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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #221 - Daniel Vitalis

Daniel Vitalis is the host of WildFed on Outdoor Channel.

For ten years he lectured around North America and abroad, offering workshops that helped others lead healthier, more nature-integrated lives. A successful entrepreneur, he founded the nutrition company Surthrival.com in 2008. Most recently, he hosted the popular podcast ReWild Yourself.

He’s a Registered Maine Guide, writer, public speaker, interviewer, and lifestyle pioneer who’s especially interested in helping people reconnect with wildness, both inside and outside of themselves.

After learning to hunt, fish, and forage as an adult, Daniel created WildFed to inspire others to start a wild-food journey of their own.

Headquartered in the Lakes Region of Maine, he lives with his beautiful wife Avani and their Plott Hound Ellie.

The WildFed Podcast
@danielvitalis @surthrival @wild.fed


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Daniel's Personal Story

the first health food stores

the evolution of processing food

The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #153 - Bill Schindler

what is food really?

plant sentience

wall of green phenomenon

processing a hunt

the language to perceive our own environment

being hard wired to eat and lay around

producing wild fed the show

what is biohacking?

living in the wild vs living in "captivity"

our natural Instincts to hunt and how prey animals see us

disney-fication of the natural world

bears and alligators

is all life equal, or is there a Hierarchy?

what is shown and not shown on the show

iguanas falling out of trees

The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #190 - Matt Simon

bringing back extinct species

hunting Mastodons and whales

the concept of reality

how to begin to reconnect to nature

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Melanie Avalon: Hi, friends. Welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited about the conversation that I am about to have. Honestly, I was saying this to the guest just right before this and I was thinking this just before recording this. I had so much fun prepping for this interview. So, the backstory is the team for this fabulous guest reached out to me quite a while ago. I'm here with Daniel Vitalis and he is the genius behind a really cool, comprehensive brand that includes podcasts and public speaking and workshops, and he has this super cool show called WildFed on the Outdoor Channel. And so, I saw his information, and I was an immediate yes just based on the whole vibe and all of it. And then I actually dived in and it's just so cool. Everybody, friends, you got to check out the show, WildFed. I'm sure we'll talk all about it in this show. But basically, Daniel is a modern-day hunter-gatherer and he goes to all these really awesome places. And on each show, he both hunts something and gathers something and gets to meet the local people and learn about the community and how to hunt and gather those specific items and why they do that. And then at the end, they make a really awesome meal with this food that they acquired. It's just so cool. And I have so many questions. So, Daniel, [laughs] thank you so much for being here. 

Daniel Vitalis: Oh, I really appreciate your enthusiasm about what I'm doing. Thanks for having me today. And thank you for sharing my perspective with your audience today. 

Melanie Avalon: So huge question for you. And this is actually the question that I typically start off the show with and I'm really excited to hear the answer. So, your personal story, because it's kind of like a teaser, because in the opening for the show, like theme music and the opening monologue, you mentioned how you weren't always doing this growing up, the hunter-gatherer stuff. You started it as an adult, but then all the episodes kind of just dive into you right now, so we don't really get your backstory. So, I'm just dying to know. [laughs] It's like such a cliffhanger. I'm like, “What was he doing as a child? Did he just wake up one day and was like, I got to hunt? What happened?” 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. Well, I've always been really interested in food and it's because I grew up with a-- I’m 40-- I'll turn 45 this year this month. I grew up in the 80s and the 90s, America at the time is like a processed food desert. It was just like, grew up on Hamburger Helper-type food you know. 

Melanie Avalon: Hamburger Helper.

Daniel Vitalis: All that kind of stuff. Yeah, or like Twinkies and all the Ho Hos. There just wasn't food culture in the United States at the time. You know today, it's so different. So, I talked to, I guess, young millennials and Gen Z kids who've grown up in this environment where we have all these famous chefs and incredible cookbooks and restaurants everywhere in our cities. You can take incredible food tours. And there's a renaissance in organic farming and there're Whole Foods. It's like none of that existed. I grew up in a time where American food was highly, highly industrialized, processed food. I also grew up pretty low socioeconomic level, well, lowest, I guess, tier socioeconomic level in the US to a single mom, my childhood was a real struggle. Food was inconsistent a lot and that made me really interested in feeding myself. [laughs] So, I just was always interested in food. And when I was a teenager, I moved out of my house really young, had to learn how to feed myself. 

And so, I developed an interest in nutrition, but kind of out of necessity. And I followed a lot of fad diets as a young person. So, I lived 10 years as a vegan. I lived probably 15 years as a vegetarian. And I was deep into the raw food culture, the sort of vegan raw foodism, lived like that for so long. In fact, I'll say I lived that way longer than most of the people who do it. So, I really got to test what happens at the outer limits of that. For old friends of mine, it's kind of ironic and funny that I've come around to essentially having a hunting television show, given who they knew me to be in the past. But for me, it's been a continuous journey. So, it's been learning to take care of myself, learning to feed myself and following a thread of interest because I first became again, I mentioned before, there's Whole Foods now when I first-- I was about 16 years old, when I was like, “I'm going to start going to health food stores.” But at that time, a health food store was like the size of the average person's bathroom. [laughs] 

It had very little in there. You could get those sugared dried banana slices. You could get dates rolled in oat flour. Maybe they'd have like a wilty carrot, textured vegetable protein, soy protein or something. There just wasn't a health food store culture yet. So, I started there, and I've watched this whole movement happen to where there became more common, to where I remember when wild oats took over. And then I remember watching Whole Foods take over and watching organic as a meaningful label and definition take root. I've watched the farming culture develop. Like, all of this has happened of during my tenure as a nutritionally inclined person. So, I've been following that thread and piece by piece by piece that led me to where I am today. I don't have a formal education in nutrition or anything like that. This has just been several decades of deep personal interest.

Melanie Avalon: So, I really love food as well, even though I eat very simply, so I don't eat like, crazy combinations. And if I go to a restaurant, I'll just get like a completely plain steak or I eat very plain because I just find it so delicious when you remove all the additives and everything. I'm just good with the raw like real thing. This is super random. But that said, this is kind of embarrassing. My guilty pleasure at night is I just read all the websites about restaurants and grocery stores because I just love learning about food and all of that stuff. So, the thing I've been honing in on recently is I keep reading about Whole Foods and that it was the first certified organic grocery store because you mentioned the organic labeling and I had this on my to-do list to look that up because I'm like, “What does that even mean?” Because it's not all organic. Do you even know what that means? I'm sorry, that's so random.


Daniel Vitalis: No, no. I don't know what that means. I don't put a lot of stock in it. I was coming out of a Whole Foods with a friend a couple of years ago. My good friend Grant and I make this TV show together. So, we're on the road all the time and we're coming out of a Whole Foods the other day and it's late and I'm a little irritated by all of the products because there's just so many products. The spirit of what it was initially has changed so much. Right now, it's more like just like an ultra-gentrified supermarket. [chuckles] So there's just all these products and we're walking by laughing at the different products and we get outside and it's sort of that feeling after you come out of a big department store where it's like you come back to your senses because it's been the lights and the music and the intensity. We step outside and I go like, “Wow, man, this is what we spent the last couple of decades trying to create.” And now it's here and it's annoying, [laughs] it's obviously so much better than where we were before when you didn't really have options for good food. 

So, it has been really cool to watch, whatever that means, organic certified, whatever. It's been really neat to watch over the last couple of decades Americans get back in touch with food. It's cool to see there's been a rebound and people the idea I don't like to say processed food, we can get into that in a little while. I think that's a really confusing term for some reasons that we'll get into. But industrialized food, I think people have really, they reached their limit with that. And you can see it everywhere now. It's just common to find at least here where I live, there're farmers markets every weekend and I'm in a pretty rural place and we have access to-- everybody's raising their own chickens now or there's just so much of that happening. Hunting and gathering obviously has a pretty extreme end of it. But when I see how much interest there is in it, even for folks who are never going to actually pursue that as a lifestyle, they're just interested in knowing more about it. I mean, that just really excites me because I'm just glad people are caring again about what they eat. 

Melanie Avalon: Are you paying with your palm at Whole Foods? Have you seen that? 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah, it's so funny. It's like there's that great little bit in revelation, like, that everyone will take a mark in the right hand or the forehead out, which you cannot buy or sell. It's so interesting. It's like, “Okay.” 

Melanie Avalon: Ah, things are getting dark. 

Daniel Vitalis: I guess we're doing that now. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh my gosh, so funny. Actually, that's interesting about the-- I love that you said that about the processed food terminology. It's like two things that made me think of, do you know Farmer Lee Jones? 

Daniel Vitalis: No. 

Melanie Avalon: He is a farmer who does a lot of really nutritious farming, but he creates a lot of food for celebrity chefs and restaurants. And he's a character. And he was the answer to a question on jeopardy. He's like that much of like a celebrity farmer. We had a whole conversation about how he doesn't like the word sustainable because he was saying that nature is not technically sustainable. Like it goes through phases. What word did he like instead? I think regenerative, but the word processed. Do you know Bill Schindler, perchance?

Daniel Vitalis: I do, yeah. 

Melanie Avalon: Okay, so I love his work. And we were talking about how with processing, like the processing of food is really what made us human. It was our ability to well, not made us human, but our ability to properly process food is how we evolved. Going back to making food more applicable. Like each culture has a different way of processing their food historically, and it doesn't necessarily mean the industrialized, like you were saying. So, what do you mean by that, the difference between processed food and industrialized food?

Daniel Vitalis: Bill and I are on the same page with a lot of this. But although I'll say Bill's got a deep interest in you know, he's really into sour dough and he's really into how should you eat a potato and all of these specific processing methods to remove toxins and antinutrients and things like that from food, which I also have an interest in. But bigger picture, how I look at it is if I go out with my wife and we harvest, like, let's say we're heading into the fall, so let's say we go out to a cranberry bog and we're going to gather a basket full of cranberries. I'm not going to come home and just drop those into a pot and make cranberry sauce because every cranberry is going to have a little stem on it and there's going to be some little leaf fragments and things like that. So, we need to process them. So, we're going to spend some time going through and picking all those little stems off. They'd be bitter. They'd ruin the sauce. That's a real simple example.

So, let's get more complicated. If I was going to go out and harvest wild rice, I need to get that rice into the boat. But then when I bring it home, I need to lay it out to dry. There're all kinds of insects that will be in there, hoppers and little crawlers. And those all need to sort of lay that rice on a tarp, and as it dries, all those bugs are going to leave, and then it's covered in a chaff. So, I'm going to need to process that. So, what I need to do is heat that rice up, dry and parch that chaff. Then I have to winnow it off and actually get rid of it. This is hours and hours of processing that has to happen. So, it's not like I can go out to a wild rice plant and just pick off bits of wild rice and they're ready to cook. There's, like, a lot of processing. If I come home with a deer or a bear or a fish, it's not ready to just-- I can't just throw a bear on the frying pan. So, I've got to process that animal for hours. 

Most of human existence, I always find this interesting too, because let's just say we just fully accept wholesale current anthropology. That would put us at like, 300,000 years in our current form as homo sapiens as our current incarnation. Although homo, our genus goes back much further, we have been most of that time, most of our time was spent processing food. That's like, the primary thing that we're doing all day. So, if we could transport ourselves to a pre agricultural village right now, you and I, what we would see is there'd probably be quite a few fires. And even though it's only September, it's not cold enough that we need all those fires for warmth. We need those fires for processing because you need heat to process a lot of the foods that humans eat. So, people would be around those fires. We'd see people grinding seeds or grinding grains in a mortar and pestle or mono and metate. We'd see people shelling nuts. All of that is food processing. 

