I realize that this is, for whatever reason, a controversial thing to bring up with a lot of people. Which makes sense - it does involve the taking of a life, after all. I understand when people tell me they don't think they could ever do it themselves. That's their choice and I really don't care how they spend their spare time. I was raised around it, which I know makes the idea much easier for me to go along with. And most of the time, people are indifferent to my choice to partake in hunting. But I recently had someone tell me that my participation in it was "evil," and I wanted to hit on that. I will be the first to admit how we hunt in Texas. Our feed laws are looser than most Northern states, so hunters are allowed to set up feeders to attract deer (though hogs, coyotes, and raccoons are just as likely) for hunting. I still use a rifle, but my father has been bow hunting since he was a teenager and so has my brother. My goal for next season is to ditch the bullets, too.
Anyway, the particular person that sparked this article told me that they thought sitting in a blind, waiting for the deer to come and then just shooting them seemed awful. Granted, when worded that way, it does. But it's not like we just shoot every living thing that walks into range. Plus, let me just point out that there are many things that can go wrong, even in this scenario. The deer smell you, you accidentally crack your water bottle when taking a sip, one rogue spike buck thinks something is off and scares away the whole herd. And with bow hunting, you need to be CLOSE. Like, hear-them-chewing-their-food-close. Sure, we may not be stalking them down like real cavemen (ha) but if Grok could have figured out how to attract his meat to him in this way, he sure as hell would have.
And if your argument for hating hunters is that you love animals so much that you went vegan, this may not be much of a convincer for you. I may disagree with you and tell you you're ruining your health by going vegan (1), but you were so passionate about animals that you changed your lifestyle because of it. You personally would not want to go through every step it takes to get a piece of meat on the table: shooting, skinning, cleaning, processing, storing, cooking, serving. But what I don't understand is when people who are perfectly fine with going to the grocery store to purchase factory-raised meat tell me that what my family does to feed ourselves is morally "less than." I'm not saying that if you don't hunt you should go vegan, but using the argument that store-bought meat is somehow more ethical than hunting to feed yourself for the year is just erroneous to me. Just hear me out.
What I think of as evil does not line up with what I picture when hunting. When I think about animal cruelty, I picture America's main source of meat: factory farms. Animals are bred just to be separated from their mothers too early (2), kept in cages (3) so they can't run when hormones are shoved into their muscles daily, and squeezed of every last bit of milk, eggs, or fur they can produce before being slaughtered (sometimes slowly) (4) and ground into glue. (5) I picture consumers purchasing a single hamburger that can have muscle fibers from as many as 100 different cows (6). Most of all, I picture people not taking a second thought to consider this as they fund its continuance every time they purchase this unethical meat.
Tell me again how a quick death after a full life of running around, sleeping wherever they choose, breeding with whomever they like, and eating as much as they want is "cruel" when compared to factory farming.
Don't get me wrong there, I do purchase some meat. But most of the time I get it from one of the many farmer's markets that happen weekly in the Austin area. I meet the person who raised the animal and will receive honest answers about its upbringing and life. When that isn't an option, I make sure I only buy grass fed (7) or pastured (8) products at the grocery store. That is a respectable and ethical middle ground for those who choose to eat meat but do not want to hunt it themselves.
I understand that I was raised with it and not many people have had that privilege, so they come from a different standpoint than I. And yes, there is a lot of nostalgia attached to the ranch for me. Some of my fondest memories of growing up come from standing around the meat-cleaning station with hands numb from cold and leftover adrenaline. But I also think my argument for hunting is a valid one. Here are some of the good, objective things for society that most people don't know about hunting:
- Every hunting license purchased goes toward the paychecks of game wardens (6) that will prevent the actual threat to game animals: poachers. This fee also goes toward wildlife conservation (9).
- Deer populations can easily outgrow their environment, causing large numbers of them to starve to death (10). Hunters are a form of population control so this result doesn't occur.
- Hunters donate tons of food (11) each year to feed the homeless.
On top of these benefits, there are personal growth aspects involved with hunting. It teaches patience. Stillness. Embracing quiet. That not everything can come from instant-gratification. It's a wake-up call to how small you really are. You learn how to be in nature. It teaches you how to fail; few things are more disappointing than waiting for hours with nothing to watch. This, then, also teaches discipline. Some (including myself) would even say it shows you your true self.
It's funny. When I'm told by someone that they think hunting is cruel, I have to disagree. I have never killed something out of malice or because I thought it was fun. I feel like a lot of people who are against hunting think of us as animal-haters who just go around shooting things. But I love these animals. I fully respect every meal I eat that involves one I have taken myself because I know how much work went into it. I woke up at 5AM, shivered my butt off for hours with some cold coffee and a good chance I won't see anything worth shooting. I forgoed certain animals I did see because they hadn't lived a full enough life yet for it to be okay to take it away from them. I spent the next few hours cleaning the game I was able to harvest. I lugged it back home to spend more hours cleaning the cuts into the different categories for production. And then I processed & sealed it. After all of that, a place must be saved to store it so the family can eat for the year. When I'm at school, I cook it for myself, too.
So now you know that the title of this piece is the exact opposite of what I think. Excuse me while go I eat my omega-3-filled (12) venison burger from this ONE deer that I shot a few weeks ago.
(1) Kresser, C. February 20, 2014. Chris Kresser. Retrieved from http://chriskresser.com/why-you-should-think-twice-about-vegetarian-and-vegan-diets/
(2) n.a. n.d. Mercy for Animals. Retrieved from http://veal.mercyforanimals.org
(3) n.a. n.d. ASPCA. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/factory-farms/animals-factory-farms
(4) n.a. n.d. The Humane Society of The United States. Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/slaughter/
(5) n.a. 2016. Made How. Retrieved from http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Glue.html
(6) Rawsthorne, T. November 7th, 2014. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2826020/How-one-Big-Mac-contains-meat-100-cows.html
(7) n.a. n.d. American Grassfed. Retrieved from http://www.americangrassfed.org/about-us/our-standards/
(8) Padgham, J. 2005. American Pastured Poultry Producers Association. Retrieved from http://www.apppa.org/content/10775
(9) n.a. n.d. Texas Parks and Wildlife. Retrieved from https://tpwd.texas.gov/business/licenses/online_sales/
(10) n.a. 2015. Nature Works. Retrieved from http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/whitetaileddeer.htm
(11) n.a. 2016. National Shooting Sports Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.nssf.org/huntersfeed/
(12) Shaw, H. May 22, 2013. North American Whitetail. Retrieved from http://www.northamericanwhitetail.com/home-featured/what-every-hunter-needs-to-know-about-venison-nutrition/