I recently had someone tell me that they couldn’t understand hunters or hunting. A vegan, the core of this person’s anti-hunting position was the belief that the life of an animal is just as precious as human life, and a lack of understanding how I could feel differently about that than he did. While discounting his argument would have been relatively easy, and all of the common hypocrisies were easy to find (my vegan friend has pictures of his favorite leather tennis shoes and photos of his favorite motorcycle with a plush leather seat, etc. posted all over his social media accounts), his approach was not confrontational or aggressive. I think he sincerely wanted to know how I could justify the taking of life for my own benefit, whatever that benefit may be, and I felt like I owed him a reasonable response.
I understand that hunting in this day and age is a controversial subject for many. We hunters represent a very small segment of the population in our modern world, and people are removed from the process of meat moving from field to plate and don’t understand what goes on between the beginning of life for an animal and protein showing up in a nice styrofoam container wrapped in cellophane at our local grocery store. I could have chosen to try to educate my vegan raconteur on all of this, but not being a meat eater, I was sure this would not do any good, and it really wasn’t an answer to the question he was asking. What he wanted to know is why I didn’t find animal life as precious as he did.
The truth is, I do.
Websters defines precious as something that has great value, and is not to be wasted or treated carelessly. I certainly believe that all life, whether that of an impala, whitetail, or a human has incredible value and should never be wasted.
It turns out that my vegan buddy and I actually have quite a bit in common. We both love animals. We both have an appreciation of the outdoors, and we both enjoy experiencing the wild. We each have an adventurous streak, and both want to see wildlife flourish and prosper. Where we diverge is our opinions not on the preciousness of a hunters prey, but in our understanding of purpose.
For me, hunting is not only entertaining, and a means of interacting with other life in a way that no other activity can offer, it is also foundational to my faith, and a resource for a healthy lifestyle. Genesis 1 provides that man has been given dominion over the animals, and Genesis 27 tells us to “take your gear, your quiver, and your bow and go out to the field and hunt game for me.” It is not that animal life is any less precious than human life. Animal life simply has a different purpose. Hunting is a way of life that allows me to put fresh, organic protein on my table as well as the tables of friends, family members, and others that are often in need. Responsible hunters see that any animal harvested serves a purpose, and that no quarry is ever wasted or treated carelessly.
Hunting is also educational and incredibly rewarding even when no animal is taken. Every hunt has the ability to make you learn something about not only your prey, but also about yourself, and forces you to work hard, sharpen skills, and prepare yourself for challenges of climbing a mountain, enduring heat or cold, walking great distances, or carrying a heavy load.
Sitting quietly for hours with eyes wide open doesn’t just give me an opportunity to listen and look for that B&C buck we all want to encounter in the woods. It also allows me to reflect on and appreciate the incredible wonders that God has bestowed us all in nature. Breaking new trail up a steep hillside trying to find the perfect spot to glass for elk isn’t just another chance to burn some calories and get in an alternative workout for the day. It’s a moment in time that I can challenge myself and accomplish something difficult and arduous, and feel proud that I made it to the top.
Hunting allows us to see the world, interact with different cultures, and give back to nature at the same time we take from it. Often hunters give back and deposit far more than they ever withdraw from the bank of animal life. It’s difficult to get an anti-hunter to understand the concept of hunting dollars being utilized for conservation or how the taxes paid on licenses are used to preserve and manage wildlife, no matter how easy it is for us to see or how clean the math associated with those monies is, but it’s not so hard to explain how hunting is a tool that can be used to meet new people, see new things, gain an appreciation for other ways of life, and participate in helping people with their needs. Whether in the swamp lands of Louisiana or the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains in Limpopo or anywhere in between that I have pursued quarry, hunting has provided me the opportunity to interact with people that I would have never met any other way, share experiences, and improve my own and other people’s lives in the process. I have fed school children in impoverished villiages, learned bits and pieces of other languages, picked up household skills, and given and received countless smiles all over the globe as a result of hunting. Every time I spend a few minutes in the field my life improves, and I try to improve someone else’s life every time the chance is given.
Animal life is indeed precious, and the pursuit of it as a hunter has made me a better person in countless ways.
I am pretty sure that explaining all of this to my debate partner didn’t do a whole lot to change his mind. Somehow he can still justify wearing his leather belt and tennis shoes and continue to believe hunters don’t have the same appreciation or love for wildlife that he does. I am appreciative of the opportunity I had to discuss it all with him nonetheless. I think it’s good to be confronted occasionally and dared to question your values. It forces us to think about what we do, appreciate what we have, and consider why we do it. I hope he comes back for round two sometime in the near future. Even if the discussion wasn’t good for him, it was certainly good for me.