Eating Wolves is Badass?

I recently mentioned Liam Neeson’s new movie, The Grey, in a previous blog post. Many animal rights activists, including me, find the film’s premise disturbing insofar as its portrayal of wolves is a complete reversal of reality: that wolves are the bloodthirsty killers attacking humans who are just fighting for survival.

Based on this and other roles played by Neeson, the internet has a new meme: Liam Neeson is Badass. Far be it for me to say he isn’t badass – I’m not the one filming movies in the freezing tundra. I want to curl up with a hot toddy just thinking about it. But he isn’t badass because he’s pretending to fight CG images and puppets of wolves. His character in the movie is badass in a fictitious scenario. This disconnect between actor and character/reality and fiction illustrates why these types of films are harmful. And the timing could not be worse.

Real wolves struggle to survive nearly everywhere they’re found. Less than 100 years ago, wolves were hunted to extinction in the US. They were re-introduced from Canada’s population in the 1980s, and protected by the Endangered Species Act. At least until this past year, when they were surreptitiously de-listed in a budget bill, just as they were beginning to flourish again. Such is the power of the ag lobby and a fear-driven public.

Wolves can now (or will soon be) hunted and killed in several states, including some parts of Utah, for no other reason than being wolves. As mentioned in my previous post, a lone wolf crossing from Oregon into Northern California has immediately elicited demands for his head on a platter. In Alaska they are shot from airplanes, often suffering a cruel and protracted death from their injuries. And who can forget Sarah Palin’s proposal of a bounty on their forelegs? It’s fair to say that a wolf just can’t get an even break.

Do we have good reason to fear the big, bad wolf? Let me connect some facts. Only two cases of wolves attacking and killing humans have been documented in North America. Furthermore, according to figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in 2005, domesticated dogs actually killed almost five times as many livestock animals as wolves did. Indeed, only .1% (yes that’s one-tenth of one percent) of cattle deaths in 2005 were caused by wolves. Meanwhile, humans kill and consume some fourteen billion animals every year, not including those who might kill and eat a few animals that we ourselves want to kill and eat. There is definitely a bloodthirsty species roaming the planet, but it takes a special kind of obtuse to say it’s wolves.

But let’s have another round of irony about The Grey. It has been reported that the film’s director had four wolves killed for the film. Two carcasses were supposedly for making props. While the film is fiction, these wolves died in earnest — and in the aftermath of the Vick dog-fighting bust, we should probably recognize the heinousness of killing an animal for the sake of entertaining a crowd.

The other two wolves were made into stew and fed to cast members, to get them in the mood for the wild. Neeson himself had seconds of the stew, according to one article. Hmmm. People killing and eating wolves… to make a film about… wolves killing and eating… people. Given the facts, let’s make that round of irony a double.

I really do understand that actors have to put themselves in a role. I don’t grudge them their craft. But I do question the idea that anyone needs to eat wolf carcass stew in order to get a feel for the wild. Most of us who saw Lord of the Rings bought into the existence of two hobbits eating elvish waybread — despite the fact that neither Sean Astin nor Elijah Wood had ever actually tasted the stuff. I also found the manufactured props of wargs, trolls, and giant spiders very believable, even though there weren’t any real ones around to kill and use as props.

And who wasn’t terrified of Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter? One might even harbor slight doubt that he didn’t regularly eat human organs with fava beans and a nice Chianti. But I digress. *Shudder.*

Some have said that eating wolf stew itself is badass. Unless the wolf is still alive, poised to rip out the throat of the diner as it’s being eaten, I’m afraid there really isn’t much jeopardy involved there. Or as one friend quipped, “Don’t forget to eat the wolf’s heart so you get its courage.” If you want valor or gross-out factor, then according to many people I know, tofu stew is much more badass, apparently suitable only for immortals who derive their nutritional requirements from plants. I couldn’t make this up.

As for me, I’ll be joining WildEarth Guardians and others in boycotting The Grey, and invite you to do the same. To my omnivorous friends, please also consider boycotting beef, which is the driving force behind displacing and killing wolves.

Because in the end, standing up for wildlife against pop culture and irrational fear actually IS badass and brave — even if you’re not vegan, and have never made vegan stew out of real vegans.

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10 Responses to Eating Wolves is Badass?

  1. Oliver Starr says:

    Catherine, your post is fantastic and your arguments above cogent. I’d simply like to add my two cents and a couple links.

