being—local, regional, national—and each works through different technologies of
nature: the gun, the camera, the recording instrument, the radio. The second part
takes two creatures, the bittern and the coypu, to show how particular animals act as
refractors of cultural—ecological value. If the first part of the essay concerns the
definition of the human through the animal, here the pattern is reversed. The focus
is on how humans act to define a relational animal, the presence of the bittern and
coypu in the region being figured through particular facets of their being in a world
subject to human valuation and intervention. The two parts of the essay take
different routes into the same regional animal—human material.
Two versions of animal-human
A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork.
What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to
understand, is that the two statements in that sentence are connected by
an and and not by a but .
Berger's analysis of peasant love and death in 'Why look at animals?' holds for the
first version of animal—human considered here. While our human subjects are not
peasants, their pursuit of animals for pleasure, profit or food entails both a regard
for the animal and a desire to see it dead. Animal flesh and blood are fore-grounded,
whether to be admired and preserved, or admired and shot, and such acts of love
and death are held to embody a local, rural outlook distinct from the urban. The
same ideological trajectory has been followed in recent years by groups such as the
Countryside Alliance in their defence of blood sports.
I use the term Visceral eyes' here to highlight a particular conjunction of body and
sight in this culture of nature, which differs markedly from the second version of
animal—human considered below. If all those considered in this chapter use their
eyes to guide their relationship to landscape and nature, none profess a visual
detachment; rather all of these ways of seeing are self-consciously embodied and
embedded. Different cultures of nature are here distinguished less by the use of
different senses, or by varying degrees of attachment to place, than by different
metaphoric connections of the eye to the rest of the body. If some, as we shall find
below, seek a balance between alert, independent senses in a body moving through
landscape, this first version of animal—human rests on a metaphoric connection of
eye and guts, in three senses: that one sees in order to kill in order to eat; that the
deadly dead-eye of a good shot brings the visceral human closer to the visceral
animal through the act of killing; that guts signify a courageous and hardy
masculinity in the field.