And you kind of alluded to this earlier, but I think a good argument can be made that the origins of music actually come from processing. Because picture the sound in a village. This woman over here is pounding grains with a stone. This person over here is grinding something with a stone that's making a more rasping sound. This person's over here cutting. And you could imagine how over time those sounds would become rhythmic as people would sort of create a soundscape that animated the work, because this is the work. What's happening now, we've substituted-- Now, your 8 hours in a cubicle is a surrogate substitution for the time that you would have spent doing this food processing. So, think of it like this, when people could first buy processed food, now if we say buying processed food, it sounds like a sinful thing, like a bad thing. In the past, what it meant was, “Oh, my gosh, we've reached this stage where I don't have to spend my day processing food.” People were living on farms, so 150 years ago, most people are living on farms outside of urban centers, and they're spending a lot of their time processing that food. So, when they could purchase already processed food, that was, like a big deal, and that freed up time that could then be spent in other pursuits. 

Now what's happened is, now people spend that time doing other jobs because somewhere else their food is being processed. When I sit down to a bowl of wild rice and venison, I'm eating processed food. But it's confusing. Today people would say, “Oh, you're eating whole foods.” It's like, “No,” whole that deer would have hair on it and eyeballs, that rice would be covered in chaffs. So that's the whole food. So, I've had to process it. But what people mean when they say processed food, mostly is they mean industrial food. They mean, “Hey, that foods in a can, that foods in a bag. That food's been broken down into constituent parts and then reassembled into a chip or a flake or something like that, into some kind of animal shape or whatever kind of thing we're talking about Cookie Crisp, [laughs] all that stuff.” That’s when people, they mean industrial food, they say processed food. So just to be clear, food processing, even on the most natural possible diet, is basically your all-day kind of work. Beneath that, we should ask ourselves the question of, “What is food?” And that's the bigger picture. 

Most people don't ever stop long enough to actually and we're sort of, like, imagine, like, the Catholic Church in the Dark Ages, where it's like, “Oh, you can't pray directly to God. You have to go through the priesthood, and they are the intermediary between you and God or something like that.” We have something like that going on with food, where there's so many steps and people between us and the source of food that we don't remember what food is now. There's like a gastronomic, cultural gastronomic amnesia or something happening. So, if we ask the question, what's food? We could get all metabolic or chemical, and we could be like, “Well, food's caloric and all of that.” But that's not really what I mean. It's like bigger picture. What's food? Like, here's what food is. Food is the body parts of living beings. It really doesn't matter what kind of diet, whether you're like, on a full carnivore diet, which would I call, like, one end of the spectrum or you're a full vegan diet on the other end of the spectrum, you're eating the body parts of creatures. 

So, if you're eating broccoli, you're eating the inflorescence, the flower of a being called Brassica oleracea. That's what we call it. That's a plant, which is a living creature. So, it's a being, it's an entity, and its flower head is what we call broccoli. And we break that body part off and we eat that part of its body. If we sit down to a bowl of sauerkraut, it's like you're eating like a gazillion bodies. They're bacterial, but bacteria are living beings, so they're entities. So, you're eating their whole bodies. You're actually eating like a whole civilization of them when you have a bowl of sauerkraut or some yogurt or something like that, it's obvious when we're eating meat, it's like, “Hey, that's a leg or a wing or a gizzard or any kind of whatever body part.” When you're eating a mushroom, it's like, “Okay, you're eating the fruiting body of a mycelial mass, which is a living creature.” So, we can't yet synthesize food. Like, if somebody could develop the technology to synthesize food, so you could take rocks and turn that into calories, like, “Wow, that would revolutionize the world.” But that technology doesn't exist yet. So, all foods have to start off as living creatures and we either eat them whole or we eat them in part. There aren't really any exceptions. 

The closest exception to something you could get calories from that wouldn't be a body part. You could be like, “Okay, milk.” But that's really a liquid tissue, like blood. So, it's just a body part. It could be like, alcohol has seven calories per gram, as I'm sure, you know, being a wine enthusiast. But it's like that alcohol is the excretion of the yeasts who consume it. It's like just a body excretion. It's a liquid tissue. We can't synthesize food. So, when we eat, we're all predators in that sense, regardless of how we approach food or what diet we subscribe to. So, food is living things and you make yourself out of living things. And why I think that's important. This has, Melanie, stuck with me for years. This burns in my mind. Most people build their bodies out of creatures they've never seen. They don't even know what they look like. So, like, how many people have eaten a cod? But how many people know what a codfish looks like, actually looks like, not the fillet, but the actual animal. So many people would not recognize a full-grown lettuce plant. They might recognize it when it's young and it looks like the lettuce on their plate, but most people would never recognize a full-grown asparagus plant. It's astonishing that we have reached that level of removal where we don't recognize. People can walk by on the streets, creatures they've been eating their whole life and not recognize them. And that's just astonishing to me. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I was trying to think of anything that would be, I guess, Bill does talk about cultures that eat clay, but that's not really caloric.

Daniel Vitalis: But it's not caloric. Yep. That's geophagy. So that's a great point. Salt is really similar. We do require salt, but it's not caloric. So, we're eating a mineral for the electrolyte balance. Or we might eat clay because it has adsorptive properties because of its electrical charge. But that's really different than food. We can't really sustain ourselves on that. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I had a little baby epiphany about this. And again, this is a very far removed version from doing this in the wild. But when I started growing cucumbers in my aero garden in my apartment and I was like, “Oh, these things are actually alive.” I had this paradigm shift where I was, not to go into the whole ethical debate about things. There's often this idea with veganism and raw foodism and stuff that you're not doing any killing or anything. But when I started growing my cucumbers, I was like, “No, these things are definitely alive.” I remember the first time I ate one that I grew. It was a different experience from picking it up at the grocery store because the reason they felt so alive is they grow up my windows and I would feel the need to talk to them and tell them not to grow there, but they still would. And they would reach out. 

Daniel Vitalis: And they reach out. So, it's like sentience. They're reaching out to find a connection, to climb, it's sentience. 

Melanie Avalon: It's crazy. Their little tendrils go out and they find things. They're, like, taking over my orchid right now. And so, I'm like talking to the orchid. I'm like, “Are you okay with this?” 

Daniel Vitalis: [chuckles] Yeah. And I would argue that when a plant is green, so if you think about like a leaf on, let's say, the leaf of your cucumber plant, at some basic level, we could think of it as like a solar panel in a sense, because it's collecting sunlight for photosynthesis and that's how it's producing energy, which is just this incredible miracle. But that means that it's photosensitive. So, it's sensitive to light, which is like being able to see if a cucumber plant, like your cucumber plants, can move its leaves over time [laughs] because it wants to be in the light. I watch all the time here in the forest where I live. Trees will bend themselves over and reach themselves out even until they become structurally unstable to reach out into an area of sunlight. So, I often wonder, “Can they see me?” Because if I cast, maybe they can't see me like I can see them. But when I cast a shadow on them, can they perceive, hey, there's sunlight here and shadow here something's moved in the way.

They're some rudimentary kind of, they're photoreceptive. We underestimate them. You know how it is like if you've watched a stop mode, like a sped up video of a plant growing. Suddenly they look really alive. It's their timescale because they're so ancient compared to us, so we don't really understand their timescale to us. This is one of the issues my foraging friends and I often refer to. Like, we'll talk about what we call the wall of green. So, you walk down a path in nature with a person who's just like an average person off the street and they don't really-- not everybody's this extreme. I recently met a guy that had just realized that there were different species of trees. Like, to him, it was just trees and it was like, “Wow, okay.” I mean, that's really funny, but that's just one extreme of an actual pretty common phenomenon. And that phenomenon is this wall of green phenomenon. So, we pull somebody out of Manhattan and we take a walk down the trail with them, and they don't see individual things very much. They just see this sort of backdrop wall of green. But to somebody who's more of a naturalist or somebody who forages a lot, it's like, “I just walked past a red maple, there's a gold birch, there's a trillium, there's a bracken fern, there's a strawberry.” I see all these individuals and if I derive food resources from those or medicine resources from those or flavor resources from those plants, part of my body is made from them. And so, I’m in personal relationship with those species. So those species, when I see them, to another person, it's just green, to me, it's a friend. 

It's like, “Ahh, I see the birch tree and I think I can tap you for sap in the springtime and you feed me. You host mushrooms like chaga that I use for medicine, so I use your bark for fire.” These are more than just green things to me, each species that I work with becomes like a friend. So, it's kind of like if you just plot me into Manhattan, we do a reverse experiment. I'm just seeing a wall of people you know. But if I grew up in that neighborhood, oh, that's Janet, that's Jim, that's Bob, that's Grace. Like, those are all individual people that you know, but I don't know them, so they're, to me, just a bunch of faces. So similarly, that's how we've gotten with nature and people respond to nature as if they've never-- I kind of liken it to this. I've often joke in my workshops that the average person treats Earth like they're an alien. And when they go into nature, it's like a foreign world. And if you look at a hunter-gatherer, like an indigenous hunter-gatherer, especially one from the past, the average hiker dresses more like an astronaut than a hunter-gatherer. They'll be wearing the big boots with the Gore-Tex pants and the Gore-Tex jacket and the big backpack and all this gear, because it's like, “Oh, nature.” It's like, “Who knows what could happen? It's a foreign world.” 

We've become like aliens to our own planet and we don't know the things that live there. What's really interesting about hunter-gatherers is they know all the species where they live. Like all of them. It's not uncommon to know 1500 species by name, by sight, by taste. And we've gotten to where a person knows what a raccoon and a squirrel is maybe, but the average person couldn't tell you like the mammals that live where they live, they just wouldn't know and not any fault of their own. It's like that's just the world we're in now. But so, what I think that-- I'll stop this rant here in a second. But what I think that creates is a kind of alienation so that people feel fundamentally alien in their own world. That sets up a dichotomy where the natural world becomes hostile in a sense or foreign because they don't know anything there and they only know things that are social, they only know societal things. And so that makes people want to remain in the urban environment where they know things and they feel safe and comfortable and they understand things. And the outside hostile world while it's full of poisonous plants and things that can give you a rash and is that safe? It's dirty. Oh, my God. We get to where we start to view our own planet as sort of foreign and hostile.

And I don't understand how we're going to ever save our environment by buying carbon offset credits or whatever other sort of psychologically masturbatory thing we do and continue on in this alienation. I think the only way we can meaningfully really save our environment is actually by getting to know it and who lives there and starting to care about them and being like,” Hey, I actually care about these species here.” It's not just, “Oh, I care about a disaster taking place 4000 miles away.” It's like I care about the environment where I live. Like these woods right here because I derive something from them and I have a meaningful reciprocal relationship there.

Melanie Avalon: Okay. I do have a question about all of that and I'll just comment really quickly because now I'm staring at-- because in addition to the cucumbers, I have lots of other plants all around my desk. They are so warped because they do completely bend to get to the windows. I was wondering that if it was going to sort of kill itself by growing that way. So, it might.

Daniel Vitalis: More like just become structurally unsound.

Melanie Avalon: Okay. [chuckles] 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. You end up pruning them because it's like, “Hey, the way you're growing,” I have a big jade that I've had for years and sometimes it'll grow itself into a situation where it falls over and breaks or collapses if I don't prune it back. And then as the season changes where it's like the light, it's in a big east facing window. Well, in the wintertime it doesn't get that much light in the day. So, it starts to lean in that direction trying to grow in that direction and then it's different in the summer, so I have to rotate it and do all those things to make sure that it doesn't end up falling over.

Melanie Avalon: I have this one plant. This is a good example of what you just said. I don't even know what plant this is.

Daniel Vitalis: [laughs] Right, yeah. Exactly, yeah.

