Few animal issues elicit more mixed feelings for me than those surrounding the subject of hunting. Morally fraught and complex (more so when you consider the changing variables for every different species, location, and method used), it becomes even more problematic when you consider the average American sensibility. 

Indeed, my long-time followers will attest to reading precious few posts on the subject over the past five-plus years. But it’s more than just avoiding an unsavory topic that’s at work here; it’s also that I’m personally conflicted with respect to hunting, given the forms it sometimes takes and the mentality that too often accompanies it.

Which is why I’ve spoken out against the egregious, cowardly kinds of hunts where humans stalk wild animals for a glorified version of target practice, using the excuse that "to cull is to cure" (think Palinesque helicopter wolf-hunts and glamorous big buck kills for chest-beating wall mounts). After all, picking out the biggest, baddest trophy specimens is no way to simulate attrition through competition, disease, and diminished fitness.

Similarly, I’ve decried the attitude that claims "man" deserves to hunt given that he’s been biblically endowed with dominion over all animals (Genesis 1:28). The discussion doesn’t get more brainless than that.

But when it comes right down to it, hunting — when well done — can be a respectable, environmentally sustainable, humane practice that helps stabilize populations and put food on the table in ways far preferable to how most animals are raised for food (though I’ll freely admit this latter point reflects a very low setting of the bar). I mean, I’d undeniably prefer two or three sloppy shots in the brush to a lifetime of crowded indoor conditions and inter-species strife.

Enter Chef Georgia Pellegrini, whom I learned of while reading my Wellesley Alumnae Magazine this past week. Turns out, this 2003 grad of my alma mater went on to culinary school after a less-than-satisfying career on Wall Street. Sometime thereafter, she kindled her rural Italian roots and took up a rifle to take down some savory game.

Hence, her ESPN column on sporty, outdoor foodism and an in-the-works TV show titled, "Girl Hunter."

It was the pin-up pic and the title (both slightly off-putting for my personal politics, I’ll admit) that got me to thinking Ms. Pellegrini’s presentation would almost certainly rub me the wrong way. Yet half an hour later, I was still mining her blog and her ESPN columns on brining bagged game, making duck breast prosciutto, and — best of all — a discussion of salmon rigor mortis.

As a fellow Wellesley woman who also attended a culinary program (though I did pastry), I couldn’t help thinking Ms. Pellegrini and I have more in common than professional animal work and foodie-ism.

She raises her own chickens, dotes on her grandmother, tirelessly pores over old family recipes, spends countless hours in the kitchen, and is obviously addicted to the kind of cooking most people would find mind-numbingly slow. How much more "goat-milkingly Khuly" can she get?

Well, here’s the difference (aside from the pin-up status): Though I’ve tried my hand at spearfishing Florida Keys hogfish, fished tirelessly for Mahi-mahi, and noodled my share of local spiny lobster, I’ve not yet graduated to a full-on rifle assault of any avian or mammalian quarry (though my boyfriend does take me to the shooting range every once in a blue moon).

Not that I’m proud — or not — of my failure to bag a bird or beast. The opportunity has just not been on offer under circumstances I would consider humane, environmentally appropriate, and consistent with animal welfare principles. All of which are very specific, and all of which would necessitate a guide-slash-mentor with a similar sensibility.

No, I’m not opposed to hunting. But I am opposed to hunting mindlessly. And yes, I’m all for eating every bit of my bird and am even susceptible to the lure of big-game, because it fills my freezer with fabulous offal, offers me meat to cure, sausage to stuff, and lobster to stew. But only when it’s fully vetted for sustainable animal stewardship, and without stressing our agriculture species overmuch.

Yes, I’m all about the forage, hunt, and stalk. But only if it’s done right. So can you blame me if I can’t help but hold out hope that the "Girl Hunter" will ask me out on a New England hunting "date" (please)? In exchange, I can offer the Keys and all that in-season spiny lobster. I happen to know a great spot down by Mile Marker 61 …

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "georgia pellegrini girl hunter2" sourced from FTMM