I don’t kill roaches. Seriously. We occasionally have one in they gym that bolts for a corner when I flip the lights on at 5:45am, but I don’t immediately run for a flame-thrower. I either catch them and take them outside or just brush them out the door with a broom; but no foot stompin’. Most people have a really hard time wrapping their head around that, especially those who just shit their pants and screamed like someone pulled their fingernails off when they saw the roach. I do, however, kill mosquitos that are attempting to plunge their butt sniffer into my arm or the flesh of one of my children. The difference being, one is indirectly attempting to inflict physical discomfort, while the other just has the misfortune of being ugly. So, with the exception of the mosquito, taking the life of virtually any living being is a difficult thing for me to justify.
As you may or may not know about me, I am 100% committed to eating only humanely-rasied animal meat. There are certainly different levels of “humane” and I do purchase my meat from sources that clearly define that what that word means to them. However, recent exposure to some conservationists and hunters has really opened my eyes to a world that I previously could have never envisioned entering and forced me to really reevaluate my means of meat acquisition. Coming from a low-income, small town where school was all but closed on the first day of deer season, I’ve never really had an issue or a problem understanding hunting. I’ve just never been able to picture myself hunting or, more specifically, pulling the trigger.
I decided to really take some time and research hunting with a blank slate and completely open mind. It had become clear through hearing others talk that most of my perceptions were somewhat inaccurate and I was certainly not adequately educated in regards to the role hunting plays in conservation. What I found not only helped change my perception of hunting, but made me feel as though I was being somewhat irresponsible by not hunting, myself. So here are some of the most important truths that I unearthed during my exploration.
Most public opinions of hunting are promoted by people who know virtually nothing about hunting.
This one became very obvious, rather quickly. During my reading and research, I obviously would try to find the counter-arguments to any seemingly positive attributes or promotions of hunting that I would find. Almost without fail, the counter arguments to the factual and statistical-based promotions were based on general personal opinion and almost never address the real numbers and specifics. To no surprise, the opinion-based material is typically written by a metropolitan and found on much larger sites with a much stronger influence than the sites you find actual research and numbers. Additionally, they love to focus on pure trophy hunting, which is a tiny minority of hunters. Why? As an writer, blogger or author who is driven and motivated by traffic statistics, likes and shares, it is safe and easy to take the “how could you kill Bambi?” route. Taking the other route may require you to do some of the actual work and research that is required when you step out of the echo-chamber and preach the “enemy’s” hymn to your choir. Unfortunately, this has led to a completely inaccurate, opinion-based, mass perception of hunting and the role of hunting in our society.
HUNTING’S ROLE IN CONSERVATION IS MASSIVE
There is a tremendous amount of information to support this and I could really only find anecdotal or opinionated arguments against it. The vast majority of funding for conservation and habitat preservation is generated via hunting tags, licenses and excise taxes. Licensing alone accounts for more than half of all natural resource agency funding at the state levels. Licensing combined with the fees associated with access to public lands for hunting total $746,000,000 per year, with an approximate $300,000,000 coming from private hunting advocacy organizations across the country. The money generated by animal rights groups and individuals for conservation fall far short of these numbers; making it difficult to determine where the required funding would come from without hunting.
During my research I encountered a tremendous amount of incredibly short-sited “solutions” regarding conservation and animal rights. Like many issues, most of the most outspoken and hard lined figure heads are not legitimately qualified to asses and address these issues properly. Ecosystem management and population management are incredibly complex webs of interdependent variables with very fine lines separating balance and disaster. Historically, you can find the consequences of these decisions with the unregulated hunting of certain species, while conversely you can find issues with the banning of hunting a specific species. Furthermore, well-intentioned efforts regarding the introduction of a new species to balance an eco-systems predator to prey relationships have caused massive issues globally.
My point being, it is simply not enough to say “do not hunt animal X.” Whether you like it or not, we live in a world where humans and animals have to share the available land mass. In regards to game animals (deer, turkey, elk, boar, geese, etc…), The United States is doing a rather incredible job of facilitating this co-inhabitation. The population of these animals has drastically increased, due largely to the efforts of hunters and the associated conservation, since at least 1900. Just for example, turkeys have gone from about 100,000 to 7 million+ and whitetail deer have grown from about 500,000 to 20-32 million (depending on source) during that same time frame. At the end of the day, hunting is the economic driver that supports these efforts and I have not seen any legitimate arguments as to how this would be replaced if hunting were removed from the picture.
HUNTED MEAT IS AS UNPROCESSED AS IT GETS
I am going to go ahead and assume that I don’t really need to go too deep here. Even the highest of standards for humanely-raised, farmed meat have to implement some measures to ensure the sustainability of the business. Granted, some of the standards are pretty good, but those options do come with a price tag that is far too high for most. With that being said, the vast majority of the meat we can purchase is massively processed, manipulated and altered to maximize the profits of the company producing the meat.
