Monday, February 25th, 2013...2:41 am
I skinned a deer.
There, the title said it. I have been in closer contact with the meat I eat than most vegans or vegetarians have, but I still eat meat. And I’m here to talk about how I can be a proud female food activist and still eat meat, which is seemingly incongruous in some minds.
For class this week, we read this piece titled “To be a Feminist is to be Vegan.” And to tell you the truth, I’ve never wanted to be vegan less than after I read it.
I’m not vegan, and I’m not vegetarian. I respect people who are, and I respect people who aren’t. To me, there are so many factors that go into our eating decisions that I could never pretend to think I could change the way someone eats by attacking their habits with a moralistic argument.
Because I don’t know their life.
I was incredibly insulted that the aforementioned article was telling me I’m not a feminist (whether or not I choose to self-identify as one) because I’m not a vegan.
The article had valid points in detailing the exploitation of the female reproductive system at the industry scale. But those points were overshadowed by greater misunderstandings and assumptions about animal husbandry and individual decisions to consume animal products.
I’m under no pretense that the issue of eating meat, or eating in general, isn’t weighed with innumerable moral and ethical issues (as illustrated in this entertaining NYT article). But the reason I eat meat is, on some level, different from the reason my housemate or my neighbor eats meat.
You see, I was raised on hunted game, mainly venison, or the meat of deer. In fact, I wrote my admissions essay on skinning that deer. When it comes to deer season, bucks, or the males, are the prize. Trophy pictures are in no shortage on my Facebook newsfeed when rifle season opens up in my county. Worn Outdoor Life magazines sit in my doctor’s office. And most of the hippy-clothed people in my area that a categorizing individual might peg as vegetarian have a freezer full of venison by mid-December, courtesy of their neighbors or their own efforts. It’s a part of the culture, and it’s a part of my diet.
- keeps many people from buying industrially-raised beef, and keeps many families fed for several months of the year
- is local, and thus has a much smaller carbon footprint than most other foods, including vegan staples
- is tied so much more closely to our impact on the earth than anything purchased from a grocery store
- is the product of hunting, which manages deer populations to a size that ensures their health and fitness without waste
- is delicious
I thought the following video, an ad for the book, “A Mindful Carnivore,” spoke to the reasons I eat meat that was once roaming my backyard. I particularly recommend the other video that comes up when you click “see more” at the bottom.
The idea of terroir, of tasting place in our food, is unnamed in hunting, but the sentiment is there. The interspecies approach is unidentified, but the sense of co-habitation of the earth is strong in hunting communities. The rejection of binaries isn’t spoken, but it’s felt. Hunting is an incredibly interesting piece with which to examine our ideas about food, but it’s not common enough anymore to make its way into our discussions regularly.
Hunting, and meat-eating through hunting, is often disregarded in morally-founded arguments for vegetarianism or veganism. When attention is given to hunting, it’s often based on stereotypes. This debate on hunting gives us a little insight into some of the ongoing arguments, including this gem:
Liz the First: “How sad that anything should motivate young people to succumb to the sickness that is hunting. if you can afford to go to the supermarket and buy your food, you have no other reason to hunt than liking to kill, and that is a serious mental disorder. yes, it’s good to be capable and prepared for any emergency, and if you found yourself needing to kill to survive, that would be acceptable. but just going out to have fun killing is sick!” -news.blogs.cnn.com
To be honest, there are hunters out there just to have fun killing, but if you’re going to sit in the freezing cold for hours on end at dawn, there’s more to your motivations than fun. Many people don’t understand the greater experience of hunting, but assume to know another person’s motivations based on their own individual ideas of what is “right” in the world.
What I hear from hunters, both male and female, follows more along the lines of this:
“Fishermen, hunters, woodchoppers, and others, spending their lives in the fields and woods, in a peculiar sense a part of Nature themselves, are often in a more favorable mood for observing her, in the intervals of their pursuits, than philosophers or poets even, who approach her with expectation” -Henry David Thoreau
I hunt because I don’t buy futures or sell cars or swing deals or negotiate hostile takeovers, or litigate or prosecute or plea bargain, but because I am nevertheless, like everyone else, a predator. So I go to the woods where I belong…
I hunt because it reminds me that in Nature there is a food chain where everything eats and is, in its turn, eaten, where birth, survival, and reproduction give full meaning to life, where death is ever-present, and where the only uncertainty is the time and manner of that death. Hunting reminds me that I am integrated into that cycle, not separate from it or above it. -William G. Tapply (more here)
There is a deep appreciation among hunters for what the earth, as a mother, can give us, as a race. In fact, much of the funding for existing nature conservation areas comes from hunters who yes, want something to hunt but also want to see the earth live, and live healthily. This video talks not only about the links between conservation of the wild and hunting, but does so with a group of new women hunters:
Whereas I might concede that excessive meat eating and a willy-nilly consumption of animal products with little regard for origin would validate the argument that patronizing the animal industry is patronizing the exploitation of the female body, I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse some of the most environmentally responsible and respectful people of being moralistically compromised. Rather, I’d love to meet more hunters in my day.