Hunt.Fish.Feed.—a project Michelle works on, bringing donated game and fish to the hungry—was getting some bad press. She wondered if I would take a look and share my thoughts. Given my journey from veganism to hunting, she thought I might have some insight.
I smiled. It was a nice way of saying that I might be weird enough to understand both sides of the thing.
Curiosity aroused, I clicked the link.
The post—“Kill Wild Animals to Feed the Homeless and Poor?”—was short.
The author, Jake Richardson, challenged Hunt.Fish.Feed.’s economic efficiency, asking why money should be spent on “gasoline, bullets, permits, beverages and other hunting gear” and on game-processing, rather than on “much more affordable produce.”
But his fundamental objections were moral. The Hunt.Fish.Feed. project, he wrote, “smacks of self-promotion…the promotion of killing wild animals for sport.”
More striking were the comments. The post had already drawn nearly 500, most of them vehemently supportive of Richardson’s position. I could see why Michelle had been amazed by the hatred expressed there. But I wasn’t surprised.
Fifteen years ago, as an anti-hunting vegan, I would have agreed with Richardson and his supporters: Hunting is morally wrong. Modern humans don’t need to hunt to survive, and killing for fun is depraved. There are more humane and cost-effective ways to feed the hungry.
Like some of the commenters, I might have accused Hunt.Fish.Feed. of being “another desperate excuse to try and justify [hunters’] blood lust” and a “way…to whitewash their evil.” Like Richardson, I might have listed “beverages,” but not food, as a subset of “hunting gear”; aren’t all hunters notorious beer-swillers?
The polar opposite view is just as easy for me to imagine: All legal hunting is honorable. Using game to feed the hungry is an obvious good, perhaps evoking traditional hunting cultures where successful hunters help feed a whole village. Cost-effectiveness has nothing to do with it. (My garden may not be the most efficient way to produce food. But why not plant an extra row of beans or corn to help feed a needy neighbor?)
Many of us, though, don’t see hunting in stark black or white. What do we think of a project like Hunt.Fish.Feed.?
Do we see it as a sincere effort to help, or as disingenuous self-promotion? If the project partnered with vegetarians to offer more diverse meals at future Hunt.Fish.Feed. events, as Michelle has told me they might, would that strike us as a praiseworthy attempt at collaboration, or as a blatant marketing stunt?
And how do we feel about the donated meat itself? Do our opinions—like most Americans’ attitudes toward hunting—hinge on why the hunters hunt and why the animals are killed?
Would we approve of hunters seeking out game specifically to donate it, but disapprove of them killing “for sport,” as Richardson put it, and donating the meat only as an afterthought? Would we approve of meat donations that resulted from an ecologically necessary culling of deer, but disapprove of those that resulted from a trophy hunt where venison was never part of the aim?
Personally, I hunt for food. I hunt for the humbling reminder of my impact as a living being. I hunt for a deeper understanding of the land and my place in it, one animal among many.
I don’t hunt for antlers. I don’t enjoy killing. I don’t live in a village that depends on my hunting for survival. And the deer population in my immediate area is not so dense as to present impending danger, ecological or otherwise.
So I don’t kill more deer than Cath and I can make use of, with a few pounds given away here and there.
Yet, if a second deer came my way in a single autumn, might I not raise my bow or firearm, with my mother’s, sisters’, and friends’ freezers in mind?
And what if I knew that a needy family or a group of homeless folks—perhaps unknown to me—would end up with the meat? Would I kill a deer for them?
© 2010 Tovar Cerulli