This is a guest post by a very good friend and long time online coaching client Aron Woolman. For the past five years I’ve spent a weekend in late January in southern Texas hunting hogs and raising money for the kin of fallen special operations forces thanks to Aron’s involvement in the Silent Warrior Foundation. In the wake of one hunt, Aron shared a photo of his freezer filled with meat from this year’s hunting season (including hunting back home in North Carolina). The following was in response to someone criticizing Aron and questioning the morality of his mode of procuring sustenance. His response was so cogent, and so important to understand that I asked if I could post it as a guest post.
I’d like to address your comment about my refrigerator. I am not a trophy hunter, and most hunters do not fall into the category of hunting mainly or completely because of a desire to kill animals. I view hunting as a way to connect on a very intimate and personal level with nature, our own animal instincts, and with my food.
I accept that some people adopt a vegan lifestyle for both ideological and scientific reasons, and I will not argue the scientific merits of that diet here. I also will not try to convince a vegan that his position is ideologically incorrect, and don’t expect a vegan to (successfully) argue that my life as a hunter is ideologically incorrect.
Most Americans are neither vegan, nor hunters. And I can confidently say that my lifestyle as a hunter is ideologically and morally superior to most non-hunting meat eating and vegetarian or pescetarian Americans. I know that is a bold statement, so let me explain.
Most agricultural animals in this country are raised in CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) environments, where they are forced to live their lives in close quarters, standing and covered in their own feces, and eating unnatural diets. Pigs and chickens are often kept in large, long buildings with no sunlight, and are bred under conditions that we would think of as being derived from SAW-style torture films. These situations are unnatural, and immensely cruel. Even organic operations, which often market their products with cartoonish pictures or silhouettes of farms, are not living on the farms that we see in the pictures. Cage free chickens can never see the sunlight and be kept in a chicken feces filled warehouse and remain cage free. “Pastured” animals often live in the same environment, but in a building with a door and a small fenced outdoor area. If the animals can find the door, maybe they can spend sometime outdoors. Still, the majority of their lives will be spent indoors, and this is for the animals being raised for premium products.
For those who forsake animal flesh, their store bought butter, milk, and eggs still come from these sources, as well as the foods that are made from these ingredients. For those who do eat meat, every time you buy food with meat in it from a fast food place, or even a high end restaurant that gets it’s food from a large distributor, you are voting with your wallet to support this industry of cruelty. Think about that. Every time most Americans eat, or buy animal protein at the grocery store, they are making a choice to support animal cruelty. The only way around this is to buy from farmers or a farmer cooperative/aggregator, raise animals yourself, or hunt.
Although I am guilty of eating out at restaurants and occasionally buying ingredients that are sourced from CAFO’s, buying from farmers and hunting severely decreases our support of that system. We are lucky here in the Triangle of North Carolina to have great access to farmer’s markets. My wife and I have made a commitment to each other and to our children not to bring meat into the house that doesn’t come from animals we have hunted or from farms we have visited. These animals are raised in the environments that fill the pictures of meat and produce sections of the supermarkets, environments that are where these animals are meant to be. They live happy, unrestricted lives.
When I shoot a deer (or pig, elk, bison, bear, turkey or game bird), that deer has lived its life in a natural environment up to that point in time. It has experienced less stress than any CAFO animal, and will almost certainly die a quick death. (Part of responsible hunting is only taking shots that you are confident will not maim an animal – there’s no maybe or hey lets wing it.) That meat gets processed by a butcher, and fills my freezer. This year was a particularly successful year in terms of harvested game, and as a result my family will be able to eat from that animal protein for much of the year. My children will not have to worry about antibiotics in their meat, and our food will not be recalled because of e-coli outbreaks at one of the 4 food large food processors in the United States. The fat and chemical composition of the game and farm raised meat we eat is highly superior to even the best USDA Prime cut of meat, because it was fed what that animal naturally eats, not a source of abundant grain caused by illogical farm subsidies.
From time to time, people tell me that hunting is cruel. I argue that eating conventional food is much more cruel. Just because you don’t witness the suffering does not mean that it does not happen. The system is set up to remove you from those thoughts, to remove you another step further from your food.