While trolling around YouTube late one night not long ago, I stumbled upon a video (which inevitably leads to hours of distraction). It was of a guy I have come to respect quite a bit. His name is Steven Rinella. If you have been around the hunting industry, or watched much hunting television, you no doubt have at least heard of him. Among many things, he is a prolific writer, a talented show host, a huge conservation/public land activist, and along with all of that, he’s also an incredible speaker. The particular video I got sucked into was a clip from a Q&A he did on tour for his book “Meat Eater”. During the session, a man (who turns out to be a vegan) sitting in the audience posed a question to him (which seemed to be more of a statement disguised as a question). His question: “Don’t you think these animals you’ve killed want to live as much as you or I do? Isn’t hunting just a rationalization for murdering living beings?”. Having had this confrontation many times (I’m assuming), Steven begins to explain what his view point is on it (you can see the video HERE, I highly encourage you to watch it).
It got me thinking; What is the divide between hunters (people who choose to harvest their own proteins/meats), and anti-hunters (vegans, vegetarians, etc)? Let’s first start with some definitions.
“Hunter” :By hunter, I do not mean people who shoot an animal simply for trophy purposes, and don’t utilize the meat. In the hunting community, we look down at those guys just as much as people who are against us do. If you are going to take the life of an animal, you better have a damn good reason for it other than bragging rights. Short of a few occasions, one of those reasons better be to eat it. Period. By hunters, I mean men and women who choose to procure their meat themselves, and keep an attachment to the protein they feed themselves and their family.
“Anti-Hunter”: By “Anti’s”, I do not include people who choose to go the vegan/vegetarian route strictly for dietary purposes, or for religious beliefs. I have a lot of respect for someone who makes an informed decision about their diet, especially when it is not the status quo, and generally is more difficult than not. In this case, this label is for people who are against the killing of animals because of ethical or moral reasoning. Now that’s out of the way, lets break it down.
In the western world, there tends to be a spreading thought process which can be best described as “Charismatic mega-fauna”. In my laymen terms, this means there is an unspoken hierarchy of animals. The cute and cuddly ones rise to the top, the ugly and unattractive get left behind. Animal rights groups have been using this tactic for years, in an attempt to sway people into donating money and/or time to their organization. You’ll give $50 to a polar bear, but a buzzard won’t pull the same funding.
On the flip side, the outdoor industry has employed this same tactic to sell camo, guns, and raise money for conservation. Chances are you’re not going to donate money to a wildlife federation if a Pig Nosed Purple Frog is their mascot on the commercial (its a real thing, google it). In order to take the position of moral high-ground in how you feed yourself, you have to make a call. Is all life sacred, or simply the life I deem worthy? This is important to remember when thinking about the “innocent animal” argument, simply because it is impossible to be an “innocent” human being in today’s world. Lets assume there are at least 5 MILLION mammals and birds unintentionally killed in the harvest of meat, fruit, grains, and vegetables in the U.S. every year (which is probably very conservative, given that there is currently 915 MILLION acres of farmland. Most estimates are much, much higher). It should be noted, this number does not include insects killed via insecticides and harvest. Remember, if life is life, then they count too. You can only surmise that a significant amount of wildlife is killed, often brutally, in the harvesting of meat, grain, fruits, and vegetables. No-ones hands are clean.
This fact usually brings up the argument “I am simply trying to lessen my role in the murder of these creatures”. While it is noble to try and make your footprint on this earth a little smaller, the fact is you are still creating death. Every day.
Which brings us to the main point of this rant. No matter how you choose to feed yourself, either by buying meat at the grocery store, eating only fruits, nuts, and vegetables, or going out and harvesting your own game, we are more similar than you might think.
Hunters and Vegans have both made informed decisions about their diets, and have chosen a more difficult life in order to achieve those goals.
Hunters and Vegans both want what is best for the animals they love, and are willing to work to help their populations thrive.
Although our thought process and methods are vastly different, our motives are the same, and I think that is something worth considering before getting into a knock down drag out with someone who thinks differently than you. So hunters, be more kind and excepting of people who think differently than you, you might be able to learn something from them. Vegans, consider that maybe we’re more than some blood thirsty rednecks, and that at the root of what we do, we care about to animals we pursue. If we can all do that, then the animals we both have such an admiration for have a great chance of thriving for generations to come.