Ray Audette hunts with a hawk and eats like a caveman. He says his meaty diet stopped his hair from falling out, cured his diabetes--and will make you healthy too

On a warm weekday afternoon, Arrow, Ray Audette's juvenile red-tailed hawk, with feathers just beginning to turn the color of rust, cocks his head and eyes a white mouse wiggling wildly as Audette plucks him by his pink tail from a swarm of 100 other jittery white mice inhabiting a large wire cage on Audette's patio.

Arrow grabs the mouse with his beak and clutches it in a talon. In an instant, Arrow slits the throat with his beak and a slender red necklace oozes from the white fur. The mouse continues to wiggle. It's an unappealing sight, but Audette watches it without flinching. Tiny vertebrae crack. The head is gone, leaving a bloody stump behind. Then, with a few efficient rips of flesh, Arrow devours the rest of the body.

Humans, like hawks, are predators, like it or not, says Audette: everything about man is designed for consuming meat.

Understandably, Neander-Thin has caused a stir among some vegetarians who haunt some of the same natural food hangouts Audette does. The author's book signing at Cosmic Cup, Oak Lawn's popular vegetarian enclave, triggered a debate that stopped "just short of fisticuffs," says an amused Dipak Pollana, Cosmic Cup's owner.

Pollana says Audette has been known to walk up to people at Cosmic Cup and warn them about the sins of eating rice. "He tries to convert people like he's on a mission," says Pollana. "He's just as bad as a preacher."

Still, Pollana, a vegetarian who eats fish, appreciates Audette's zeal and likes to have the meat-eater around. But Pollana thinks cutting out grains and potatoes and beefing up on meat is misguided. "I think his theories are ridiculous."

Though Audette's book is welcome at the Plano and Greenville Whole Foods stores, it's been banned at the Richardson store. "It's too extreme," says Suzanne Zetola, book buyer at Richardson Whole Foods Market. In March, she told Audette to retrieve copies of Neander-Thin after the store had carried the book on consignment for a week. Zetola, a vegetarian, says Audette's taste for meat doesn't offend her, but "To say that nobody should eat any grains is pretty weird."

"People seem to think there is something noble about being a vegetarian," Audette counters. "But vegetarians don't understand what the role of predators is--to prevent disease. Once they understand how the environment works, they would understand they are not saving animals by not eating them. They are causing more animals to die," through agriculture which sterilizes the land and kills off wildlife, he says.

It was Audette's missionary zeal that got him into trouble with Borders Books & Music in the Preston Royal Shopping Center. He sold 12 copies of the book between March and April before consignment book buyer Cecelia Williams told Audette to remove them. Williams says she spotted Audette preaching to browsers about the virtues of hunting and gathering and warned him to stop. On another occasion, Williams says, Audette and his carnivorous converts gathered in the store's cafe to loudly discuss Audette theories. "We tried to nip it in the bud before customers started complaining," Williams says. "It's too bad--we've had several people come in and ask for it."

If Stone Age man had to track game miles on foot to kill with stone-tipped spears to feed himself and endure the privations of the Ice Age, pickings may be even slimmer for the modern-day Neanderthal.

"When you go to the store as a hunter-gatherer, there are whole aisles that have nothing you can eat on them," Audette says.

On a lunchtime trip to Luby's Cafeteria near his home in Plano, Audette passes up a carrot and raisin dish because it has mayonnaise in it. And the pears and strawberries are soaked in sugar-laden syrup, he points out. Finally, he orders a dry tossed salad and recommends draining the cucumber salad of its vinegar.

He scans a whole steam table full of appetizing vegetables--corn, baked potatoes, parsley potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, green beans, green peas--all off limits. "The only thing here we can eat is the spinach and carrots," he says without a hint of remorse.

Upon reaching the meat section, Audette scans the selection for permissible meats--there are three: broiled fish, hamburger patty, and roast beef--and orders a hamburger patty and a plate of broiled fish. A woman in a hairnet behind the steam table eyes Audette warily as she serves him the fish and hamburger patty. "When you eat like I do, people always notice you," Audette says.

Then inexplicably, he scoops up three deviled eggs, which contain the dreaded mayonnaise, a processed food with such no-nos in it as soybean oil, corn syrup, modified food starches and vinegar. When the Neanderthal faux pas is pointed out, Audette is happily oblivious: "Oh, do they have mayonnaise in them?" The caveman finally admits to cheating. But he can afford to, he says; after 10 years on the diet, he knows what his body will tolerate and what it reacts violently to. The refined flour and cheese in pizza, for instance, zaps him of all his energy, he says, but "a little mayonnaise won't hurt you."

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