Dear Vegans of America, I welcome you to sport hunting with open arms.
Dear Vegans, I’ll start by saying that nobody cares what you choose to eat or not eat–that’s entirely your business and we live in a free country. That said, if the reason you eschew animal products in your diet is that you’re worried about animal cruelty, there is one way for you to open up your menu without violating your personal ethics: hunting. What’s more, taking up the sport of hunting is quite possibly the best way for you to secure the future of America’s wild spaces and the health of the native animals that inhabit it. Here’s why.
Dear Vegans, you should know that the way people hunt in America today is a 180-degree turn from the way people hunted in yesteryear. If you bristled at the way I used the word “sport” in relation to hunting, let me explain why I did that. Back in the Bad Old Days when America’s whitetail, turkey, and bison populations were on the verge of extinction, that was because of market hunting. Market hunting is the sort of wholesale slaughter of native animal populations that make you (and us, by the way!) want to cry. We don’t do that anymore–we give the animals a sporting chance. That’s why it’s called “sport hunting,” not because we think of this ancient human tradition as the same thing as soccer.
Dear Vegans, if you recoil from the idea of factory farming because you believe it’s cruel to animals, then consider how different it is for a wild animal. The whitetail deer you hunt for its meat has spent its entire life out in its natural environment, living the way that deer are meant to live. Then one fine morning, a human it never knew was there harvests it with a rifle bullet that ends the animal’s life before it hears the sound of the shot. No fear, no pain, no lifetime in confinement. I’ll even tell you a little secret, my vegan friends: Even though we hunters know that we gave our prey the best possible death, we still occasionally shed a little tear of joy and respect for the critter that gave its life to feed us.
Dear Vegans, if you recoil from factory meat farming because you believe that it’s an inefficient use of our land, consider what there is to hunt. Animals like deer and turkeys evolved to be part of this ecosystem, and they don’t require “feeding” with crops not native to this soil. Nor do they require that areas be fenced off to keep certain types of wildlife out or in. What’s more, animals that are not a native part of this ecosystem–the invasive species that can really wreak havoc on America’s wildlife–really need to be hunted and removed from the land as much as possible. (Interestingly, most of them are also delicious.)
Dear Vegans, if you worry that sport hunting could endanger species the way market hunting did in the past, please rest assured that nobody wants that to happen less than America’s hunters. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true: The best way to ensure the survival of a species is to allow people to pay to hunt a small and replaceable part of the population. It’s not just about the taxes we pay on our guns, ammo, and hunting licenses, either. It’s about the fact that this system causes people to see wildlife as a resource to be protected–if only for their own purposes–and that’s something we have in common.
Dear Vegans, if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that not a whole lot has to go really wrong for food shortages to start popping up. For the last couple of months it’s been virtually impossible to find fresh beef or chicken at the grocery store…but I’m eating venison and turkey from my freezer and couldn’t care less.
Dear Vegans, even if there is nothing in the world that would ever cause an animal product to cross your lips and you’re angry that I even suggested it, I want you to know something: When it comes to protecting America’s wild spaces and the animals that live there, you and I have more in common than you know. And if you’d like to learn more about what hunting can mean to you and your place in the ecosystem, we hunters are here to welcome you with open arms. (We might tease you a little bit about that soy habit of yours, though.)
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