I am as guilty as anyone of pitting hunters (or meat eaters generally) against vegans. When I’m pushed too far, I feel heat on my body, a sense of indignation, and righteousness. I maintain my composure most times, but occasionally I become irate. In my frustration comes a classic response of arrogance and condescension. I intellectualize my way to a superior position.
I’m human like everyone else. But I have come to realize hunter vs vegan isn’t the debate we should be having. Instead, we should be thinking about how Earth should be treated.
The Earth is our home and we must begin to treat it that way.
Consider a metaphor. You currently live in a home of some sort. Maybe you wish it could be better, but when it rains you’re dry, when it’s cold, you’re warm.
A friend visits and asks to borrow some bricks so that he may use it for himself. Before you can answer, another friend scoffs at the request believing that it is silly to ask for bricks. He says bricks are too important, he’ll instead use the tiles from your roof.
After looking at them blankly, you assert “What the f*ck?!? You can’t take my bricks and roof. This is my home!”
Conscious meat-eaters and vegans are both behaving in a way that does not emphasize Earth as our home; this hunter vs vegan debate often misses the point.
Earth Isn’t Here for Us
There is something magical about walking through Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, or any other parcel of land preserved for visitors. When Mallory and I visited Glacier National Park we saw a cute brown bear and hiked to a magnificent glacier. We breathed fresh air and felt… at home.
Intuitively, we know that Earth was not made as a resource for humans. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors believed humans were a small part of the ecosystem of Earth. Thankfully, people like Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, and George Grinnell recognized this in time to preserve our national park system for generations to come.
Vegans understand this at some level. Many well-meaning vegans and vegetarians mindfully consider why we are eating animals and making them suffer especially when it harms the planet.
The accounting doesn’t always add up.
To grow commercially available crops, native vegetation is cleared for human-created food stuffs. Clearing land destroys habitat and kills small mammals, snakes, and lizards. Estimates in Australia suggest 41 mice are killed per acre annually for crops like wheat. 9.8 million acres of Latin American rainforest are destroyed for soy production. Much is harvested for livestock (animal agriculture), but even if we converted all animal protein to soy, we’d have the same ecological and emissions problem. Even avocado toast isn’t guilt-free. Mexican farmers, trying to meet American demand, illegally cut pine forests, which destroy monarch butterfly habitat, and depletes local rivers and streams that animals depend on.
I bought into all these arguments too. “See!” I would tell myself “the impact vegans have is just as bad as eating meat!” In fact, I think I subconsciously included so many damning pieces of evidence above because I still feel that way at some level.
But the accounting doesn’t matter.
Trying to play an environmental accounting game with emissions and impact skips over the most important thing:
We lack reverence for Earth, which is the cause of our environmental problems.
Environmental Accounting isn’t Working
When I fast and sit in the sauna I feel more connected and receptive to new concepts. There is something about the heat that enables me a deeper connection with my body. The lack of food grounds me even further. In a recent fasted-sauna experience, I listened to a podcast between Charles Eisenstein and Daniel Schmachtenberger, which was enlightening.
The podcast, and Charles Eisenstein in particular, informed my belief that emphasizing environmental accounting is absurd. We play with numbers moving them around (carbon neutral etc), but all of this polarization and argument is coming from the brain, not our hearts.
What our hearts really want is a deep sense of community and a connection to nature, both things that are innately human given our ancestral past.
All the polarization between hunters vs vegans are a result of our disconnect from community and nature. Discord would subside if we realized we should be on the same side: team Earth.
Solve the Root Problem (Don’t Virtue Signal)
In some ways, I’ve been trying to solve this problem intuitively with my body long before my brain / mind could comprehend and explain this.
I’m drawn towards hunting, gardening, and the natural world in general*. From a place of deep connection to Earth (and consistent practice!), many of my other habits have come into alignment with treating Earth as my home and not a collection of things for me to consume.
I now believe it’s better to watch birds at a feeder, do some gardening, and spend time outdoors, than to make heady, virtue-signaling arguments about diet choices and feel the veneer of accomplishment.
I’m as guilty as anyone of this. I made a commitment to cook and eat meat where I was a part of their death. It’s a subject of a documentary I’m working on and the Terra Diet… and at times my ego takes over. I feel better than other people. I feel ashamed when I compromise and consume meat at a restaurant. I use hunting as an excuse to consume meat free from guilt.
The grass-fed, pasture-raised, vegan, conscious-hunting labels are often nothing more than virtue signaling. I hope to strive to avoid this and instead solve the root problem: my (and society’s) disconnect from Earth.
A New Hope
I have never witnessed the majesty of a free-ranging wolf, but I hope to do so before I die. I’m enamored by all predators and the organizational cunning of wolves are beautiful to witness.
In 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Forest. When wolves were added, deer and elk avoided certain regions, which allowed vegetation to grow. In some areas, the vegetation quintupled in height in only 6 years. Forests could finally grow. Songbirds inhabited the forests and so on and so forth.
It’s hard to fathom that introducing wolves into Yellowstone could literally change the size and course of rivers. This ~ 4 minute video is watching in its entirety as it brought me to tears:
Let’s look to our predator wolf brethren for some wisdom. Humans can be like this. We can take from the land, but do so in a way that also gives back to it.
We might not be able to maintain Earth as a habitable planet despite our greatest efforts. It’s time to leave the environmental accounting aside, leave the virtue signaling of conscious meat-eater or vegan aside, and start believing and acting like Earth is our home.