The different techniques and methods implemented by many to achieve maximum yield and profitability are rather well known, disgusting and well below the ethical baseline many of us behold. Unfortunately, it is very easy for most to turn a blind eye, throw the final product in their cart and carry on with their lives. So wether it’s hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, dyes or fillers; much of the beef, poultry and fish on our store’s shelves have been exposed to at least one of these tools during their journey to your home. Regardless of your exact stand and position on the spectrum regarding the use of these different processing techniques and methods, you can be certain that hunted, wild-game likely misses the spectrum all together.
MOTIVATION: NECESSITY VERSUS PLEASURE
This topic, rightfully so, comes up a great deal when looking into the morality of hunting. On one end of the spectrum, you have low-income individuals and families that live in an area where wild game is easily accessible and, beyond their initial investment in the proper gear, costs nothing more than the price of a bullet or arrow to acquire. These families can pack their freezer full of high-quality meat and save a massive amount of money in comparison to purchasing meat from the store. On the converse end of the spectrum, you have those individuals who will shoot and kill an animal for the pure pleasure of killing a living being, with no utilization of the animal, post-mortem. It appears that the initial scenario is incredibly common in the United States, while the latter is relatively rare. I really wish I could find some concrete numbers to support this specific, assumed distribution; but I couldn’t. Regardless, it is pretty safe to assume that most hunters fall somewhere in between those two extremes. They are men and women who certainly could go purchase their meat at the store, but they choose to supplement their consumption with game meat either for economic, leisure, environmental or health reasons.
In my opinion, the specific motivation of the individual is irrelevant, so long as they are doing so legally, with the intent of a quick death and properly processing the meat for themselves or someone else. I am completely opposed to anyone hunting in a manner that ignores any one of those 3 aforementioned stipulations, and it seems that the vast majority of hunters would completely agree.
HUNTING RECONNECTS YOU TO REALITY
Every single piece of meat I have eaten in my life came from an animal that was killed by someone other than myself. Thousands upon thousands of animals have lost their lives to occupy space on my plate and provide nourishment to my body and my hands are completely clean. This fact, probably more than any of the things I have pointed out thus far, really struck a deep seeded nerve. How could I be so far removed from an absolutely essential and regular part of this process and cycle? While it is hard to explain, something about this really made me feel a bit fraudulent and removed. I almost feel as though I have to be willing to kill at least some of my meat in order to rightfully purchase the rest.
At this point I am purely speculating, but it seems that I would have a tremendous appreciation and mindful connection to a piece of meat on my plate that I personally acquired. A piece of meat that I saw in it’s original, living, breathing form. In turn, I conceive that a similar level of gratitude and cognizance would carry over to all the meat that I purchase, as well. Currently, no matter how hard I try, it is hard for me to see that burger or piece of chicken as anything more than a burger or piece of chicken; and I hate that. During college, I visited the Volvo truck plant and saw the entire manufacturing process from start to finish. Now, every time I see one on the road I still carry a great appreciation for it; but never look at other vehicles in the same manner. We so easily reduce goods to their final form and lose all perception of the origin and and complexities of the process. While I may never properly appreciate the origin of my computer’s processor or my truck’s engine, I want a true sense of connection and gratitude to the nourishment that keeps me alive.
WHERE AM I NOW?
I have currently purchased a rifle and been getting some good range time in; I really want to be incredibly accurate before I do this for real. For those interested, I purchased a Vanguard Series 2, .308 Winchester, mounted a Nikon P-.308 4-12×40 BDC 800 scope and added a bipod, as well. My plan is to go on my first hunt in January of 2016, here in Florida. I have decided to initially hunt wild boar for a few key reasons. First, they are an invasive species that are doing a great deal of damage to the natural habitat here. Second, unlike farm-raised pigs, they provide an incredibly high-protein, low fat meat that I can consume regularly. Finally, they can be hunted throughout the entire year, without seasonal limitations or limits.
Most of my efforts right now are being directed to field-dressing and the proper processing and storing of the meat. Quite possibly my biggest fear is the possibility of killing the animal and then losing all of the meat due to a handling error; that would be devastating to me. Fortunately, there are massive resources online that do an incredible job of detailing this process. Just as I did with the rifle, I spent a good deal of time researching knives for the field-dressing process and ended up with a Browning Featherweight Fixed Semi-Skinner (for those that care). I was a bit amazed at how many different variables needed to be considered for a seemingly simple purchase; but I do tend to over-analyze every purchase.
It should be noted that there is certainly a possibility that I get a boar lined-up and completely back out. I’ve put a great deal of thought into this whole process and have my head pretty well wrapped around the bigger picture, so I don’t suspect that freezing up will be an issue. But, who knows? I have a number of questions, suspicions and thoughts that simply cannot be answered or realized until after the first successful hunt. All in all, I am both excited and a bit nervous about the entire process and looking forward to my first experience… which I will be sure to share.
Hunting is rather misunderstood in the United States by the majority of the population. While I know there are a few people who’s opinion will never change, I feel that most would have at least a slight shift in perception with a bit of research and rational thought. Either way, just realize that it is simply a difference in lifestyle and choice that should be respected, regardless of personal inclinations.