Melanie Avalon: That's a perfect example. [laughs] In any case, this plant that I don't know what it is that I've been growing for quite a while, presumably, it's supposed to grow upward. It grows down because it's on my desk, and the window is behind the desk, so it grows down to get to the window. I mean, it just looks crazy. I'm going to find out what plant it is. Okay. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. What plant are you? Yeah, and maybe ascribe-- I really think you've sort of alluded to this by talking to your plants and whatnot, but I think that we should make a distinction between human and personhood. Because to me, like, a codfish has personhood. When I pull a codfish 300 feet out of the water and look in its eyes, I know I'm dealing with a living entity. It's not human, but I still ascribe it personhood. I give my dogs personhood even though they're not human. So, it's like, I'm not foolishly. Like, “Oh, we're all the same.” I know we're all radically different, but they have agency and autonomy. Your plant certainly has agency, otherwise, it couldn't reach to the light. So, I think that one of the native worldviews that has been so lost by this incredibly human centric worldview that we're living in now is that we stopped ascribing personhood to other non-human creatures and instead we consider them to be resources. I think that's a very arrogant position to take. I think it's done incredible harm because we think very little of causing extinctions. [chuckles] Ultimately, some things blink out of existence that have millions and millions of years of evolutionary history, and we just cause extinctions. I mean, some of the creatures that lived here in North America just astonishing that are gone now.

Melanie Avalon: I've thought that a lot, as far as you mentioned it now, you mentioned it earlier, the disassociation we have between the food that we're eating and the way we see it and the way it looks in real life, because I know my mind has been blown. Especially you mentioned, like, the fish. I saw it on your show, and I'll see it even when I go to Costco and I see how big the salmon fillets are. I'm like, “If that's how big the fillet,” I'll have a moment where I'm like, “How big is the fish then?” It's really interesting. And then I had a moment with my scallops and apologies to listeners because I've told this story a lot just because it fascinated me so much. But I'm a big fan of eating scallops and I know I've been disassociated from them. I don't really think about them, but I had a moment where one of them was bright orange and I assumed that it was bad, so I threw it in the trash. And then I was sitting there and I was like, oh, I was like, “Maybe it's not bad.” And so, I Googled it and it turns out that it's like a female scallop and that's when it's spawning. So, I was like, “Oh,” you’ve like [laughs] added an entire new [unintelligible 00:31:25].

Daniel Vitalis: There's that patriarchy again. [laughs]

Melanie Avalon: I know, but then I was like, “Well, it's probably really rich then in nutrients,” then that's probably where the color so I actually pulled it out of the trash and my trash is just basically cucumber peels because this was before getting my food. I'd actually be curious what you think about, it's my Lomi, my indoor food compressor to make dirt. 

Daniel Vitalis: Oh, yeah. Interesting, I don't have any comments. I don't know. 

Melanie Avalon: Okay. [laughs] And I'm really curious how or why? If you go to the meat section at the grocery store and you see the steaks and the chicken and the chicken breasts and the fillets, is it just completely cultural that we as a species or we as humans in that store are not, “grossed out by it?” We're just so like, “Oh, that's a steak. That's delicious. That's a chicken breast. That's delicious.” But if we saw the steak in the context of the whole animal, suddenly it becomes-- people get an aversion to it. Like, why? 

Daniel Vitalis: Interesting. Yeah, I want to comment on that, but I want to say first something about scallops. I don't know if you were able to see. We made an episode in Newfoundland, Canada. We actually didn't get the scallops ourselves. I was on the boat, but divers were going down and bringing scallops up, and we’re processing them on the boat. And I didn't know this about scallops at the time, but they're a bivalve. So, you've got the two shells. The mantle is the bit of soft tissue that's right at the margin of where those two shells meet, like the lip of the scallop. And scallops have about 120 eyes, so their eyes are different than ours. They're built more like-- I think we actually model our telescopes off the kind of eye, the lens type or sorry, reflector type eye, mirror type eye that scallops have. But I didn't realize that. You're looking at the scallop shell and you're like, “Wow, this thing's looking at me with 120 eyes.” When you get that little piece of meat, which is the adductor muscle. So that piece of meat is the piece of meat that holds the two shells together. But there's all this other tissue that we process out when we use a scallop, and the eyes are part of that. But, I mean, you look at a scallop and as it appears in the store, it's very inert. But when this thing's alive, boy, you guys are looking at each other. [laughs] So that's really interesting to me. 

But yeah, one thing I have noticed is when I'm an processing animal, especially in the beginning, since I didn't grow up doing that. So, it's been quite a learning curve to do this. And I've got to process quite a few different species over the last several years. And when there's a point of let's say you're gutting, so I was gutting a bear last week, and it's like you're pulling out the liver and the heart and the intestines. And one of the first things I'll do when I kill a big game animal, it's going to sound graphic, I hope it's okay to talk about. But the first thing you do is sort of grab the anus, and then you take your knife and you score around the anus to free the colon there so that when you gut it later, you can pull that out from the inside because otherwise you start pulling the guts out but it's still attached at the anus, if that makes sense, the colon would be. So that's like one of the first things you do. So, there's shit, there's blood. You cut the spinal cord, and cerebral spinal fluid spills out. I mean, this stuff is kind of gnarly at first especially when you're not used to it.

I'm not so slick of a butcher that I'm not going to-- I mean I'm going to have blood on my shoes. I'm going to have blood on my pants. It's messy. You're going through this process. And my wife is a teacher and she teaches privately. So, we have a lot of kids who come to the house and some are really interested in it, but some really don't want to see it. And it's interesting to watch people's reactions, the kids or their parents or whatever, because there's a stage at which everybody's sort of grossed out or like, it's too graphic. But there's this other stage once you get all that away, where all of a sudden it looks like food. This happens with a chicken or a turkey, let's say I hunt a lot of turkeys. It's like you get the head off, you get the feet off, and you take all that skin that's holding all the feathers off, and suddenly you're like, “Oh, that looks like poultry now, I'm suddenly hungry.” And so, there's a neat point where what I think is happening is there's a moment of confrontation with mortality because arguably the reason why human beings have left the natural world and created such an artificial world. The world we live in today, which is this built and even now digital environment.

One of the biggest things-- because sometimes you got to ask the question, “Why are we pushing so hard for all of this? What is it we're trying to accomplish? Where does this go?” Because it seems like we're willing to destroy our own home to get away from it. I don't know if you understand what I mean? It's like we'll drain the oceans, we'll destroy the atmosphere, we'll blot out the sun. We got to get to Mars. It's like, “What is this we're doing?” Well, a big part of what I think we're doing is we are running from death, the inevitability, because no one gets out alive. No one. So, a person who's worth $80 billion and a person who's living in an orphanage in the Third World, both have to face the same end. It's like no escape, so Elon Musk and Bill Gates have to face this at some point. Even with the fleets of doctors they can have and the incredible surgical interventions and all of that, they have to face this. Everyone has to face this. And everyone who's ever lived has had to face it. And that's really hard for us to look at. And we're a very death phobic culture, and we don't have a great, again if you were a hunter-gatherer living in an unbroken chain of tradition that reaches back 5000,10000 years or more, you'd have a great story. 

Like, I am going to be with my ancestors and that can be very comforting. We used to have stories like that, but we've gotten rid of them in the name of science. So now nobody knows. It's just like, “Oh yeah, you just die, and that's the end.” And that we don't even explore it. And we can't explore it because we're too triggered by it. It's sort of like a therapist told me once that the hardest thing to study in psychology is grief. Because the people studying grief can't face their own grief enough to study grief. So, no one touches the topic. It becomes taboo because no one can handle looking at it themselves. So, it's like that with death. Most people can't. Even researchers have a hard time looking at it because it brings you face to face with your own mortality.

So, I think when we're butchering animal, what's happening is, “Oh my God, that's me on the inside.” I have guts just like, that's what I am. That's all I am. It's like meat. [laughs] It's really quite staggering. You're like, “Wow, I will die too and this is what I'm like inside.” And all this just goes back into the Earth and there's nothing. It's like, “Wow, that's a lot to deal with.” So, I think there's like a gruesomeness. I don't want to look at it. I don't want to see. And then all of a sudden, it becomes food, and then the food represents life, and now I can look at it again. So, I find all that. I think there's just some deep human psychology at work here. [laughs] It's not as simple as, like, blood’s gross. It's like it's a lot more than that going on. 

Melanie Avalon: I am so fascinated by this. I guess that really is what we're trying to do with escaping death, especially with the concept of trying to achieve immortality and uploading consciousness and Neuralink and integrating ourselves with synthetic existences. It's very scary, actually. Well, actually, that speaks to the point about [laughs] our thoughts surrounding all of it. 

Daniel Vitalis: It's also interesting because you say it's really scary. And I would agree with you. And almost everybody I talk to agrees with that. So, it's like, “Well, then why is this happening?” Somebody doesn't think it's scary because they're pushing so hard for it that it's happening. So, it's like somewhere in the world are people who are like, “No, this is the best idea ever.” And it's like, “I don't know anybody like that.” So, I'm like, “Who is that? Who thinks that's great?”

Melanie Avalon: Do you think because there're so many different cultures. And going back to what you're talking about earlier with how once you gain this sort of language, like, you don't see all the things in the world until you gain a language in your head to see them. You learn about the different plants and you learn about the different things. And so, we see what we have, in a way, learn to see. This is kind of like a question that's all over the place. But I was just wondering because presumably each of these different hunter-gatherer societies then would have the language to see what they-- the world that they're in. If you were to take a hunter-gatherer and plop them in an industrialized food grocery store in the middle of the aisles, so then would everything just look the same to them? Would they not really see things? 

Daniel Vitalis: [laughs] Yeah, right. 

Melanie Avalon: And on top of that, is there something common in all of these hunter-gatherer societies, like a language underneath that that we don't have that does allow them to actually explore any environment that they're in a different way? Or do you think each different society has the language to see what they're in at that moment? 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. I'd say yes to all of the above. I'll speculate the best I can because I'm certainly not fully qualified for the question. But I had a friend who, just before cannabis got legalized, went to jail for cannabis. And after a couple of years in prison, here's a funny little anecdote on the side. He got out and he--

Melanie Avalon: Like, just before it got legalized.

Daniel Vitalis: Right before and what happened was-- 

Melanie Avalon: That's a bummer. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. Well, it gets worse because the state didn't want to take the case, so they were investigating him, and the state didn't want to take the case. And so, the Feds said, “Well, we'll take the case.” And so, it ended up being a federal thing. So, he went to a federal prison shortly after it was legalized. But it was really funny because we’re friends in the raw food health food scene and had worked together a lot. And he had on-- health food stuff. He calls me. He's like, just getting out. And he's like, “Hey, man, what's different in the last five years? What's changed? What do I need to know?” And I was, like, thinking about it's, like, “Wow, not much.” I mean, it's the same social media platforms. There's a new iPhone or whatever. But then I was like, “Oh, bacon's a health food now.” [laughs] Since you went in-- It's very funny how things change. But anyway, my point of bringing him up was he talked about leaving the prison. His family went to pick him up and they stopped at a gas station. And he said when he went in, all the bright coloring of the packaging of the food in the sort of convenience store was so overwhelming to his senses, he hadn't seen anything like that that kaleidoscope of intense color and branding. So, I kind of imagine that for the hunter-gatherer, it'd almost be the opposite thing we’re talking about, because when we walk through nature, we mute it out. But I have a feeling. just my guess would be that it would be massively overstimulating. 

Like, we have gotten attenuated to incredibly high levels of sensory stimulation and overload. But even still, a lot of us feel it. It's like you go to the mall or something and you get out, and it's like, “Man, I feel jangled a little bit.” There're so many things, like, vying for my attention. So, I bet it would be pretty mind blowing to see the way our foods are. And I do wonder sort of how they would-- now, here's one thing that I bet you. When you look at what happened when Europeans arrived here and this continent was populated by the First Nations people here, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds I think something like 500 nations. They in some ways rejected our lifeway, but there was a few things they really, really wanted. Those were metal tools and metal pots. So, can you imagine for 10,000 years, you're cutting trees down with stone adzes. Bill Schindler type of stuff, he loves that kind of stuff. Like, very cool to do those primitive skills. But you can imagine it's like how, when you first see a metal axe, the first time you use one, and you're like, “This thing doesn't break. I can sharpen, it's super sharp, I could cut down trees easily. I'm not hitting it with a sharpened stone.” 

