Hunter turned Animal Activist

A recent episode of the excellent tv show, 30 days, put a life-long hunter living with a family of vegan animal rights activists. The episode itself was pretty emotional as it shows some of the truly horrific things that are done to animals as part of the food-making process in our country. To get prices down as low as possible a system of factory farming has developed that completely removes the humanity from the treatment of the animals. They are treated just like machines designed entirely to produce food for humans, with no respect for their rights as living creatures. It’s really terrible and it’s now starting to have dramatic effects on the health of humans consuming the food as well.

I’m not an extremist when it comes to the issues of animal rights. I understand that people have the right to choose what they eat and don’t eat, and I support personal choice in that regard. I do wish that more people actually knew what sort of acts are being committed on a daily basis in the production of their food though, and tv shows like this episode of 30 days will hopefully make a bit of a difference there. I also think it should be illegal to treat farm animals the way they are treated by factory farms.

I also have some personal experience with hunting, and I support the rights of people to do that. I went to highschool in North Dakota and while there I went hunting with my dad and friends. I was (and am) a very bad hunter and I never actually killed anything (it’s hard!) but overall I think the experience was a good one for me. I would not go hunting now, but I don’t feel guilty for having done it. All of the hunters I interacted with back then were very respectful of both the animals and the land. A lot of emphasis was placed on avoiding needless suffering, and we always picked up our spent shells and any other trash. In North Dakota at the time, one hunter could only legally kill one deer per year with a gun, and one additional using a bow. The gun season is also very short (only a couple of weeks) and many hunters are not skilled enough to actually kill a deer in that amount of time. It’s a lot harder than you might think, even with a rifle. They’re quick! The bow season was a few months long and most of our time hunting was spent using a bow. I’m sure other places have different rules.

Overall, I think the key is respect. Animals are, of course, not all human, but humans are animals. We are part of a natural ecosystem and we should remember our place in it. That sounds obvious to me, but somehow it’s not obvious to everyone. If we are respectful of the rights of animals to live a healthy and natural life (I won’t go so far as to say ‘happy’!), we’ll also be producing more healthy and natural food from them and that can only be a good thing for us as humans.

Little America

Over the past couple of days I rode in a car from San Francisco to Denver.  It was about 20 hours of driving total and we passed through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming along the way.  It’s kinda weird how few cities you actually pass through on that drive.

Well, my attempt to post during the entire Thailand trip kinda fizzled so I’ll try to add some more details of the trip from memory. Here goes…

From Chiang Mai we headed back to the south, stopping for a night in Phuket and then on by boat to Koh Phi Phi. Phuket has a nice feel to it but my lasting impression is that there were a lot of very brown retirees there. I don’t know why that would be, but at least on Kata Beach where we were that’s how it was. The food at Mom Tri’s Boathouse was pretty tasty, too. Due to somewhat awkward trip scheduling we were in Phuket for a very brief night’s stay and then were up in the morning to make our way to Koh Phi Phi.

Cruise to Phi Phi

We started out on the front of the boat where we found some room but we quickly realized why it wasn’t crowded to begin with… large amounts of water regularly splashed over spraying everyone. Our particular spot was partially shielded so we made it longer than most but we too eventually made our way to the back of the boat where we could stay a bit more dry. It was still not dry, but much more so.

On the way to Phi Phi

As we approached Phi Phi we saw some pretty cool rocks jutting out of the water and the boat slowed to give everyone a chance to be tourists. It’s apparently also a god snorkeling spot and there were a lot of other boats around.

Rocks near Phi Phi

We arrived at the main dock in Phi Phi which was very hectic and crowded with tourists and touts trying to sell to tourists everywhere around. We found a water taxi and managed to get our luggage and all of us into it without getting too wet in the process. It requires wading into the water a bit to climb up the short ladder into the boat. The boat ride was about 30 minutes and took us around a pretty good portion of the island. The driver pulled up to the shore and the Zeavola staff came out to help with the bags.

Longtail Boats on Ko Phi Phi

Zeavola is a pretty fancy resort and it was a nice way to spend a couple of days on the beach. One slight oddity is they use salt water for the showers and the pool. It’s been desalinated but not completely and you never really feel completely clean there. I guess it’s about being one with the ocean or something, but I think Vida would have preferred to be one with the clean instead.

The beach there was delightfully free of crowds and most of the hassles that were part of the other beaches we went to in Thailand. From my shady spots I managed to read about half of a book in short time we were there.

Koh Phi Phi

After our resort stay on Koh Phi Phi, we headed on to Khao Sok.

We’re now in Ko Samui, a very popular beach destination in Thailand. From some descriptions we had read we were worried it would be totally overrun with tourists, but so far it’s not been bad at all. We’ve only had one day here so far and it was raining most of the day, though. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

This phase of the trip is sort of the ‘cool down’ like when you walk for awhile after running, and there will probably be more time to reflect on the trip. So, in that spirit… Thoughts on Chiang Mai.

After our three nights in Bangkok, we flew up north to Chiang Mai. A few people we had talked to were glad we were taking some time to see parts of Thailand other than the ever-popular beaches so I was pretty excited to experience it. We stayed at a pretty swanky hotel called D2Hotel with all modern decor and style. Chiang Mai has apparently been developing its tourism market very quickly over the past several years and newer hotels like D2 have come out of that. It’s pretty reasonably priced for how nice it is, too… a definite change from Bangkok. It’s also very centrally located right near the popular night market.

Chiang Mai

The Chiang Mai night market is centered around a large warehouse-like building with three levels of vendor booths selling all kinds of merchandise from cheap tourist junk to pretty nice cloth items to high-end antiques (though it’s very definitely slanted towards the former end). Additional smaller booths line the sidewalks for several blocks as well as some parking lot areas, too. It is a great place to pick up souvenirs, but most of the fun is just experiencing the energy of it all. It’s even more amazing when you think about the fact that they do it every single night. One morning we went walking down the sidewalk and noticed how much more open and wide the street felt without all the vendor carts… and then it made us start wondering what they do with all the carts at the end of night. It must take a lot of space to store them all!

On our first day in Chiang Mai Vida and Elise learned how to cook some classic Thai dishes with the Thai Farm Cooking School. Sage, Riley, and I came along to hang out and eat the food, too. It was the best Thai food we’ve had since we’ve been here!

Ingredients for Thai Soup

The next day we went to an elephant training camp for a quick elephant ride, and to see them paint a few pictures.

Painting Elephants