What do you Call a Vegan who Hunts?
*This article is over my thoughts and experiences about hunting and veganism. I will NOT try to convert you to either. I will not preach the Vegan gospel or lie and say that carrots and kale taste better than a butter-basted Ribeye. I will not say that hunting is our right and that it is our place to control nature. Everyone has the choice to eat animal products or not. Everyone has the choice to hunt or not. It’s not my job to make those decisions for you. However, I can make a case for how these two seemingly opposing beliefs can overlap.*
Allow me to be blunt. I am a vegan, but I 100% support and advocate hunting. Veganism arrived to me through a series of small changes in my diet and lifestyle. I used to say “There’s no way in hell I would be vegan”. At the time, veganism to me was an excuse for people to feel better about themselves and live superior to others. Veganism conjured images of militant PETA and angry man-bun youtubers.
*(The author would like to say that not all man-buns are evil. Just the angry ones. #ManBunLivesMatter)*
My conversion to Veganism was complex. I first cut out red meat because of climate change. I cut out poultry because I believe there is a huge problem with how they are kept. Same with pigs. I was a pescatarian for a long time before I became aware of the extent of overfishing and how hard it is to regulate. For over a year I was vegetarian before I decided to cut out dairy and eggs due to health issues. These are my reasons and I stand by them.
However, I am an avid supporter of hunting. While I do not eat Eggs, Dairy, Beef, Pork, Poultry, or Fish from any restaurant or supermarket, I will absolutely eat hunted meat. Hunting is not a means to kill animals. Hunting, when done properly, is a means for effective conservation and a way to gain a deeper understanding and respect for the natural world.
Let me explain.
Hunting as Conservation
First, let me explain that I am NOT advocating hunting practices of the 20th century. The decimation of Bison, extinction of Passenger Pigeons, and removal of near every predator was extremely unethical. Hunting with the purpose to shoot as many animals as you can is slaughter and is no better than killing millions of cows in thousands of farms every year.
Today hunting in the U.S. is a $23 Billion industry (Stat Brain). You cannot argue how much funding for conservation is provided through hunting. The US Fish and Wildlife Service gains 55% of its funding through hunting. They, in turn, employ scientists, conservationists, and park officials to maintain, improve and protect natural areas and their inhabitants. More protected land gets bought every year directly from these funds.
As Rob Nelson says in an article for untamed science (Link to article below), “If you shoot something, you’re not conserving the thing you just shot. You could conserve the pelt, the antlers, or the memory of that animal, but that animal is gone. However, you might be doing something that helps conserve the species, the habitat, or the region’s biodiversity.” The problem is that it is impossible to see the entire chain of events leading from a dead animal to the protection of animals. However, through proper science, we can get close.
Here’s some great examples of when hunting works:
- Big Horn Sheep through Western US. 25,000 to 80,000+ individual in under 50 years (Hurley 2015).
- Hunting in New York dramatically increased deer populations and the amount of protected land in the state (Braverman 2015).
- There is a direct positive correlation between waterfowl hunting and waterfowl populations (Anderson 2015).
- Namibia trophy hunting brings in $3.5 million of benefits annually, and if it were banned, only 16% of conservancies would be able to cover their costs. In effect, an estimated 50,000 km² of protected land could not be managed (Naidoo 2016).
- Di Minin (2016) urges that the proper use of hunting in South Africa has the potential to increase Biodiversity and generate large amounts of funding.
And yes, for every example of hunting working brilliantly, there are cases where it failed spectacularly. But, does that mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater? Science is a process of failure. Choosing to focus on every failed policy leads to the successes being ignored and forgotten. Should we not point our efforts to what works? Should we not learn from every mistake instead of damning the entire practice? Should we not learn to accept that not every method will work, and that only through failure can we improve?
Hunting as a Connection to Nature
Transcendentalist authors arose out of the romanticism movement of the 19th century. They believed that Humans should focus on our connection with nature. Henry David Thoroue and Ralph Waldo Emerson are two notable authors of this time. Their pieces inspired later artists like John Muir and Aldo Leopold. They laid the groundwork for what it means to be a modern naturalist and a conservation-minded human being. And every single one of them was an avid hunter.
We do not, and cannot exist on this planet without affecting anything. We are participants of Planet Earth. However, no other predator in the history of the planet raises their food en masse. No other predator is so far removed from their prey that they do not know where it comes from. No other predator chooses a diet based on marketing, peer pressure or the government. Every other predator on the planet does what is natural. The greatest benefit, and detriment, humans have ever received is choice.
Our choice comes from understanding. Our understanding comes from our environment, our upbringing, and our daily interactions. We choose to be blind to what we eat. We choose to eat animals that are not humanely raised. And we choose day after day to become so far removed from the tit of the earth that we cannot even see her bosom.
I choose to understand what it means to be a member of our planet. I try to understand the role that humans have on the global ecosystem. I choose to be a force of good on the planet. I am a conservationist first. I exist on this planet and am part of it. Hunting is how I forge my connection with the earth.
The Vegan Connection to Hunting
So how do I relate this back to my own Vegan beliefs? I am vegan for a variety of reasons. I support hunting for a variety of reasons. Yes, there are points where they butt heads however, there are ample points where they complement each other. I believe that we need to do what is best for the greatest good. I believe that keeping animals in cramped, filthy conditions is no way to respect any living being. I believe that through hunting, we can gain a greater respect for animals, for nature, and for our place on planet earth.
I am a Vegan. I am a Hunter. I am a Human Being.
Anderson, Michael G. and Paul I. Padding. “The North American Approach to Waterfowl Management: Synergy of Hunting and Habitat Conservation.” International Journal of Environmental Studies, vol. 72, no. 5, Oct. 2015, pp. 810-829. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00207233.2015.1019296.
BRAVERMAN, IRUS. “Conservation and Hunting: Till Death Do They Part? A Legal Ethnography of Deer Management.” Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law, vol. 30, no. 2, Spring2015, pp. 143-199. EBSCOhost, lib-ezproxy.tamu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lgs&AN=117472731&site=eds-live.
Enrico Di Minin, Nigel Leader-Williams, Corey J.A. Bradshaw, Banning Trophy Hunting Will Exacerbate Biodiversity Loss, In Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 31, Issue 2, 2016, Pages 99-102, ISSN 0169-5347, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.12.006.
Keywords: trophy hunting; Africa; lion; rhinoceros; community; policy
Hurley, Kevin, et al. “The Role of Hunters in Conservation, Restoration, and Management of North American Wild Sheep.” International Journal of Environmental Studies, vol. 72, no. 5, Oct. 2015, pp. 784-796. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00207233.2015.1031567
Naidoo, Robin, et al. “Complementary Benefits of Tourism and Hunting to Communal Conservancies in Namibia.” Conservation Biology, vol. 30, no. 3, June 2016, pp. 628-638. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/cobi.12643.