. From habitat destruction to combines that inadvertently mince rabbits to the shooting of deer in farm fields, crop production is far from harmless. Even in our own organic garden, my wife and I were battling ravenous insects and fence-defying woodchucks. I began to see that the question wasn't what we ate but how that food came to our plates. A few years later, my wife--who was studying holistic health and nutrition--suggested that we shift our diet, and my health improved when we started eating dairy and eggs. It improved still more when we started eating chicken and fish."
Two years later, Cerulli picked up a rifle and stepped into the deer woods. When he did, he also brought with him a vegetarian's values and sensibilities. This was not a decision he made lightly, and it's one he still thinks about quite a lot. He is indeed a mindful carnivore.
As far as I know, Cerulli is also the writer who first coined a delightful neologism that appears to be sticking: the "adult-onset hunter." The term is appearing more often, and so are the hunters it describes. Cerulli is one, and I am myself. If you're one, too, then this book is definitely for you. I suspect that most of us adult-onset hunters are the kind of people who tend to think just a little too much about where our food comes from.
And even if you've been hunting all your life, you'll find fascinating the ideas that Cerulli explores in The Mindful Carnivore. Today fewer than 15% of Americans hunt, and some surveys suggest that as few as 5% of us get out in the field regularly, year after year. Hunters are definitely a tiny minority. When they find themselves feeling besieged and persecuted, they'd do well to reach for some fresher, more useful intellectual and philosophical ammunition than the usual stale, warmed-over José Ortega y Gasset they've been trotting out for the past half-century or so. They could do no better than The Mindful Carnivore. (In the book, and then later in his notes, Cerulli also mentions several other works that will be of interest to his hunting and nonhunting readers. He's been thinking about these questions a lot, and it's clear he's also been discussing and reading about them a lot.)
I hope that even a few open-minded vegans will give this book a chance. But in the end, Tovar may find a larger audience among open-minded nonhunters who are already mindful omnivores. And who knows? Once they've finished reading The Mindful Carnivore, they may come to view hunters and hunting differently. They may even come to view the meat and vegetables on their own plates differently. I hope their neighbors who do hunt will invite them over for venison, vino, and some interesting conversations about what all this means.
I have to agree with the Kirkus Reviews, which described the book as an "entertaining and erudite meditation." It's an enjoyable read that will also give you some big ideas to chew on. (Sorry.) I'm afraid other reviewers have already used this and nearly every other possible food or meat-related metaphor, leaving me only the most obvious: The Mindful Carnivore is definitely food for thought.
I do not expect this book will cause a huge increase in adults starting to hunt, but it should be carefully read by anyone considering it. I have not actively hunted in about 15 years due to to many issues. However I do make an effort to select the meat in my diet carefully and with ecological and ethical concern.
I can recommend this book to anyone interested in the food they eat and the impacts their choices make.