And then the other thing is, when you're relying on clay pots and they fall and break frequently [laughs] not like a metal pot, it's a really valuable thing. So those were extremely exciting. And I imagine that there could be mixed feelings about food because in some ways, it's, like, very convenient to have food you don't have to process. I bet there'd be a little bit of excitement around that [laughs] because even though those foods are low nutrient and even though those foods are pretty desperate, I think that yeah, there's a part of us that is programmed to look for less work. That's why it's so hard to-- I don't know if you work out, but it's like-- For those of us who like to train, how much of it is keeping the motivation? Because you have a body that's biologically programmed to look to avoid work. Because in the natural world for millions of years of evolution, you're trying to conserve energy. 

And then you also have a body that's programmed to look for sugar and fat. And so, when you're in an environment with plenty of free sugar and fat and a 6-million-year craving for those things, and all of a sudden, it's freely available. And if you want, you can just lay around all the time. This is what human beings have been looking for. That's why we created it. But then once you have it, it's really hard to get yourself to do anything. So hence all the struggle to control. I mean, what's really fundamental to health and fitness? It's like diet and exercise. And those are like why are they so hard? It's because your evolutionary program to avoid exercise and to eat as much food as you can when you get it. So, we're dealing with forces, ancient forces that are so much bigger than our little internal motivator or whatever. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, no. 100% and I mean, I outwardly, like, with the exercise, I do EMSculpt, where I just go lay on a machine and it exercises my muscles for me and then-- 

Daniel Vitalis: Come on, really?

Melanie Avalon: Oh, yeah. It's amazing [chuckles] though. It really builds muscle. And then I can do, like, work calls during it. It basically creates the equivalent of, like, if you do the biceps, for example, it creates 20,000 contractions in your biceps in 30 minutes. And it's a deeper contraction than you could do consciously because--

Daniel Vitalis: Like, muscle fiber recruitment-- yeah. 

Melanie Avalon: And it breaks up the lactic acid so you don't get as much delayed-onset muscle soreness. It's great. 

Daniel Vitalis: We'll have those on the ships to Mars then. 

Melanie Avalon: I know. And then I just got my CAROL AI Bike, so it's like, for my cardiovascular workout, it's 6 to 8 minutes. And actually, it talks to me-- the narration-- Have you seen this? The CAROL AI Bike?

Daniel Vitalis: No. I have a friend who also does the EMSculpt thing who was just telling me about this bike as well. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, same. The people who do the EMSculpt do the CAROL, actually I don't know how you would feel about this. Did the person tell you about the narration that the bike has? 

Daniel Vitalis: I don't think so. 

Melanie Avalon: It's an 8-minute program and it pretends like you're a hunter-gatherer, so it talks to you. Use personalized resistance in the pedals to give you the perfect REHIT workout. But the narration of it, which I love because it has music options, but I like the narration. So, it talks to you. It's like, “You're a hunter-gatherer. You're walking in the woods and you're breathing.” And so that's when you're like, paddling slow and then it's like, “What is that you see out of the corner of your eye?” And then it's like, “A tiger” and then it flashes red and it's like, “Run.” [laughs] It screams at you and then it's like, “You're safe.” 

Daniel Vitalis: That's neat. So, in a way, what it's doing is like tapping into really primal-- it’s like getting into your amygdala and firing off your sympathetic nervous system. That's clever. It’s clever. Yeah, it makes sense. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, what's interesting and it kind of speaks to what you were just talking about, how we're not programmed to just go and do exercise. Interestingly, I find that track, the narration track, where I'm pretending like I'm a hunter-gatherer, way more easy to engage with the program than listening to music because then I'm actually enacting these movements for the reason these movements were made to be enacted.

Daniel Vitalis: Exactly. Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah. I'm into CrossFit, so it's sort of like the other end of the spectrum because it's like extreme work, but it's the same thing. I like it because it's very group based and so I like sharing the workload with other people, which, again, is like engaging some of those ancient-- It's like communal in that sense. But yeah, we are made to have extreme bursts of anaerobic exercise followed by fairly restful, leisurely moments. I think that's one of the hardest things. I mean, you coming from the biohacking world, know this well, but it's like that kind of it's almost cliche now, but we're living under constant stress rather than intermittent stress. The tiger is very scary. I mean, man. Do you know much about Pleistocene America? Do you know what this continent was like 10,000 years ago? 

Melanie Avalon: Say it again. 

Daniel Vitalis: Pleistocene. So, we're in the Holocene now. Some people say we're in the Anthropocene, which is the first age of the Earth where human construction is like going to be a layer in the archaeological record. But our modern era is typically-- that's controversial, but typically called the Holocene. But it started probably 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, but just prior to that was the end of the last ice age, and that was the Pleistocene like North America, just as an example, we had multiple species of-- we had the American lion, we had the American cheetah here. This is while there's people here, we have three species of elephant here, we have several species of camel, giant ground sloths. So, we're talking the size of an F-150 or something, these giant sloths. This whole continent was covered in massive megafauna like what's in Africa still in the Serengeti. 

So, the short-faced bear was twice the size of our biggest grizzlies. So, I mean, this continent was, you can imagine for the people just living here in America at the time, there were some pretty harrowing moments. [laughs] So now we're in this place, where you know, we deal with tons of stress, but we don't actually have that anaerobic outlet. So, when you get on that bike and you give it for whatever amount of time at your highest heart rate and output, you are like, soothing an evolutionary need. Obviously, without that, we just decline our cardiovascular system declines. So anyway, I think that's cool what you're doing that. 

Melanie Avalon: I was thinking after doing it, that this should be a whole thing. Like, there should be an app that maybe for your workouts creates a role play type situation. Then you could just go outside and listen to it and it would create a narrative, and then you would run and walk accordingly to whatever you're hearing, like a zombie.

Daniel Vitalis: Fully artificial reality. Yeah, it's so funny, right? 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Like a zombie apocalypse. It'll be like,-- 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah, sure. I bet that's all coming with the AI, with virtual reality stuff and the augmented reality stuff. I'm sure that's probably the future of exercise if we continue on this track.

Melanie Avalon: So, okay, here's a question for you, because as mentioned in the beginning and throughout this show, you do have a TV show, so I'm super curious, and I thought about this. I was going to ask you this anyways, but then I thought about it when you were commenting on going to Whole Foods and, like, the bright lights and the overstimulation, creating a TV show about all of this that we're talking about, presumably, and you do it very well. You want to capture, I'm assuming that in its most-- you want to present to the world what it really looks like in its most natural way. But a TV show is very-- speaking of things we don't see, it's kind of like with a steak. We just see the steak. We don't see everything else. With a TV show, we just see the TV show. We don't see all the cameras and the lights and the editing and I don't know how many people-- When you're on set, how big is the production team? 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. Well, let me give you a little backstory because I'm a complete industry outsider. I didn't come through. You know I don't have an agent or a manager. I didn't come to television on a television track, let's say. So back in probably about 2018 or so, 2017, maybe, I had somebody approach me who was a fairly new cinematographer, videographer, who saw what I was doing, hunting and gathering as a sort of-- because I was a diet, nutrition, biohacking type guy. I've spoken at Dave Asprey's event twice. I would always go to all those conferences. So, it's like part of that scene. I know a lot of the people in that world, and I was always promoting lifestyle stuff, and what was happening was I was promoting the side of biohacking that is the stuff that we are-- It's like the sauna is a great way to replicate the idea that in nature, sometimes it's really freaking hot and the cold plunges because sometimes in nature it's really freaking cold. 

And I was always like, “What are the things that are missing because we've left nature and how do we put those back in our life?” And that's how I got to hunting and gathering. Because eventually with chasing the food down, being like, “Well, I want this food in its more natural form.” Or like, start off eating Hamburger Helper like I mentioned earlier, and then working my way up to keep grass fed, and now I'm going to the farm to get it. But it's like, wait a second, “What's a cow? What's a cow? What do cows come from?” There's no natural cows. So, what do cows come from? The longer you trace that stuff, eventually you're like, “Man, I'm going to have to go hunt this stuff.” So that's how I got here. So, I had a buddy say, “Hey, do you want to film some of this?” And I was like, “I'm pretty new at this. I don't really want to film it.” But he's like, “No, we should do it. That'll be interesting to people.” So, we made the Season 1 of WildFed. I was just going to put it online for my online audience and an influencer, which we did and sold that show for like $50 a season for anybody who wanted to watch it. And that was great. And then when COVID happened, there was like a huge void in television because the networks would have to quarantine a whole cast and crew for a week in a hotel. Then they'd go on location and have to be isolated. And then at the end of the production, they'd have to put them back in a hotel for another week before sending them home. So, the costs were really high, so TV wasn't being made. 

And somebody approached me and said, “Hey, let me pitch your show.” And they did and it got picked up. And I thought it was just kind of a fluke. But then they asked us for a second season and a third season. Now we're filming the fourth season. So, I kind of came at this very obliquely. So, I don't know what it's like to be on big sets or I don't have a showrunner or a big crew. So, it's typically me and one camera if I'm hunting, two cameras when I'm foraging. And then I have two producers I work with out in New York who occasionally come on trips, maybe one or two episodes a season, three episodes a season or something, and they'll come along to support. One of them is a camera guy. So, we're a small crew. And when you're hunting, [chuckles] it's hard to have camera guys because they're looking in the camera. So, they're not seeing the twig they're about to step on. They're not realizing how much they're moving. I'm always having to camouflage these guys or put gaff tape all over their cameras where there's little lights and trying to get them to sneak around. It can be very challenging. But we keep it really small, really tight, really light and very personal with the people we work with. 

So, I don't know what other TV shows are like, but I think we're probably pretty different. And that allows us to have a really small footprint and to present things as they actually happen and to develop real relationships with the people that we feature as guests which is really important to me, because at some point, I'm not going to have the show anymore. I want to have that network of people that I've connected with and hunted with and foraged with. So, we keep it as real as we can and we're not faking any of it. So occasionally, we have to go get pickups of something like, “Hey, I got to go sit in a tree stand while they fly the drone because I can't do that. I can't fly a drone when I'm really hunting. That'd be illegal.” So, we have to do little things like that. But we don't fake anything that you see. So, it's all real but very small crew. It's not like I'm there with my rifle about to take a shot. And if you could turn the camera around, you'd see like 50 people and lights. There's nothing like that, big trailers or anything, we don't have any of that going on. At this point, I'm sure as you know, the gear has gotten so small and so light it's really easy to like two cameras. You don't need a sound guy if you're doing the kind of thing we're doing. So pretty simple operation. 

Melanie Avalon: First of all, I love that you define-- that's the way I define biohacking because I get asked all the time, what is biohacking? The definition that I provide is honestly, I see it as a way of hacking our modern lifestyle to ironically return us back to the way we were before technology. So, I find it to be a very ironic concept actually. And then those are the exact examples I use. Like sauna, we're actually like-- sauna and cold exposure, we're actually exposing ourselves to these environments that we're just not getting in our modern-day lifestyle.

Daniel Vitalis: Right. But in a concentrated dose, because I don't have time to go 6 hours of it. So, it's like cool. The sauna 30 minutes or the cold plunge, like 5 minutes or whatever it is. 

Melanie Avalon: Awesome. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. And I always say to people too, it's like, “You can't hack your way to wholeness.” [laughs] It doesn't make any sense. That's not actually how that works. So yeah, I think all we can do is try to recreate optimal conditions for ourselves. But can I add to that. There's this thing though too that's important to remember, which is I don't want to sound like this is my only angle. Because if you take a lion in the Serengeti and you take a lion in the zoo, the lion in the zoo is going to live twice as long because he's not going to get killed by another male who's challenging him for the pride. He's not going to be getting scarred and bruised up. He's not going to have times of starvation. He's not going to be exposed to the elements constantly. That's a hard life. The life in the wild is a hard life. The life in the zoo, you live a lot longer. It's not rough and tumble. You don't take all the bruises. The problem is you're in captivity. That's the problem. It's a prison, so there's something that I think we need to achieve here, which is like, how do we get all the exposure to the wild that we need and not just-- So here's the thing about the sauna and the cold plunge, they're very sterile. It's not like the real thing. You know how I was talking about with the food, you can have relationships with the organisms that you eat. So, it's really good to eat a good clean diet. Like, that's awesome, but that doesn't mean you have a relationship with any of those things. 

