The Ethics of Hog Huntin'

Living in the city can get to you. There are too many people and not enough trees. So this past weekend, in the dark, windy pre-dawn morning, I drove to an eerily quiet, woodsy patch of the everglades to meet two wild boar hunters. These guys – both named Mark – were about as country as you can get. They carried pistols, used phrases like “trophy hog,” and were dressed head-to-tow in camouflage. They had come for one reason: To shoot and kill feral pigs with a bow and arrow. Like a couple of Indian braves, they planned to live off the meat all winter long.

As the sun was rising, we loaded into a camo-colored electric golf cart, and drove passed a flock of clucking, prancing wild turkey. “You’re gonna see plenty-a game,” said the blue-eyed driver, as we got deeper into the woods. Then we saw one: A huge, black, 250-pound beast of a pig. It was rooting around in the dirt with its sharp tusks, clueless it could soon be our lunch. This one was too large, they decided, and continued driving. (Apparently the bigger hogs aren’t as tasty.)

Twenty minutes later, we came to a bushy patch of palm, where a few pigs were sniffing around. The passenger, who looked like a symmetrical Joaquin Phoenix, pulled his heavy bow from the front of the cart. Slowly, quietly, he crept up to 125-pound creature. At ten yards away, he drew the bow, pulled the string back and aimed. His hand was shaking as he let the razor-sharp arrow soar. It went flying into the pig’s gut, making a soft, popping sound as it ripped through the skin. I cringed, then felt immediately guilty.

Strangely, the hog let out a snort and trotted off, unshaken. "Let ‘im go,” the driver advised. “He’ll lay down and die.” (Instead of chasing the pig -- and risking losing him -- apparently it’s better to hide while the animal grows weaker.)

Then came the most primal part. The driver unzipped a brown case and pulled out a shiny silver pistol. He slid it into his back pocket, and we followed a trail of bright pig’s blood through the trees. It looked like someone had dribbled red paint across the grass, and it felt like we were in a Lord of the Flies sequel.

The blood trail led us to a hog, who lay dead in the shade, between two trees. The men then picked it up by its hind legs and dragged the creature -- its head bumping along the trail -- back to the cart. They set it carefully in the back of the vehicle, at my feet, as a puddle of blood accumulated. Once back at camp, the guys hung the animal over a trashcan. Using a scalpel, they peeled away its skin like an orange. Afterward, the passenger packed chunks of the meat into an cooler and drove away in his white sedan.

For a second, I thought it was disturbing. In the city, we don’t have to get blood on our hands if we want a hearty dinner. Our pulled-pork sandwiches come with a side salad and a napkin. There's a distance, no intimacy, no connection to the animals we eat. But, really, if you think about it, that is way creepier.

--Natalie O'Neill

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