    First, I’d really like to know more about Steve’s experience being “trailed by a pack of wolves”.. Steve, where was this, when did it happen, and what ultimately occurred. Where you armed? Did you eventually shoot at or kill the wolves or do something to scare them off?

    Personally I’ve got over thirty years, studying, raising and advocating on behalf of wolves. In fact I have a 9 month old pup sleeping on my feet as I type this. And what you’re saying about them lacking fear of people just doesn’t make sense. Even my pup that I’ve had since she weighed 4.7 pounds and who is from a breeding program similar to what has been done with Siberian foxes is very wary of strangers and even people that she has met previously. She’s a 7th generation animal where her parentage has all be selected for sociability and even so she’s so shy that if she’s faced with a large group she’ll literally poop in fear.

    During my field work, which was frequently conducted alone and without any weapon beyond a pocket knife I never once observed a wolf to behave in a manner that could even be remotely construed as threatening. These animals are vanishingly shy. The only feral wolves I’ve ever heard of approaching humans are those that have never interacted with them. How certain are you that what you were dealing with were wolves and not dogs or wolf-dog crosses?

    The irony is that deer and even cattle have killed far far more people than wolves. Meanwhile we have almost obliterated the wolf from its original range and many subspecies of wolf have been lost forever as a result of who else? Us.

    Now, with respect to the trapper’s story and Neeson’s and Carnahan’s comments the facts seem pretty twisted up and subject to change depending upon whom they’ve spoken to and who’s reporting.

    Catherine’s point should be well take though – since a trapper is only interested in pelts, why in the world would he have a freezer large enough to hold 4 wolf carcasses? The meat has no value, it is discarded.

    Plus a wolf that’s frozen solid would be considerably more difficult to skin than one that’s not. So why would it be in a deep freeze? And to keep a carcass in a freezer for six months for no reason? Seriously. Again, it defies logic.

    I’ve been trying to get contact information for the trapper, Dick McDiarmid to get the story from the source but absent that I think it seems consierably more reasonable that these hollywood hicks rolled into this tiny town and it meant a boon to the residents. They asked if someone could get them some wolves and this guy did. After all, Carnahan even said they had a trapper “procure” two wolves and then they decided to see what they tasted like so he “procured” two more. I think procure is their PC way of saying trapped and killed. And who’s to say what was done with the animals before they were dispatched. There are even rumors that an attempt was made to use living wild animals in one or more shots. (if this is true — and I’ve publicly asked Carnahan to refute it which he has not) That means they were killed on or near the set expressly for the film. Heinous. Revolting. Evil. Pathetic.

    I’ve actually written more on this topic on Quora where I’ve answered many other questions about wolves. Should you doubt any of what I say you should look there for video and more details about my thoughts on this issue:

    Finally I helped initiate an online petition via Care2 that already has nearly 9000 signatures. For those so inclined please sign it and spread the word:

    The best way to hurt the callous people involved in these murderous acts is to cost them money since that’s what they clearly value above all else. Who knows, if enough people learn about this outrage perhaps Carnahan’s next “elevator pitch” could be “Want some fries with that?” While Neeson’s next role will probably be punching baby seals given his treatment of animals now and in the past…

  2. Well thank you Mr/Ms “Curt” for visiting my blog and leaving comments (sincerely, I do appreciate it). I will respond to your points for the benefit of my readers.

    Yes, it’s easy to stage an internet boycott of the movie. In case you didn’t read the post, I’m supporting a larger boycott from WildEarth Guardians, which has more resources than I do and a demonstrated commitment to wolves. I worked for another organization that did rally the public against the de-listing of wolves in the first place, I’m proud to have been part of that. I didn’t see you trolling that post, so I guess it had your full support. And as a person who is against killing wolves, surely you called your elected officials to voice your opposition to the bill.

    But one of the great things about a boycott is that it is SO EASY. It’s an action that any of my readers can do. Let me explain how it works. Wow before a few hours ago, I failed to give my money to a bunch of people for eating wolves, paying trappers who kill them, and mongering (yet more!) irrational fear of wolves. The next day, the next year, the next decade (will we still have wolves in the US by then?), I’ve still failed to give them any money. And while you seem to consider that poor activism, it is considerably more effective than… whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish by posting here.

    I mean here you are, (afraid to reveal who you are, perhaps a shill for the movie for all I know, in which case I’d be very flattered), claiming you can “get behind those who are against killing wolves”… but you paid this crew to feed not only themselves on wolf carcass, but the media frenzy that helps drive the killing. Telling us maybe we should do the same. In the end, a film is only successful when the fans are behind it. That’s the power of being a consumer: not consuming products you’re opposed to. Sometimes it really is that easy.

