Sep 15, 2008

How to field-dress a moose

"All this talk about moose hunting! It is as though, because of the animal's enormous size and imposing antlers, bringing one down is a heroic feat of marksmanship. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in The Maine Woods, killing these big, gentle, myopic creatures is more "like going out by night to some woodside pasture and shooting your neighbour's horses".

And yet, as we saw at the Republican convention, hunting seems to define a certain species of American politician.... The name of Teddy Roosevelt, the hunter, the moose skinner, was invoked just the other day at the Republican convention, in Fred Thompson's praise of Governor Sarah Palin. This mother of five is now celebrated as a moose hunter and, more than that, as a moose skinner, moose eater - and perhaps hanger of moose-head trophies. As Governor Palin was delivering her acceptance speech, an immense colour photograph of Alaska was projected behind her on the giant screen, where in the twilit foreground a moose could be seen, placidly staring at its reflection in water. And on the following day, in the video that encapsulated her life, Palin was described as having risen early with her father on cold mornings in Wasilla to go moose hunting, to augment the family's diet.

While people cheered, Palin was lauded for knowing how to "field-dress" a moose. Thoreau, who watched such an operation take place, wrote: "Joe [his Penobscot guide] now proceeded to skin the moose with a pocket knife, while I looked on, and a tragical business it was; to see that still warm and palpitating body pierced with a knife, to see the warm milk stream from the rent udder, and the ghastly naked red carcass appearing from within its seemly robe." I read that and somehow am not provoked to cheer." — Paul Theroux, The Guardian

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