So, we can biohack it all, but that doesn't mean we've actually made meaningful connections to the rest of the world. And so, there's something about the real wild that's really important, but that life will take you out a lot earlier, and you get exposed to a lot of parasites. You get exposed to a lot of tough elements. It's very hard on your body. So, it's like, how do we have both where we don't want to live on a factory farm and I worry that the world we've created is a human factory farm, and that instead of raising us for meat, we're basically being raised for tax dollars. That's our produce, some people live in [unintelligible 00:59:12] the poor, let's say the working-class poor. And some people live on free range farms, like the elites. But everybody's like living on a kind of farm. What would be nice is something more like a zoo, where what we do, because in a zoo, you're going to try to create an environment that looks like the animal's natural habitat. Still going to have fences, but at least maybe there's a little waterfall and there're some plants that are from that animal's environment. On a farm, you're going to just feed the cow corn, but in a zoo, you're going to try to feed that animal the stuff that it really eats.

So, a zoo is kind of like the biohacking side, whereas the farm is more like the standard American lifestyle and we're living more like that. So, it's like we got to find some kind of balance because we can't all-- seven billion people can't go hunt and gather that's not going to happen. We just eat through the whole world overnight. Not to mention we're not robust enough. If we want to have the longevity component, we need to avoid all of the bumps and bruises that come from a wildlife too. So, I don't know if that makes sense, but there's sort of like a balance to be had in all of this because I'd like to live a really long time. Like if I could live 100 years, that would be wonderful. I really like my life. I'd like to keep going for a long time, but if I actually lived outside in a wickiup or something and only hunted and gathered and made all my own tools and stuff, I'm probably not going to live that long because that's a hard life. 

Melanie Avalon: And kind of with the zoo example, maybe like the even-- well, I don't know. I'd be curious how you feel about this. How do you feel about Disney World, like Animal Kingdom where they are making it more immersive, like you're like going on the safari, like in the whole world that they've created? Or do you think that's highly controlled and industrialized? 

Daniel Vitalis: I haven't been. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, you haven't been? You haven't been to Animal Kingdom? Oh, my goodness. I would be so interested to hear what you think after you go.

Daniel Vitalis: Can I bring camouflage and a rifle? You let me out of the truck? [laughs] 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. [laughs] Oh, my gosh. It's really immersive-- It's like a zoo because it's much more immersive. So, they have the Kilimanjaro Safari. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. More like wild animal park. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. And one of their hotels, I think the Animal Kingdom Lodge there's actually-- outside your window, it's like on a safari-type feeling. 

Daniel Vitalis: One thing I'll say I don't know how those are, but I'll just give from personal experience and this happens. This is a huge issue at Yellowstone, which I haven't visited, so I'm not speaking from experience on that. But I have been up to Grand Canyon a bunch of times and sometimes the elk will walk right up to the visitor lodges. And so, you'll have these big buck elk with like eight-foot antlers. They are standing there and the problem is that it gives people-- and this will happen at Yellowstone because I'm going to put this another way and then come back to that. If I tell somebody I'm going to go squirrel hunting. That's one of my favorite things to do and one of my favorite foods, gray squirrel. But people associate squirrels with the squirrels they see in the park. And so, one is like in the park, they're like, “They're so cute.” Another thing is “That's not fair, they're just there, it must be so easy.” It's like, no man, you come into the woods with me hunting and you will see how wily squirrels are. They know you're. I mean, come on, they're being hunted all day by everything. Coyotes are hunting them, foxes are hunting them, fishers are hunting them, [unintelligible 01:02:45] are hunting them. All kinds of avian predators are hunting them. 

They know the difference between a person walking through the woods with a pair of Beats on listening to their music and a person who's stalking through the woods. They know the game, does that make sense? So, people will be like, “Oh, you want to get a squirrel? Just come to my house.” It's like, “No,” when you go into the woods, you're on fair playing field with these animals. So similarly, somebody goes to Yellowstone and they're like, “Man,” they just see the animals there like how they would be in one of those kids movies. They appear so docile that's because they know they're not being hunted there. Generationally, they've learned this is a sanctuary, so is the park. So, the squirrel that comes right up to you or the pigeon that comes and takes bread out of your hand is a pigeon that's been living in a place where no one is trying to hunt it. So, it gives the impression, oh, my God, these innocent animals just want to be our friends. And it's like, well, that's not how it is in the real world. These are artificial environments that we've carved off where people can’t do those activities, if that makes sense. So, in the natural world, animals are very [chuckles] hard. It's very hard to hunt, especially for new people, it's very hard. Animals understand completely what you do, what you're doing, and you can't help it because when you go into the woods to hunt, the hunting program software in your body is so ancient everybody just suddenly knows what to do. 

You start using hand signals instead of talking. You whisper in the lowest voice you can. You walk several inches shorter in a bit of a crouch. Like all these things just naturally start happening because this is programmed into you. And so, animals recognize those patterns as predatory. And so, the average person who only sees these wild animals when they go to parks or to safaris or whatever, these are animals that are being cared for by humans and so humans are nonthreatening to them. So, they behave very differently you know, it's kind of like I remember in the streets of Cusco, Peru, walking up this endless staircase and coming upon a street dog and I just love dogs. And I go over to pet this dog and it tries to bite me and it's like, “Oh yeah, that's a feral dog, Daniel.” That's not like a pet dog. I'm used to a pet dog is going to respond to people very differently than a dog that's actually fighting for survival every day if that makes sense. So, when you're around these semi-domesticated or tamed animals, it really changes people's perception of what the natural world is like. And so, in a way, I don't like that kind of stuff because people end up having this sort of Disneyfied view of what the planet's actually like. And it's a major mistake. It's just not accurate. 

Melanie Avalon: So fascinating. It reminds me also, as well, I don't know if you went to Florida growing up, if that was one of the things you did. Where did you grow up? 

Daniel Vitalis: I grew up in New England. Yeah. 

Melanie Avalon: So, you know, there's the whole thing about do not feed the alligators. It changes them.

Daniel Vitalis: Approach people. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. And then it makes them associate humans with food. And so, the reason we likely have alligator attacks is just because they're associating. They've lost their fear. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. And people are food and we forget that too, because we live like we're gods. Like, “Oh, yeah, we're gods on this planet.” It's like, “No, actually for a long time, we were also food.” And in some cases, we still are. And that's important to remember. And then also just knowing, like, I've had people say to me, I've learned one of the most delicate things is posting online about bears mean people are kind of okay when you eat a deer. When you look at a deer, you kind of know, like, that's a prey animal. But a bear, it gets really intimate for people plus you know, Paddington Bear and Winnie-the-Pooh, teddy bears and all the talking bears. You know what I mean? Like, Berenstain Bears get it's pretty emotional for people. So, I've had people be like, “How could you kill that bear? That bear had a family.” [chuckles] And it's like, “Okay, you don't even know what you're talking about because bears don't live in families.” And a female bear with cubs, I was watching one last week with three cubs. She can't let her cubs be around a male bear because the male bear will kill and eat her cubs. He's looking for female bears with cubs so he can eat her cubs and then push her back into estrus. Because while she's raising those cubs, she's not fertile or sexually receptive. 

So, if he can eat her cubs, he'll get all that protein. Because a male bear is trying to grow, and that's his main priority. He needs to get big because that's his only way to be dominant in the mating hierarchy. But he didn't live with the wife bear and their kids [laughs], it doesn’t work like that. He's a predator of kids, even his own kids. She knows that she wants nothing to do with a male bear except for those rare moments where she's sexually receptive. But people, because you know, growing up reading Berenstain Bears and mama bear lives with you know the two kid bears and the dad bear, and they go on adventures and whatnot. People internalize that as reality, somehow, these Bambi type stories and that stuff has given that we have been hunters. It's not like there were some hunters, but there were also some gatherers. It's like, “No, no, no we've always been hunters.” The first humans were hunters because before our species, the species that we came from were hunters. We've only ever been hunters. We've sort of almost like turned our back on our own biological biography and then manufactured these stories about nature that aren't accurate. But nobody can test them because they don’t actually-- they can't test their hypothesis because they don't go out there and do it. So, these things like pervade people's minds and pervert how we understand the natural world and our place in the natural world. 

Melanie Avalon: That's crazy. And I think a lot of reptiles eat their babies as well, I think. And going back to the alligators, I will just sit and reflect on this concept that they are these massive-- I don't know if they're prehistoric, maybe, beings that just could kill us. And they're massive and they're almost like dinosaurs and they're just in our environment and we don't even think about it. I'm just fascinated. I'm fascinated by this. 

Daniel Vitalis: I killed a pretty big one in the very first episode of the show we ever made. I was invited to South Carolina where there was a guy who managed a wetland area and he would be given permits for gators that got to a size-- because this area was recreated in by people. So, when a gator got to the size that it could kill and eat a person, like his job would be to remove those animals. And I wanted to eat one. [chuckles] So, we took, I think it was about 10.5 feet, the size of that animal up close and in person was incredible. Now, I've also learned though, about alligators because you look at them and they seem so cold, but they actually have a pretty elaborate mating ritual. They show quite a bit of affection to one another in ways you wouldn't expect. Like with almost like embrace. They sort of serenade one another. There's actually quite a bit. So that's this other interesting thing because people who don't hunt will-- There's this thing where it's almost funny. They almost imagine that hunters hate the animals they kill. Like, “How could you do that? How could you do it?” And it's like hunters love these animals way more than [laughs] the people who don't hunt. It's like the non-hunter. What do they know about a deer? What do they even know about a deer? It's like, “Nothing.” But the hunter's got the deer sticker on his truck and he's got the deer all over the walls and he's got the deer phone protector case [laughs] like obsessed with them. They love them. And those aren't mutually exclusive. I can think alligators are amazing and I can still eat one. 

I don't think you hate cucumbers and that's why you're willing to predate upon them. You must really hate cucumbers. You're like, “No, I grow them from the seed. I think they're amazing.” So, there's this funny anthropomorphic thing that we do because I think we associate it with almost like a war like, well, you must hate those people because you're killing them. It's like that's war. But this isn't war. This is like actually just food acquisition. It would be really foolhardy to think that lions hate gazelles and you’ll be like, “No, I'm pretty sure lions love gazelles.” Like, I'm pretty sure that they're in a beautiful symbiotic relationship with one another. Nobody thinks they hate them. That's ridiculous, of course, that's ridiculous. What do you love more than the species you eat? I mean, you rely on them to be alive. You ever watch the show Alone? 

Melanie Avalon: No. 

Daniel Vitalis: That is a really worth your time. There's so many hokey survival shows, but there's one good one. It's called Alone, and the people who are in it, the contestants have to film themselves. And so, they go into nature for, you know, it's like a competition. Everybody's given a different spot, usually in some really brutal environment like the Yukon. They have to see how long they can survive there and they can all tap out. And the last person who stays out the longest, it'll be like 60 to 100 days. Well, it's really interesting when they first start to kill a squirrel or something, because these people start starving, so they lose 30, 40 pounds while they're out there doing the show and they get real hungry. And you see these people who-- these are people who hunt, but they kill a squirrel in that, because when I kill a deer, I'm not starving. [laughs] I got like freezers full of meat. I'm doing just fine. In fact, I could eat a lot less and be healthier and happier. So, yeah, I'm not starving. So, when you watch somebody kill, like, a squirrel who's starving and you see them cry and express their gratitude, I mean, you really see, like, okay, no, this cycle of life thing is real. It's just that we've interrupted it. But there's no animosity towards the things you kill. I mean, maybe that's how people feel about wasps or something, like when they hit them with raid [?] or something like that. But in a hunting context, most hunters obsessively love the animals that they hunt. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, I mean, even with the wasp comment, that's an interesting commentary because a lot of people who have this ideology about the anti-killing of animals, that whole idea, they're usually okay with killing insects. 

