I got an email from a reader in Troy about a news story I wrote after interviewing a beaver trapper.

“Wow,” it said. “What an awful article on trapping beavers!”

I expected at least one such response. When it comes to animals, people can be very passionate.

To be transparent, it was not a story I sought out. One of our photographers happened on the trapper in China one day and took a series of shots. Our editor later asked me to interview him.

I found Caleb Jones, 28, to be an affable man, eager to tell me about growing up in Oakland and learning how to trap. Several years ago he took on trapping as an avocation, as he otherwise works full-time in the plumbing and heating business.

I learned a lot from Jones about how beaver trapping works. He told me he sells the fur and consumes some of the beaver he catches.

After the story was published, readers commented about it online. Some said trapping beavers is barbaric, while others said it is necessary because the rodents can be destructive and wreak havoc with people’s property. Still others noted that wildlife must be managed to prevent starvation in many cases. Some commenters who know Jones said he is a wonderful person and does his job well, and with respect for both beavers and property.

The animal debate is one I’ve tossed around in my brain at various times during my life, and I understand it is not necessarily a black-and-white issue.

Where I grew up in rural Maine, I knew lots of people who hunted deer, including my father and brothers. I often trekked through the woods with my brother to check his fox traps. He taught me how to fire a gun, a skill I honed when I attended conservation camp as a seventh-grader at Bryant Pond and earned my National Rifle Association badge.

Though I wasn’t fond of seeing dead animals, they were everywhere in the woods and fields of my youth — a cow carcass here, a dead snake there, small creatures in the road that had collided with vehicles. To some extent, I was numb to seeing it. Finding a deceased bird in the yard closer to home, however, made me sad. I’d place it in a shoe box with wildflowers and bury it behind the barn.

In rural Maine there were, and still are, families that count on deer and other wild animals to feed their families. I’d never begrudge them that, nor would I judge.

I don’t particularly care much for deer, bear or moose meat myself, as it tastes gamey to me. Fish, on the other hand, I love. Especially a good rainbow trout. As a youth, I enjoyed fishing — it was just something we did. The thought that it might be cruel never crossed my mind.

But I wouldn’t kill an animal today unless I or someone else was hungry and needed it to survive. I’ve softened a bit, after having seen so much death in the world over many years. I am less apt to squash a spider, for instance, preferring instead to toss it out of doors. I am repulsed by television documentaries showing companies packing pigs, chickens and other animals into pens.

But there’s the irony. We hate the slaughter but love the product. I look at those who raise their own chickens and pigs for food — even giving them names and regarding them as pets — and then they eat them for Christmas dinner. I’m the first to say, “I could never do that.”

Yet I, like millions of others, love meat, poultry and fish. When I choose it in the supermarket, do I think about the prior slaughter ? No. We humans are interesting in that way.

For us, consuming such product is a way of life, for better or worse.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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