“In a sense we have floated on the blood of our fellow creatures from where we once were to wherever it is we are now.”

At bottom human existence is and ever has been quite gory, even if you leave out wars and feuds and duels and murders and other forms of intra-species violence. The main shed blood has been that of man’s fellow creatures, and its flow has been steady and copious; in a sense we have floated on it from where we once were to wherever it is we are now. The by-products of this slaughter—leather, fur, sinew, bone, horn, and all that—have been integral to our voyage all the way down to the Age of Plastics, while the main thing sought—meat—has been so central to our well-being that few of us can think of good food without it.

There is no more basic element in old human experience than the killing of other species of animals for their flesh. The proof is in the eating. Most people like to set their teeth in animal protein, and if a good many of them in the world don’t get to eat it very often that is not so much through preference but because meat and fish and fowl, being in prime demand and a few notches up the food chain, are costly. And every piece that shows up on a dinner table sits there in lucid testimony that some creature died at somebody’s hands for the dinner’s benefit and delectation.

There are still parts of the world, most of them distant from most of us, where people depend in the oldest way on wild meat harvested in wild places. Elsewhere the bloodshed is as heavy as it was among Comanches and Zulus and skin-clad Ice Age


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