Daniel Vitalis: I never see somebody who won't kill a mosquito that bites them. I think there's a really interesting thing there because and I've had some interesting debates about this. I'm curious how you feel about it, but do you think that every life is equal or do you think there's a hierarchy of life? So let me give you an example. Like, is a single-celled protozoan and a mosquito and a bison and a blue whale, are they equal because each one has the sacred whatever spark of life is? Or is the whale more important because it lives so much longer. It gathers so much more carbon together. It is a resource for so many more things when it dies. Has every life got the same value? Or do lives have more or less value based on their size or their composition or whatever? 

Melanie Avalon: Is a heavy question. 

Daniel Vitalis: It's an important one. Because you think, how many mosquitoes you kill in a day? I mean, you drive somewhere and then you get out and you look at your grill, of your car, you're like, “Wow, I’d just been slaughtering all day. Look at all these dead bugs.” 

Melanie Avalon: I think it just is. I almost think it's detached from morality in a way. It just is these different levels of life. So, I'm not realistic. I think it all has meaning, but I feel like it just is I don't really know how to say it any other way. I'm just thinking about it. What do you think? 

Daniel Vitalis: I don't know. I don't know the answer. Sometimes I think because I wouldn't want somebody to think like, I was less valuable than a bigger person or a bigger animal. If we were in a realm of giants, I wouldn't want it to be like, “Oh, well, you can just slap me dead like a mosquito.” I want to think that, especially for people who have a spiritual bend, it seems like life is sacred. So, in that regard, all living things are sacred. Because life seems to me to be sacred. It's like, “What is this?” I mean, I spent my whole life asking, “What is this?” I feel like no one talks about it. Like, wait a second. We're just conscious. I don't remember how I got here. I have no idea where I'm going after. I just suddenly I'm here and I'm just living out this life and what is this miracle? Because we don't have any idea where life comes from or what it is. I know in the middle of my heart is a little thing called the sinoatrial node that produces an electrical spark that fires the whole thing. Where does that come from? What's that spark? That's amazing to me, it's magic. It's sacred. 

At the same time, I don't really feel anything when I kill a mosquito. In fact, maybe even some joy. It's like I was sitting in a tree stand the other day and I was just like, “How many of these mosquitoes can I kill that are attacking me?” [chuckles] But when I kill animal that's like a mammal, that has eyes that I can look into, I feel sad. Yeah, I feel sad. Or like a dog. like how I feel about my dogs. Like, man, I mean, I feel something happened to one of my dogs. I would just be so emotionally devastated. I don't know. I don't know the answer. But I think the people who are against other people killing animals don't really take the time to think about what they're made of, which is bodies of a whole lot of other things. And the other thing that's really interesting is one of my favorite hunts that I do is I night hunt on a farm, a vegetable farm here in Maine, because they get certain number of permits because deer destroy there-- they grow pumpkins. And what the deer will do is they'll go over to a pumpkin and they'll take a bite out of it and they just go to the next pumpkin, take another bite, and they've ruined acres of pumpkins. And so, they'll get permits from the warden service, and I'll go in there and shoot deer at night, and it's a great way for me to fill my freezer with venison in the summertime. 

But they're producing food that vegetarians eat, with all that smugness of like, “I only eat vegetables, you murderers.” And it's like, “Do you have any animals are killed on that farm?” [laughs] We're killing so many animals. What do you think they're doing to the groundhogs that live there? Just letting them symbiotically, like, coast. No, they're killing them. And the other thing is, what would that farm be if it wasn't a farm? It would be habitat for wildlife. And we're removing that habitat when they roll through those cornfields to harvest with those giant combines. How many rabbits are going up through those combines and being killed? Like dozens and dozens and dozens. Nobody's hands are clean of this. So, it's just far more complicated than I think people realize. 

Melanie Avalon: I do completely respect people's opinions and beliefs and I really want everybody to believe whatever they want to believe. I don't have any intention of convincing people to believe other things. 

Daniel Vitalis: You're not going to become a warlord. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Just believe what you want. I just like thinking about things and exploring concepts. So, people who especially like veganism and people who have this idea of not killing animals, I don't know how you argue against what you just said. If you just put on paper the number of, “living beings killed in a regenerative agriculture situation compared to a farm where they're creating plant-based meat, the amount of things that are killed for that industrialized farm is massive just as compared to the regenerative situation.” And then if you think about mushroom, there're mushrooms that are carnivores that are eating things that are alive and it's like so is the mushroom-- 

Daniel Vitalis: Murderer. [chuckles] 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. Why are the mushrooms doing that? Going back, though, to your question about the-- this haunts me. I started thinking about this a lot with the whole talk about aliens because, say, we look at the bumblebees and, like, a bumblebee hive or, like, ants and the whole ant colony. We see it from the outside and we feel that they I mean, I don't know, but it seems like they're not super like the ant colony seems like they're not super aware of the entire world outside of them.

Daniel Vitalis: They don't know about Shakespeare. 

Melanie Avalon: I mean, they see us, but they don't have any idea about all this. But at the same time, they have this whole world, and they're like communicating and talking. So, they're all in their whole world and that's their reality. And I don't know what it's like to be ant. Oh, which, by the way, the best definition I ever heard of consciousness was that something is conscious if you can know what it is like to be like that thing. So, like a rock, you wouldn't be like, I wonder what it's like to be a rock. So, a rock is probably not-- that like stuck with me, [chuckles] But like a cucumber, I wonder what it's like to be a cucumber. [laughs] In any case, so going back to the ants, I'm really fascinated because I'm like, we have this view of that ant colony and we think we're so evolved and we have this whole idea, but maybe we're like ant colony to an alien population looking at us and there's just this whole other I mean, I don't know how you feel about aliens, but maybe I'm just like this hierarchy of species concept. I don't know where I'm going with this. I just think about this a lot. [laughs] 

Daniel Vitalis: That was a pretty forgiving way to put it, because you just look at how Europeans felt about native peoples when they came here too. So, it's very easy for us to other-- even other humans. So, it's very easy to talk about it with ants. It's like, “Oh, yeah, I mean, just step on the colony.” You're like, “Maybe you didn't do it on purpose, but you don't also feel that bad about it either.” 

Melanie Avalon: We wipe out entire colonies. That's like wiping out a whole world. 

Daniel Vitalis: Like I said, you sit down to a bowl of sauerkraut, I mean this is like New York City of bacteria like, think about how many organisms that is. It's astonishing to think about. It's like the stars in the sky but yeah, like, the idea of an alien culture seeing us the way we might see an inconvenient population of something else is pretty terrifying. I noticed it's in some of the assessments of the government when they talk about this stuff. That's like one of their concerns. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, I could talk about aliens for days. Another question about your show. So, do you write all of the narration? 

Daniel Vitalis: I do, yeah. 

Melanie Avalon: Okay. I was wondering.

Daniel Vitalis: And no one tells me anything. It's so interesting. Again, I'm such an outsider. I don't have anyone. I've never once had anybody even ask me to change a word of it. I've had one time where we were asked to edit. I had shot a bison on the Standing Rock reservation with a Dakota friend of mine. When the bison went down, tears started coming out of its eyes. It's just a biological reaction, but it was very moving. My wife was with me and she and I approached that bison, and my Dakota friend started singing songs in Dakota, like prayers for the bison. So, he's singing and tears are coming out of this bison's eyes. And my wife and I leaned down and put our hands on his head, and it's just this really powerful moment. I mean, I'm sad that we had to cut it, but the concern was like, “Hey, if we put this out, it's going to end up a PETA commercial.” Like really careful of that. So, there's a lot of stuff we can't show, unfortunately. I would like to show everything because I think the graphic stuff even is important. But that was the one time the network was like, “Hey, we're worried this is going to end up being used against hunting.” And it's like, “Oh, yeah, fair enough. That's a good point.” But other than that, in four seasons I have never had anyone ask me to change anything.

Melanie Avalon: That actually goes perfectly into what I was going to ask, which you sort of just captured when you have this experience with each episode and where you're going and what you hunted and what you gathered and then the whole experience. Because there's the editing process and you're writing the narration. Does the story of what happened pretty organically just transpire to creating that episode? Or is there any-- because I know you just said that you try to present it the way it happened. Is there also some sort of artistic flair where you focus on what you want the story to be from that experience?

Daniel Vitalis: It's a really good question. There are certain things where you just can't show it that happen on hunts. Sometimes really awful stuff happens. I mean, you can imagine it's like anything. It's like sports, like sports are so cool, and athleticism is so cool, and every once in a while, somebody takes a bad fall and gets a compound fracture and there's a femur sticking out of their leg. That's just reality. It's like stuff goes wrong when you're out there with guns and bows and animals and lots of crazy things can happen. So, we need to show it, in a way, my goal. So, here's another aspect of this. I am just not your typical hunter; I don't fit in with typical hunters. I didn't grow up in that culture, so I am an outsider to it. That gives me a really fresh take. But I got to hunting through my passion for food and that's a more common pathway now because there were so many people like me who came out of the Diet Wars, who decided to start hunting because they wanted to have that close relationship with food. So that's more common now.

But in the past, that wasn't really what was getting people into hunting culture. So, I look at it that I make this show, not because I'm trying to promote hunting. I make it as a Trojan horse to promote connection to the natural world because I believe that forces at work want to push people into a kind of digitized, anti-human kind of slave state. I just look at the direction things are going. I'm like, “I'm really not comfortable with where things are headed.” From a surveillance perspective, from a mind control perspective, from a marketing perspective, from a food perspective, it looks extremely dystopian this track we're on. So, this show is my part in reminding people about the power that they have and about the relationship that they can have to the natural world. Because pretty soon people are going to be living in augmented realities. We're so close to it and that really concerns me. So, the show is really about that. 

So, I want to present it. I don't want to call it artistic flair, but I emphasize the connection of food and place all the time. So, I don't want people to see some of the banter. I don't want people to see some of the-- just there's stuff behind the scenes that happens on hunts that I just don't feel like works toward that goal and that aim. But I also don't change the story. So, we hand the footage off to our editor. The editor gives me a cut and I narrate to what I'm seeing and to the story that I remember. And so, it's extremely authentic. And every once in a while, there's something where it's like, jeez, I remember once a bear fell out of a tree. It was horrible. The bear fell out of the tree and broke its back when it hit the ground. Like, I'm not going to show people that. It's just too much. It takes away from what I'm trying to do. So, I have to be careful with some of that stuff. But for the most part, I'm just sharing my passion for it and other people, the people I work with, their passion for it and trying to tell really relatable human stories. In the beginning we were pretty crude. I think we're getting a lot better at it now in the third and fourth season. But yeah, it's very authentic. But I do try to just make sure that the emphasis always brings people back to because I have this saying internally here at the company, like, this idea of being made of place. 

And that means I like to have my body be made out of this place. Can I be made out of the water here instead of the water from Fiji? Can I be made out of the food that grows in this soil instead of apples from Argentina. Apples in Argentina would be great if I was in Argentina. Make perfect sense to me. But it's like we grow apples here in New England, so why am I eating an apple from Washington from the store when we have apples that grow here. It's very confusing to me all of that. And that’s not to say I'm against all of that, I'm not. But it's just like, I'm interested in this idea being made out of place. So, I'm always trying to push that idea because I want people to connect to their local landscape. Because again, I don't see how we're going to get out of this mess if everybody isolated from their own environment or they're always talking about, “the environment.” 

