Many people today are concerned about health: Health for themselves, health for the environment, and health for future generations. Seemingly endless studies on which ever-present chemicals, additives, preservatives, and seed strains are bad for humans and the environment leave us searching for good alternatives from the long, convoluted food supply and distribution network. Add to these moral considerations for all of the above from animal welfare, biocentrists, ecocentrists, etc. and it can seem like there is no good solution. What is one to do? One answer is to hunt.
For our bodies, wild meat is nutritionally superior to even the best store bought meat; and not by just a little. Consider this quote from David Petersen’s book, Heartsblood:
“According to nutritionists, wild game such as elk, venison, and turkey contains five times the essential fatty acids found in domestic meat plus a nutritionally rich concentration of iron and other minerals, vitamins, and the protein imperative for brain development. (And all the while, wild meat delivers very low percentages of harmful fats compared to any domestic meat, red or white. The leanest domestic flesh is the white meat of turkeys, containing 3.2 grams of fat per 3.5-ounce serving. The same serving of elk or venison is a third leaner, with only 2.2 grams of fat.)” (Petersen, pages 12-13)
Furthermore, there are no GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, additives, or preservatives in wild meat. Wild meat is clean; it is meat as it was meant to be.
For more than our bodies, most hunters will tell you there is some additional benefit from hunting. Many studies tell of the psychological benefits found from direct contact with nature. What is more direct than hunting and eating a part of wilderness? Others write of spiritual wellness found from nature, and others specifically from hunting. In short, hunting is good for the body as well as the soul.
Quantitatively, hunting lessens one’s ecological and carbon footprints. Wildlife habitat is not cleared, plowed under, and sprayed to make a hunting ground. Many species thrive where hunters go, and hunting causes one death as compared to thousands or more for similar nutritional demands from a store or farmers’ market. Thus, one’s ecological footprint is lessened. Fossil fuel consumption is much lower for hunting, as well. Most store bought vegetables come home dripping in fossil fuel from tilling, planting, harvesting, packaging, and distributing; so much so that the energy spent on a vegetarian diet is more than that for hunting. This effect is magnified by eating store bought meat. Compare this to the hunter for similar nutritional demands, and it is clear that hunting locally lessens one’s carbon footprint, as well.
There is no habitat destruction from hunting. There is no tilling, plowing, clearing, or spraying, and when the hunter leaves the land is still wild. In fact, given the track record of hunters and conservation, one could say hunting results in an improvement of the environment.
Morally, the animals and landscapes are treated respectfully and humanely. They are allowed to live good lives with the freedom to live as they see fit, and the animals most often die a quick, humane, respectful death. The ethics of clean kill and fair chase ensure this. Contrast this to the machinery of commodities that will maximize suffering so long as it increases profits, and it is clear hunting stands tall as a morally superior option. Furthermore, given the up-close and personal nature of hunting in general, and traditional bowhunting, specifically, it may rightly be said that rather than being objectified through the machinery of commodities, hunted animals are subjectified through personal and meaningful relationships.
Of further moral consideration is that hunting does not consider some groups morally relevant, while others are left out of the moral community. This is where animal welfare and many other “inclusive” ethical theories falter. Vegetarians who base their eating habits around the writings of Peter Singer and Tom Reagan have no qualms about killing plants and eating their potential offspring. But to kill and eat something they consider morally relevant (sentient or a subject of a life) would be unthinkable. This is not now, nor has it ever been the case for hunting. Use and respect do not have to be at odds. Everything counts morally for hunting, and the plants, animals, and land are utilized judiciously. If plants, animals, and the totality of the environment count, then hunting allows every blessed thing to live a life free from objectification, and for us to partake with the living world meaningfully, substantively, and respectfully. I believe this is as it should be.
For all these reasons, and likely more, hunting is a healthy and moral option for those who care about the more-than-human world.