Ghostwood Farm

On Killing, Part 1: The Wild.
January 20, 2012, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Hunting

I’m going to jump right in here with both feet and talk about something about which I think a great deal: killing.

If you’ve read the “Chickens” page, you will know that I don’t think killing is wrong. Despite this, I spent several years as a vegetarian. My reasons were ecological: I got tired of feeling like a hypocrite, complaining about the ecological damage that feedlots do, for instance, with a bite of hamburger in my mouth.

Once I became a vegetarian, I started to learn more about animal welfare issues. I still didn’t think killing is wrong, but it is very difficult to justify the torture (let’s call it what it is) routinely undergone by many of the animals we eat, except by using profit as that justification. So my resolve was strengthened to avoid meat.

However, as a biologist with a wildlife focus, I recognized how important hunting is to conservation. Not just important, but absolutely crucial. As my resolve to avoid commercially-produced meat strengthened, so did my support of hunting.

When we moved to North Dakota in 1999, I decided that I would try hunting everything I could. I would keep the kinds of hunting that I enjoyed, and discard those I did not. I tried duck hunting, thinking I would hate it because I love ducks. I loved it (that will be the subject of another post, I’m sure). Deer hunting? Hard to beat the “bang for the buck” in terms of meat harvested per kill. Dove hunting I gave up for the same reason–a lot of killing for very little return.

I do not like to kill. I tend to not get along very well with hunters that do like to kill. Killing is a necessary part of life, though. We as a culture are insulated from this fact because we can pay others to do our killing for us–this is what we do when we buy meat. I believe it is crucial not that we kill all of our own meat, necessarily, but that we at least remain cognizant of the death that must occur for us to eat. If possible, I think everyone should be as involved as possible in the death and processing of their own meat. Hunting is the culmination of that.

In my professional career, I’ve been interviewed many times. One of the first was by an intern for the local paper for an article she was writing about my wood duck banding project. She asked me how I felt about duck hunters, in a manner that suggested she expected a negative response from me. I love these moments. I went on at some length about how duck hunting is responsible for the survival of North American waterfowl, etc. We talked about the act of killing, and I told her that if I were a wild duck, I would hope that my death would come at the end of a shotgun barrel. Even most wounded animals that are never found by the hunter have a more merciful death than that majority of wildlife. One of the proudest moments of my young career involved the last line of the article she wrote, wherein I was quoted: “There are no easy deaths in nature.”

It’s true. Most animals killed by hunters suffer very little compared to the death they would have had if they had died of “natural causes:” Eaten alive by coyotes, starving to death, infection from the most trifling of natural injuries. I don’t use this to justify hunting (I am not out to prevent the deer of the world from having to suffer!), but rather to show that the “cruelty of hunting” argument fails on its face.

So yes, I eat meat. I kill wild animals for meat. I make no apologies for many reasons, but primarily because I think it brings me closer to nature and the wildlife that I love to see and experience in other, nonconsumptive ways. I encourage you to try it.