Understanding Hunting Part Three: Eating Meat

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In this part, let us take on the evangelical strain of veganism that is also anti-hunting.

There are individuals who would like you to believe that veganism is the only defensible moral way of eating. They depict an industrial meatpacking system inflicts macro-scale ecological devastation and cruelty (true), and hunting that makes the cruelty personal (also true), with the only way out to eat a plant based diet (not true).

I am sorry to say, but your choices are not what you think they are. Do you have any idea how much cruelty is dealt out in the name of farming? The field mice, the flightless ducklings directly shredded by field equipment, the environmental impacts of habitat loss to farming, aquifer depletion. Even “environmentally-conscious” farming practices have their own tradeoffs that people tend to ignore. Organic farming requires frequent plowing for weed control in the absence of pesticides, contributing much more to soil depletion and CO2 emissions; no-till farming necessitates the use of pesticides in the absence of physical tilling. All are a part of an agricultural system that persistently undervalues labor and drives inequality. There is no way out of the fact that your existence throws ripples down the hierarchy that cause suffering to other living beings, and by pretending you’ve eliminated your “original sin” you are deluding yourself. In defense of vegans, their choices do more to minimize their impacts than conventional eating, but I am addressing here the evangelical strain that views itself as outside and superior to a “downward-punching” hierarchical system.

The three choices I see are these:

  1. To keep your impacts remote & unseen—to keep yourself mired in ignorance at the true cost of your existence. Perhaps with the energy freed from worrying about your food, you can focus on another “social cause” and can shift your personal karma towards the positive. This choice encompasses both veganism and conventional eating, separated merely by degree of impact.
  2. To personally own the cruelty inflicted in your name and to keep the ripples spread by your existence firmly in view as best you can, encompassing hunting & raising your food. This choice keeps the “height” of the hierarchy limited to just two parties, which I argue is actually the best one can do in this world. Each step removed inevitably increases cruelty. In another industry, how would the sweatshop labor system change if the textile factory was in your backyard and you faced it every day?
  3. To reject entirely the hierarchy of life that places mankind atop of a pyramid of cruelty, and to kill yourself & others as inevitable oppressors.