I hate that saying. I just hate it. It's like, “What environment are you talking about?” When people talk about “the environment,” it's like, “What environment? Where? Show me. Take me out there. Where are you talking about?” Because it's sort of this vague concept. We have to save the environment. It's like, “Do you know any environments? You've been in any of them?” Like, where are you talking about? Because sometimes they're just talking about some far flung distant place they saw in a David Attenborough’s documentary. It's like, “Yeah, there's an environment right outside your door too. Have you ever thought about that place? What's going on there?” So that's what I'm trying to do. Like Trojan horse people into a connection to their environment, get them excited about where they live. 

Melanie Avalon: Really random question with the falling out of trees, was it the iguanas or the monitor lizards that fall out of the trees?

Daniel Vitalis: The iguanas, man, they're good eats for those in Florida, those green iguanas are good eats, man. 

Melanie Avalon: Did you film in winter? Were they falling out of trees. 

Daniel Vitalis: No, no. What we do is take a fishing rod, basically and put a snare on the end of it. [laughs] I have like a nine-foot fishing rod, and I put the sneak on iguana. I mean, they see you coming. Iguanas are fascinating. They've got an organ on the top of their head that is a rudimentary eye almost. It is photoreceptive so that they can see the shadows of avian predators overhead. So, as you try to slink over them with this little snare on the end of a rod, they know something's happening, but they keep their eyes on you, so they don't realize kind of what you're doing. They don't get it. And then I'll catch them in that snare, and then they're like on the fishing rod, and I'll bring them to myself, get them in the cooler. But yeah, the chicken in the trees. I do a lot of hunting of animals that are invasive in environments and are causing-- that are deleterious to environments. 

Like alligators we were talking about before, they're endemic to the south. They're from there, but iguanas are not from there. And they made their way either through the pet trade or through the food trade, being on ships or whatever when they bring bananas or something like that. And they've escaped and naturalized themselves to South Florida. And they cause a lot of problems to the environment because they're not from there. And the animals and plants there haven't had time to adapt to their presence, so you don't have to feel bad harvesting them. It's actually helpful. So, I love it when that kind of thing aligns and you can harvest something, an animal without impacting their population. 

Melanie Avalon: Like not destructive to the natural--

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. In fact, it's constructive. But iguana yeah, very cool meat. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, for listeners, apparently, it's increasingly more a problem because there are so many of them. And I guess in the winter they live in these trees. If they get too cold, they'll freeze and then they just fall out of the trees. 

Daniel Vitalis: Well, they go into a torpor. So, they're not frozen because they're alive. They go dormant because have you read the stories of people there's been so many stories of people who they're walking down the street and there's all these iguanas. They put them in their car, like I don't know what they're thinking. And then they come back and the car is heated up and now there's 15 iguanas running around inside their car. 

Melanie Avalon: Whoa. I've never seen one fall out of a tree even though I went to Florida all the time growing up. But I remember I was talking to-- I don't remember who it was. I was talking to somebody and we're talking about Florida, and the person genuinely was like, “I'm too scared to go to Florida because I'm really scared that an iguana is going to fall out of a tree on top of me.” And I was like-- [chuckles]  

Daniel Vitalis: You really [unintelligible 01:31:11] I don't go outside, you could be struck by lightning. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, I also just two random things. I had a complete reframe of the existence, speaking of consciousness and what it's like to be like something. I don't remember which author it was and which book, but she was talking about what the existence is like as a reptile. Basically, your entire existence is cortisol driven and trying not to die. Because since they're cold blooded, when you're getting warm, you have to go out in the open. So, you're exposed to potential predators. So, you have to worry about predators getting you. Then when you go back into the cold, the worry is dying of hypothermia. So literally it's just back and forth between not trying to die. And I was like, “Wow.”

Daniel Vitalis: There's something really interesting in the Bible where you have this idea of the serpent who deceives Adam and Eve and there's this dichotomy between mammalians and reptilian there that I find really fascinating because as mammals, we're so emotive and we have this neocortex and reptiles just don't have that. And so, there's this sense of a kind of coldness and a kind of almost evil. I don't think it's really evil, but we kind of perceive something menacing because if a person is trying to harm you, you can imagine yourself trying to reason with that person and trying to play on their emotions. Like, “Hey, I have a family. I have kids or like come on.” But with a reptile, there're no emotions. [laughs] So, there's something that we perceive in that. Like, you look into the eyes of a reptile and you're like, “Oh, that's cold,” versus something you know thermogenic like a mammal. 

Melanie Avalon: And then also one comment about, “the environment.” I remember when I interviewed Matt Simon for his book A Poison Like No Other, which is all about microplastics. That book blew my mind and completely made me see the world differently. I was like, “Okay, everything is plastic. What am I doing?” But he talks about recycling and how it's basically a lie. That blew my mind too. I was like, “What?” [laughs] It was basically created by the plastic industry to make you feel good about buying more because you can recycle it. 

Daniel Vitalis: But all the plastic you're sending over to the Philippines or whatever. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. It's like, you’re not really doing anything. So, yeah, it was just a brief comment there. Random tangent. How do you feel about we're bringing back the mammoth and things like that? Like bringing back extinct species. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. My first is like, off the cuff, is like, “Have you seen Jurassic Park though.” I'm disturbed sometimes by scientific hubris when there's this phenomenon. And I know I keep referencing the Bible so I hope I'm not offending anybody there. But when you have a book that lasts 6000 years you probably shouldn't just disregard it. It tells a lot of really interesting stories. But one of the most common stories is about human hubris and pride. Like, there's a really fantastic story, the Tower of Babel where humans are convinced what it is like, we want to be gods. So, we're unhappy with the idea that we have a creator and we need to be sort of, like, subservient to that creator. So, we want to be creators ourselves. And in the Bible over and over again it leads to ruin. There's a great story. I really love the movie, Fantasia. This scene in Fantasia with Mickey Mouse and Merlin. I don't know if you remember that scene where Mickey Mouse-- Merlin leaves and leaves his hat, I think, and Mickey gets the hat. Now, he can do magic, but he's not qualified. So, he starts creating things and everything he creates, creates a mess. That's an unforeseen consequence. And you remember he creates the buckets and the mops to try to clean up the mess. But it's just getting worse and worse until finally Merlin comes back and can set it right. And I think that's what we're doing. So, the scientific world will often say this thing this is the cringiest thing I can think of to say the human brain is the most complex thing in the entire universe. It's like, “Wow, man.” 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that really bothers me. 

Daniel Vitalis: That's some hubris. But if you believe and truly internalize that and let us say you have a real atheistic position. Then, it's like, “Well why wouldn't we become creators?” So, it seems like when I look out at what we're doing here it's like a giant Tower of Babel story. It's like we want to now start creating our own organisms. We want to start to create our own worlds. We want to create a Metaverse. We want to create like we're not content to enjoy this incredible creation. I mean this incredible creation, it is so incredible here. It could be even more incredible if we would stop always trying to change it and actually let it flourish and instead garden it instead of cutting it all down to build our own crap that we then put in the landfill. It's like, “What are we doing to this place?” So, I wish that we could enjoy that instead everybody seems to be so fascinated by the idea of becoming creators and that's like the original Luciferian concept. 

I don't think that trying to bring back the mammoth is directly Luciferian but if you really play with the idea for a while, it's like, “Wait a second, why do we feel the need to do that?” It's like, “Hey, why don't we do something for the elephants that we still have here? Why are we trying to do that?” So, I don't fully like it. I think that there's times in my life where I have such a powerful lamentation about mammoths. Because first of all as a hunter if you're a European descended person or Native American descended person, probably most people on the planet come from elephant hunters. I mean we just need to accept that, like we're all elephant hunters because mammoths, mastodons, these are species of elephant. So, people all through time hunted elephants. And while most of the mammoths were gone by 10,000 years ago, there's an island off the coast, I believe off the coast of Vancouver I want to say that had mammoths 4000 years ago, that's like when the pyramids were there. 

This was like the last population we know of. The last extant population of mammoths. And sometimes I'm like when you think about timelines on bigger scales like when you think about 300,000 years of human evolution for instance, 4000 years is really close and part of me is like, “Oh, my God.” I mean I'm looking at a picture on my wall right now of some mammoth hunters that I have a painting framed of these mammoth hunters. I wish so badly to have seen that world and to have hunted in that world. It's like, “Oh God, it's right there.” So, part of me it's like I love to go to a museum that has mammoths or mastodon skeletons. I mean I love it. It's like if I'm in New York City I'm going to Museum of Natural History because I want to go see the mastodon. I think that we're better suited personally. I think we're like Mickey Mouse with Merlin's hat. We've gotten our hands on magic we don’t understand, we don't know, we are very bad, we've demonstrated over and over again our inability to think about the consequences. We've also shown ourselves again and again that we can't foresee unforeseeable consequences. And every time we create something new it's like think about there was a time where, do you know, we ran the Industrial Revolution on whale oil. I mean, that's just astonishing to think about. The whaling started in Nantucket out of Massachusetts essentially and were whaling right there. 

Now, a whale is just covered in so much blubber that you'd bring that back to shore, you'd process all that oil, render it, and that's what the city streets were lit with. The lamps ran on whale oil. And the machines of the Industrial Revolution were lubricated with whale oil. Now, of course, we quickly fished that out and so people went further and further until eventually they were going on three-year long voyages. This is fascinating history. The boats were factories. They would process the whales into oil at sea so they would have the whole hold would be filled with barrels. They would go with empty barrels and they wouldn't come back until the barrels were filled, mainly sperm whale but eventually when they started to run low, they started hunting all types of whales. This is how we got to Tahiti and New Zealand and we went into the Pacific from, essentially people were going to Pacific from Massachusetts seeking whales. 

Eventually it got to the point where there weren't enough whales left. But there was a belief at the time and this was a very Christian culture at the time, there was a belief that God wanted us to slay the behemoths so that we could light our cities, to push back the darkness and the sin. This was woven into our worldview at the time. But eventually we're running low on whales and there was a panic like, “What are we going to do? We're running out of whale oil.” And then the discovery of fossil fuel, of actual petrol. So, then it was like, “Oh, my God, a miracle. Petroleum oil.” Petro means rock. It's like rock oil. This is incredible. Oil from rocks. And so, we start this modern era burning fossil fuel. Well, turns out there's unintended consequences. [laughs] It's like we built this whole civilization on this oil and now everybody's panicking about that. And it's like we're like Mickey. At first, it's all just this cool magic, but then it's like, “Oh no, we've actually made the world considerably worse.” And now, because we've had all this free power and labor, very cheap power and labor from oil, we now have eight billion people to think about. And so, it's like we're in a way worse situation than were with the whale oil thing. That's my concern as we keep making the same mistake over and over again. And the oldest literature in the world is about us making these same mistakes over and over again. 

So, I wish that somehow, we could embrace. Like, imagine if you were a character in a video game, and you don't know who made the video game, but you have freewill. You're not just an NPC, you have free will, but you're in the game. But instead of enjoying the game and playing it as a temporary experience because no one gets out alive, instead you become obsessed. Well, what's this game made of? What's the code to this game? Can I figure out how to hack the code of this game? Wait, I want to build my own game. And what you end up missing is the experience of the game and you don't actually get to live the ride because you're so busy trying to recreate your own version of the ride or take it apart and reassemble it and make it into other things. I just think that's what we're doing and I just think we're missing the point, because we have a real opportunity while we're alive to evolve our souls, or we can squander our opportunity here too and we can even turn against it. And I think that's where most people are at though they don't mean to be. I think that's where most of us are at. 

Melanie Avalon: Huge thought experiment question for you. Let's just say that it turns out that this is actually all a virtual reality, and it's like The Matrix and actually our bodies are being harvested somewhere for energy, for, I don't know, the backstory of where we actually are doesn't really matter for the question, if it turned out that this was all a virtual reality, would it change how you feel about everything you've said thus far and feel. 