    As far as the examples you list about the other wildlife getting a bad rep, again, I’m choosing the battle. I can’t retroactively call for a boycott of those films. Furthermore, none of those other animals was recently de-listed from the ESA. None are in immediate jeopardy of the same eradication we saw in the last century.

    As far as other people reacting to the film, and whether they recognize the fiction of the whole thing, let’s look at what Roger Ebert said in his review:

    “The Grey is an unrelenting demonstration that wolves have no opinion. When they attack, it’s not personal. They’ve spent untold millennia learning how to survive…” — Those puppet and CG wolves aren’t alive, didn’t evolve, and certainly aren’t demonstrating anything except what the director wants them do. In fact, according to biologists, the fake wolves aren’t behaving at all like real wolves do. But Ebert can’t say, “Well this movie is a work of fiction, hell you probably couldn’t get a real wolf to behave like the ones in the movie.” What a damper the truth would put on box office sales.


    “When I learned of Sarah Palin hunting wolves from a helicopter, my sensibilities were tested, but after this film, I was prepared to call in more helicopters.” — No conflating of fiction into the real world there. But of course the reality of shooting a bunch of animals who never did Palin or anyone else any harm is irrelevant when you’re trying to sell a film. In fact, let’s do more of it, right?

    Sorry I was able to predict how people would react to the film. Believe me, I would have preferred to be wrong about it.

  3. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegan: Catherine Curt is an active voice for blind compassion says:

    Let me help you understand the article you linked to which “reports” the “irony” that “the director had wolves killed for the movie”. Or however you want to interpret it.

    I quote: “But the most oddball request was to longtime local trapper Dick McDiarmid for four wolf carcasses…“I do a bit of trapping, so they came off my trap line,” says the 67-year-old McDiarmid, adding wolf skins fetch upwards of $100 each in the fur trade.”

    First of all, the director requested wolf carcasses. He did not request this man or anyone, for that matter, to hunt/kill wolves for the movie. Secondly, the man the director spoke to is a legal trapper by trade. The wolf carcasses came off of his trap line. The traps had been set for this purpose ALREADY.

    There is a subtle but clear distinction here which you and many others like you blatantly ignored. The request was for carcasses which the trapper already had or would have been caught by his traps.

    Get upset with the trapper and his government who lets him do this. And read what is written, not what you wish it said.

    • Ordering a carcass doesn’t imply either that the wolves were still alive or already dead. I did not ignore this fact. To put it plainly, ordering four dead wolves creates demand for four wolves to be killed. Ordering zero dead wolves creates demand for zero wolves to be killed.

      And even though he might have had some pelts of already-dead wolves laying around to sell, since he never got requests for the meat, he probably didn’t save any from previous kills. Thus creating a need for two freshly killed and specifically handled carcasses, just so people could eat them.

      Hope this helps.

      • In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegan: Catherine Curt is an active voice for blind compassion says:

        If you have read any other article about this, you would have read that the wolf meat which they ate was already in a man’s (presumably this same man’s) freezer. Liam Neeson publicly remarked about the permafrost on the meat. That wolf was already dead (“McDiarmid’s movie experience didn’t end after he pulled the wolf carcasses out of his freezers.” – so you don’t have to put in the effort or fact gathering, there you go from your article.).

        But I like how you tried to stick so dogmatically to what you learned about economics to prove you’re thinking logically and reporting objectively. But it’s not that simple. Supply and demand ebbs and flows over time. It’s quite an assumption to make that this trapper would not have caught any wolves without this movie being made. Supply can still exist even as demand decreases. Additionally, if a trap is already set on a line the trapper doesn’t really get to choose what he catches, now does he?

        Does that help fill in the holes?

        All I’m saying is you’re misplacing your blame. But hey, we all need a scapegoat, right? Try contacting your local government if you’ve got some steam to vent and energy to burn. Be not a voice but be of action.

        And just for the record, I am not for the killing of wolves. At all. I am just against irrational, sensational thought.

        • Catherine Burt says:

          OK then let me restate — I believe that the consumers of a product are equally responsible for it. If you want to let the director and actors off the hook, that’s your prerogative. I’m not. I have written about the fur trade in previous posts – even had lovely discussions with the Fur Commission – but that is not the battle I’m choosing in this post.

