An oxymoron is a combination of contradictory terms, for example, vegan hunter. That’s now the life I’m choosing to live. At least for the few months that I’m doing this experiment. When most people ask me why I’m trying out a vegan diet, I tell them “my 20s are for experimenting and I’m almost done with my 20s”. That’s just a funny response when really, I’m doing an experiment on how my body reacts to a plant-based diet. I would talk more about it, but it would be quite off-topic. The first thought with making the change was about the birds and my favorite hobby. I love hunting. Hunting is beyond just going on a hike. To me, hunting is a deeper connection with something bigger than myself. It is a way I get to discover my self and be one with nature. So how can I be a vegan and a hunter?
Still, when I think of those terms together, I find myself questioning the terminology. It sounds like it doesn’t work but in fact, it does work great. I think when most people think of a vegan, we think of someone that doesn’t want any harm done to animals and that’s protesting the meat industry. I grew up going to punk rock shows and the vegans I was exposed to were very passionate about saving animals. I find that to be well in line with most hunters. I may be making a broad generalization, but most hunters are part of some conservation programs or donate their time to help with animal and habitat conservation. Hunters license fees also contribute to the care of wildlife and responsible management of wildlife. Vegans tend to be focused on the cattle industry and some of the more prominent meats. This is another way that I think hunters help without really thinking about it.
Sustainability has become a bigger topic lately, or maybe I just watched too many documentaries when I had the flu. In the way of sustainability, I believe that hunters do their part in that world too. As a quick overview, the sustainability argument is that the world has a higher demand for meat products than the world can sustain. Meaning we don’t have enough land that cattle can graze on and be able to feed all the mouths in the world. That is one argument out there. The way hunters seem to be part of this is just in the nature of the sport. Whether we hunt big game or upland birds, a biologist somewhere did a survey of a habitat, decided how many animals that habitat can support, and then, based on the number of animals in that habitat they decide on hunting limits. This ensures a healthy ecosystem. Hunters tend to hunt their meat, freeze it and eat it throughout the year until the next season. This ability to have meat for a year really makes the need to buy mass-produced meat a smaller need. Without realizing it, hunters help the sustainability argument just by eating the meat they hunt. I know for me; I usually have enough duck and other meat that it lasts until the next season.
Conservation is a big thing that we as hunters do. Sometimes I like to read the reports from Ducks Unlimited and see the work that they are doing. I’m just a basic, $30 dollars a year member but I like seeing that something is coming of it. All this conservation has got to be good for the world in many ways. I know that preserving wetlands have a lot to do with our water quality. I’ve also learned how wetlands help protect us from floods and storms especially in coastal regions. Sadly, most of it is being taken over by the demands of the industry. I also like to think of the research that is done by biologists in both the public and private sectors that have helped preserve and even recover certain species. I recently read an article about the Canvasback and how they used to be the most sought-after duck, now they are having population decreases in certain flyways and the food that they liked to eat has been mostly developed over. I know there are multiple agencies trying to keep the Canvasback population from going extinct along with many other waterfowl species. Vegans like to protest hunters, which is where the oxymoron comes from, but I think we as hunters do plenty to support wildlife and keep a manageable food source.
My real dilemma with making this change in my diet is what do I do with the meat? I already don’t hunt big game because my wife isn’t fond of game meat and I get sick of eating elk every day. I’m not that creative of a cook and it gets tiring. Ducks and birds are different for me. They have enough variety in flavors that I can prepare them in different ways or in different dishes and eat that year-round. The problem is still, what do I do with the meat now? This made me think and I have a few friends who hunt for some of the reasons I mentioned earlier but they also don’t eat the meat. They just don’t like game meat. I decided to do some looking on my own. Google was my friend and the first thing I found was a congressional sportsman’s organization. That website listed a few different organizations that use game meat to feed people in need. From low income to homeless people. This meat comes all from donations from hunters. It seems that every state has an organization that accepts game meat for this purpose. There are some bigger organizations like Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry. All of these have a common goal, have hunters donate their meat to help feed the hungry.
I like the idea of these programs. It hits in so many good ways that I think they need some more publicity. They help with the sustainability issue; they also help by supporting conservation indirectly as hunters follow their hobbies. The biggest thing they do is feed those in need. The way these programs work is they are associated with certain meat processors. You field dress your animal, mostly venison but there are places that accept waterfowl and upland birds, and then the meat processor grinds the meat and sends it to different institutions that feed the hungry. From some of the data provided on the FHFH website, 1 deer produces 200 meals. Last year they were able to provide 227,520 servings to people in need. This seems to satisfy my question of what to do with the meat. In addition, this can also be a way of helping someone on a more personal level. I have friends that know families that just appreciate the meat and can’t hunt for one reason or another or know families in need and that’s where their meat goes. For someone that’s doing this plant-based diet and loves to hunt, this is a win-win.
Being a vegan and a hunter isn’t an impossibility. Maybe I just don’t fit the mold for a traditional vegan. I’m trying the diet to see how my body does, not because I feel like I need to make a personal political statement to the world. So far, the diet has been great to me and I’m seeing positive results. It may even be something that goes beyond this experiment. Being a hunter and a vegan seems to work for me. I can still go hunt, enjoy nature and connect with so many aspects that it’s hard to put them all into words. Going into this new lifestyle I’ve seen how much hunters do for the world, more than I was aware of before this. Hunters really do many amazing things for the planet. It’s a fun hobby, it keeps many people physically active and helps many families and friends’ bond in ways that are unique. Hunting is a great way of life. As I researched the answers to my questions, I soon realized that I can still be a hunter and be a vegan. I may just have to also learn about plants and broaden my hunting horizons.
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