Daniel Vitalis: I think it kind of reinforces it in a way. I would be really curious who programmed it. Because what I experience when I go into the natural-- have you had any experience with entheogenic plants or anything like that? Have you drank ayahuasca or something like that or psychedelics? 

Melanie Avalon: It's on my to-do list. 

Daniel Vitalis: Someday you'll do it. And then when you do, you'll go, “Oh, that's funny how I said it was on my to-do list.” 

Melanie Avalon: Literally, [chuckles] it's on my to-do list. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. So, I think it reinforces it. But my experience of being alive is that especially because of the time that I've spent in the natural world, I see an intelligence at work that is so superior, vastly superior to anything human generated. This is hard. It's a whole nother interview conversation. But in a nutshell, I say what people are living in now is kind of like an amusement park. I call it artifact land because the word artifact shares the same root word as art. And artifact, it means things shaped by human hands or human will. So, like, if you could picture a piece of flint, like you were walking through the Arizona desert and you pick up a rock and it's made of flint, and then you pick up an arrowhead on the ground and that's made of flint. Those two things are molecularly identical, but one has been shaped by humans and the other one is still natural. Does that make sense?

Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm.

Daniel Vitalis: So, most people live in a world where everything around them is an artifact, like, where there's nothing natural anymore, even in the city, it's like, “Well, there's pigeons.” It's like, “Well, pigeons are feral domesticated birds that humans domesticated. They're an artifact.” What about that tree over there? It's like, “Well, that's a horticultural variety of tree that humans domesticated. That's not a natural tree.” What about Central Park? It's like, “That was built by people.” It's like none of it's-- you're living in an amusement park. But when you get out into the actual natural world, it's so clear to me or even beyond that when I look into space, there's something at work so much grander than human intelligence. When you start to look at things like math, geometry, and there's some kind of an intelligence at play, like DNA, there's an intelligence at play so vastly superior to our own that if this was a simulation, whatever programmed that simulation is so vastly superior to us that I would want to be in the presence of that being. 

Melanie Avalon: And how would you feel about this virtual world that you're in? Would you still feel-- 

Daniel Vitalis: I'd want to live this life. Yeah, I'd want to live this life. I mean, if at some point it would be really nice to know at the end that it wasn't like you said before, “You're not a nihilist.” It's like, I would love to know at the end that I'm not annihilated, but that instead I'm just going to take off the headset and be like, “Oh, yeah, forgot that I am actually from this reality.” [chuckles] That would be wonderful because since none of us know what dying is. That's amazing. Here we are, we could bring back a mammoth, [chuckles] but we don't know anything about what dying is. How is that possible? We haven't even begun to explore that. We don't know what that is. It's, like, crazy to me. Yeah, it would be really cool to step out of this world at the end and into another one. I would love that so because I would love to continue to exist, since I enjoy existing a lot. 

But I think that it's kind of like, look, if you get on a ride at Disneyland, just enjoy the ride. Enjoy the ride. Why would you, halfway through, start to try to take apart the ride and build your own ride? It's like, just go through the ride. And I feel like for maybe 290,000 years, that's what Homo sapiens did. They took the ride. But the last 10,000 years, we've been like, “We're going to change this ride,” and we've created a real mess and we are clearly not sure what to do now. It's so obvious. We're just turn on the news. We don't have any idea what we're doing [laughs] so like a parent. It’s like that saying that, “The inmates are running the asylum?”

Melanie Avalon: Maybe speaking to that a good concept to end on. I feel like this is like my confession moment. Giving agency for people to actually do everything that you've been talking about and have this connection to the world and get beyond this world of artifacts that we live in and this industrialized life actually connecting and doing what you're saying. A, how can people in their everyday lives actually do that? And then B, the confession aspect of it is. So like for me, I love all of this so much and I love thinking about it and talking about it, and I love my cucumber plants and I do want to go out into the world. Also, there's me and my sister. She loves hiking and doing all the things. I find it very overwhelming. So, my idea of a fun time is watching you do these things. It's not me actually go do the things. Even though I completely love it and respect it and treasure it. I have zero desire to maybe it's just because it's like, overwhelming to me, like being in the elements. I don't do well in the elements. 

Daniel Vitalis: Ahh. Wait, can I interrupt you for a second? I bet you do great at the beach. Do you like the beach? 

Melanie Avalon: It's okay. I do like the beach a little bit. I liked it growing up.

Daniel Vitalis: You're going to be one of the first candidates for the spaceships to go to Mars. It's going to be a good fit for you. [laughs] 

Melanie Avalon: That doesn't sound so appealing either. [laughs] See, here's just a quick example. This is how bad it is for me. I was going to see a show here. I love seeing theater. And we have this theater where they show-- the Fox Theater, they do touring Broadway shows, and I always dress up in gowns and it's like a fun time. And I was going with a date, and so he texted me beforehand and he was like, “Do you want to meet out?” And this is like during the summer. He's like, “Do you want to meet outside theater?” Like, we can meet outside theater and then go in together. And I was like, “No,” because [laughs] like I'll meet you inside. And it's not because I don’t like, I love the concept in my head of the outdoors. I don't like the heat, I'm allergic to grass, and I like a controlled air-conditioned environment. So, for people like me, for everybody, what is your suggestion, your advice, your guidance for how people can actually do what you're saying and connect? And if they're people like me who would rather not be in the elements all the time?

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. Okay, so everybody's busy and you can only do one thing at a time. So, you got to start really small. So, it's like, “How do you eat an elephant like one bite at a time?“ So, you got to take something small. So, let's make it really, really simple. Let's say that everybody could just meet one creature that's already part of their life in a deeper way. So, for you, for instance, you have this relationship with these cucumbers. But it's like, “What's a cucumber?” Because newsflash, cucumber is an artifact. There is no natural cucumber. You're never going to be walking through the woods and find a, “Oh, look, there's a cucumber.” It's not going to happen because cucumbers don't come from nature. But there is a species that we've mutated into cucumbers over the course of thousands of years, similar to there's no chihuahuas running around on the Savannah anywhere. Chihuahua is a gray wolf. But we've taken the genome of the gray wolf and through breeding and breeding and breeding we've created chihuahuas and dachshunds and all these dogs that don't exist in nature. There's no cow. It comes from an animal called the auroch. So, it would be interesting for you to trace that a little bit like instead of just going, that's a cucumber. Be like, “What is a cucumber?” And see if you can find out what other plants are closely related to cucumbers and where do they come from and what's the progenitor species. 

That would be really interesting for you to find out because actually cucumbers come from a spiky poisonous plant that we've bred into something edible. So, it'd be neat for you to see what comes before the artifact. What was it before it was an artifact? What's that thing that'd be really interesting for you to kind of dig a little deeper on that and see who's there. And then for the average person, it's like try to learn one wild organism. Like start in your lawn, in your backyard. There're so many different things. Like if you went and you took a couple of square feet of your lawn and you just look closely, you're going to be like, “Oh, there's a bunch of different things here. Can I find out what one of these is?” And then, what do we know about that? Does it have medicinal value? Does it have food value? Like learning just one species. If you've got dandelions in your yard, it's like, “Man, what if I were to harvest some of those and make a tea out of the roots?” Like, “What's that like?” Because that's a thing people do. So, it's like a chance to meet. And it's not because that cup of tea is going to be so valuable. It's because that's going to connect you to a non-human being that shares this planet with you. And now you're not alone. You have a companion. And everywhere you go and you see people waging war on their dandelions in their lawn, you're going to be like, “Man, you're missing out on that relationship because that's another creature that shares this planet with you, has been here a lot longer than people.”

So, it's like, try to develop one relationship, because then once you do, you can develop another one and another one. And I have a network of, I don't know, a couple hundred species that I'm connected to, so that when I'm in the world, I know I'm not alone. I know they're all there, and they're all there to support me, and I'll always advocate for them too. So, there's something about that in the same way that it kind of sucks to go to a new town and not know anyone. It's a very lonely feeling. And once you start to make friends and tap into a community, it's like, “Ah, okay, I feel safe again.” So do that, but on a species wide level and you got to start with one. So, it's like, pick a plant or pick a mushroom or pick an animal and learn about it. Go a little deeper. So, it's like, “Okay, I like going to the park and watching the squirrels.” It's like, “Okay,” well, get a book about squirrels and start learning a little bit about them because you'll learn some fascinating things that you never would see just sitting there on the park bench. So go a little deeper into a relationship with a thing that has personhood that's not human. 

Melanie Avalon: I love that. Well, I'm going to start by figuring out what this plant is on my desk that I don't know about. [laughs] 

Daniel Vitalis: You should be able to take a picture of it and then search it through Google Images. 

Melanie Avalon: With an app. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. That's what my buddy's always doing. I don’t like. It drives me crazy, but he's always finding things faster than me. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, my goodness. Actually, I have a few plants here that I don't know what they are. Well, this has been oh, my goodness. Like, I was telling you, and I was telling the audience how excited I was about this conversation. I was already excited. This, like, a thousand, million times surpassed all my expectations. I so genuinely enjoyed this. I could talk to you for hours. Thank you for what you're doing. And now I'm just thinking about how each episode we pull out two topics to focus on for my Instagram, I'm like, “What are we going to--?” There's so much we talked about. [laughs] I don't know what to go with. The last question that I ask every single guest on this show, and it's just because I realize more and more each day how important our mindset is. So, what is something that you're grateful for? 

Daniel Vitalis: I won the wife lottery. [chuckles] I really did. I have a wife that is really beyond I mean, sincerely beyond what I deserve who rescued me from I mean, I was just lost. I knew a lot of things, but I was lost in some ways. So, I'm really grateful for my wife, Avani, and the way that she stabilized my life and then taught me about love in a way that I don't think there was another woman that would have ever been able to do that. I think she's the only person that could have done that. And so that would have had the patience and the compassion to even deal with me. So, yeah, if it wasn't her, I can't imagine what would have happened to me. But I don't think it was going to be good. And so, I feel like she swam out in a storm and rescued me and got me back to shore. So, I'm just super grateful for that. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, for listeners, she is in some of the episodes, and you have the whole episode preparing, it's for your wedding or the food. 

Daniel Vitalis: Oh, in the first season, yeah. Yeah, it's an old one. Yeah. But our wedding is actually in the show. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah. And you have the episode where she goes on her first hunt.

Daniel Vitalis: Her turkey hunt. Yeah, yeah. 

Melanie Avalon: Because you said that turkey was the first thing that you did hunt as a child. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. It was not as a child actually. It's probably like eight, nine years ago. Yeah, I sincerely didn't grow up doing it. So, there's an episode where she does her first turkey. Yeah, she shows up every season actually in the show and on my Instagram often writing her love letters on my Instagram account. 

Melanie Avalon: How can listeners best follow your work? So, they can watch WildFed on Outdoor Channel, and it's on multiple different streaming platforms. I was watching a lot of it through Amazon Prime actually. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. That's what I recommend to people. You know, so many people today, myself included, don't have cable now. It's like it's funny to be on cable, but at a time where people don't really watch cable, so Amazon is the best way. It's behind a paywall, so you have to pay for the episodes. But Amazon Prime to watch WildFed. And then I have two podcasts. I'm not podcasting right now, but I've done two different shows. One was called my first show is Rewild Yourself. My second show was WildFed. So, I think both have about 175 episodes. I'm on Instagram @danielvitalis, so those are probably the best places to find me. 

Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Well, we will put links to all of that in the show notes and just thank you so much. Thank you for what you're doing. It's just so incredible, so profound and for your time. And I just really, really genuinely enjoyed this. And hopefully in the future we can do this again. 

Daniel Vitalis: Yeah. There's plenty of directions to go, so I'd love to do that again. 

Melanie Avalon: So many things to talk about. Well, thank you, Daniel. Enjoy the rest of your day, and I will talk to you later. 

Daniel Vitalis: All right, take care. 

Melanie Avalon: Bye. 

[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]

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