          It’s this: movies are made these days without using real carcasses as props, and without eating real carcasses “to get the actors in the mood” for whatever it is they’re doing. If this movie wants to be part of the trade for dead wolves, that is enough reason for me not to see it and to encourage others to avoid it as well.

          The irony remains that they have participated in that trade to make a film about wolves killing and eating people. Which happens so rarely that no one has a salient argument against anything in this post besides the subtleties of who is technically responsible for killing the four wolves in question.

          Another thing I find ironic is that someone who is posting with a pseudonym mocking my name and this blog is talking to me about irrational, sensational thought.

          • In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegan: Catherine Curt is an active voice for blind compassion says:

            I’m not letting anyone off the hook. I can get behind those who are against the killing of wolves. But it’s just SO EASY to stage an internet “boycott” of a movie. How do you do that? By simply not going to see it. Wow. Before a few hours ago, I was boycotting the shit out of that movie. Where is the encouragement and focus on making a real change? Nah. Let’s scapegoat the one thing that is so conveniently brought to our attention (and subsequently blow it up as if these wolves were killed FOR the movie). Conjecture just sounds so much better. Try focusing your attention on those who can help you decrease the supply of dead wolves. That’s a bit more useful.

            Why bring up the fur trade? I don’t understand. Congrats on writing a post. On a blog. On the internet. If it’s not your point then leave it out.

            And if you’re so worried about the bad press given to wolves because of this then you better not go see Arachnophobia! Or The Birds! Or hey, what about Anaconda? Lake Placid? Black Sheep (the New Zealand one about flesh eating sheep – could that be true???)? Piranha? Surely, you’ve at least seen the episode of River Monsters where Jeremy Wade sits a kiddie pool filled with those fish…and nothing happens! Aren’t you angry about the bad publicity piranhas received?

            Maybe try seeing the movie before telling people what to do. I can understand not seeing it because for some reason you interpreted statements that the wolves were killed explicitly for the movie – but that part is still unclear. If you actually watched the movie, you’d hear the dialogue about respecting the animals and what may happen when encroaching on their territory and even in their den. Yes, the wolf attacks were part of the movie. But the movie is about survival: survival of a plane crash, the cold, the snow, famine, despair, and, yes, the wildlife. To be honest, you’d be more afraid of getting in a plane after watching it. I guarantee it.

            Anyway, I’m not coming back to this page after this post. So, no need to respond. Good luck with this blog.

            By the way, that’s not irony. It’s mockery. Nor was it irrational (I’m not the one making the assumptions as to how OTHER people are going to react to A FICTIONAL MOVIE). Sensational? Please. Let’s be more objective.

  4. steve says:

    It is clear you know nothing of wolves – at least first hand. I agree with your point on the “stew” however if you have ever been stalked and trailed by a pack of wolves (which I have), you would know they are more than capable and with the proper motivation (hunger) of dispatching a human and wouldn’t hesitate to do so. True, they are wary of humans but only because they are unfamiliar with us. As their population grows, they come into more and more frequent contact and become less frightened, its already happening. There are many domestic animals take by wolves in the range of the Grey Wolf. The delisting and hunting will make sure the kills from wolves stays low. You don’t have all the facts, but I guess we wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of a well crafted ANTI cruelty rant. BTW I seriously doubt the crew ate Wolf Stew. I grew up in Northern Minnesota and have many stories.

    • Catherine Burt says:

      Thanks for your comment Steve. I’m not sure what relevant facts I don’t have. Neeson is quoted as having eaten seconds on wolf stew, and hasn’t contested the quote so… not sure what isn’t to believe there.

      In the last century only two fatal wolf attacks have been recorded in the US. I looked it up on wiki and found that in the 1800s there were only one or two as well (from wild, non-rabid wolves). And those figures are from a time when we had quite a large population of wolves. While it must have been unnerving to be stalked by wolves, I mean here you are, alive and unharmed to tell the tale.

      So I may not know wolves personally, but I’m not afraid of them based on what has never happened to me or anyone I know, and which has no historical basis, even when we had lots of them.

      As far as domesticated animals – it only makes sense that if we’re going to breed animals who don’t stand a chance against native predators, we shouldn’t bring them into those areas. I would argue that wolves have a right to exist on a reasonable space of habitat where they are free to be wolves. Want to graze livestock or walk your toy poodle there? Do it at your own risk.

      Based only on FACT, you are more likely to die from e. coli poisoning from tainted beef than you are to be killed by wolves even in their range. If we want to protect human life, why are we talking about killing wolves rather than not eating cattle?

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