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In Defense of Hunting

In Defense of Hunting

I have to admit I was conflicted. Actually, the appropriate word was probably “dismissive.” This is when I initially fled the city some 5 years ago to take up residence in a semi-rural area: an area where hunting was, while not the norm, an acceptable part of the seasonal landscape. The idea of setting out into the wilderness, armed to the teeth with any number of firearms, crossbows, and blades, seemed less like a means of suitable and responsible stewardship than it did a barbaric example of fixed bloodlust. While I hardly felt real disdain for hunters, I surely didn’t hold a lot of regard for them either.

Since being in the field for the better part of a decade, I have changed my mind. This shift was not due to gathering a taste for the sport/practice myself (I still have yet to participate in any form of hunting) but delving into the issue and gathering information through conversation with hunters, environmentalist, and former vegans alike. My read on hunting: while hardly a necessity, nor is it an effective way to feed the entire population, it is an opportunity for humans to gather food and sustenance in a fashion that can be responsible, and even respectful.

Most people see hunting as a barbaric relic of humanity’s pre-agricultural past, and therefore are highly dismissive of the practice and those who gear up to engage in the practice. If you want to have your mind changed, you could read James A. Swan’s In Defense of Hunting (somewhat outdated, but still relevant) or, if you are short on time, check out Tovar Cerulli’s excellent article, “Hunters are People Too” in The Atlantic (Cerulli also wrote the book The Mindful Carnivore). In the article, Cerulli fires shots at omnivores and vegans alike. As he says, “Most burger-wolfing Americans don’t want to know what happens in slaughterhouses. Most yogurt-scooping vegetarians don’t want to know that dairy farming depends on the constant butchering of male calves for veal.” He goes on to speak to his own experience as a former vegan and say, “I knew that clearing crop land wipes out wildlife habitat, that grain harvesters mince birds and mammals, and that farmers kill to protect virtually every crop grown in North America. Cerulli’s conclusion was that the practice of rational, responsible, and environmentally aware hunting could benefit humans, the environment, as well as beleaguered animal populations (but decidedly not “the hunted”).

In a large part, our discomfort with hunting comes from our greater discomfort with the idea of killing animals in the first place. But if hunting can be done with mindfulness and humanity (if this is possible), then wouldn’t this be a significant improvement upon what is the meat-eating norm for most (factory farms)? Is it time to revisit our ideas and preconceptions around hunting, or is it best to leave hunting to the history books and a niche part of the population?

Read more: Animal Rights, Blogs, Environment, Following Food, Food, Green, Nature, Nature & Wildlife, Vegan, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


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10:34AM PDT on Jun 21, 2015

Thank you Eric.

5:26AM PST on Feb 12, 2014

no more hunting

6:34AM PST on Feb 6, 2013

I live in a state where hunting is still pretty common and even those who can afford food hunt for taste of meat, no additives and population control. My family hunts and I don't see how buying meat and killing meat ourselves is any different. We also sew and my husband has been having the hides tanned. If you want to be vegan great, don't force anyone else to submit to that.

9:55AM PST on Dec 5, 2012

Hunting is wrong! Times have changed as Joe R. says.

7:28PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

For the ultra-poor in the countryside ii is their means of survival. You're so blessed for not experiencing such need for food.

5:11PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

The world has changed. Hunting has become a blood sport, not a means of survival.

8:50PM PDT on May 17, 2012

Sorry Adam, Your logic is as bad as your writing style. Back in the early 60's I did go hunting with some folks but did not take a gun. I just observed their warped, sadistic minds. Anybody who hunts is an extreme asshole. As mentioned above, if hunters were issued licenses to hunt ony other hunters, the World would become a far better place. Anybody who hunts is an absolute jerk!

10:26AM PDT on May 17, 2012

Bullshit. Saying that hunting is not barbaric and hunters have compassion for animals is nothing but bullshit.

11:59PM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

There is no way a hunter has "compassion" - for animals or anything else. We are all animals - humans are just overgrown monkeys who fogot how to communicate with other animals. Hunting is simply home invasion of animals who have no ability to fight back. Anybody who hunts is s stone cold jerk, and I would love to meet you on a rugby pitch. That's where hunting is an even match, and I would guarantee you plenty of hurts - if you had compassion for animals, you wouldn't hunt.

Adam, if you had a brain, you might understad te concept of "reason". You can't kill and have compassion at the same time. Go hunt another hunter - that's a fair fight!

9:53PM PDT on Apr 21, 2012


Killing someone who is vulnerable and innocent requires mindlessness, not mindfulness, as the author would prefer us to think. Remember, mindless people prefer mindless people.

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