design-inspired urban farming

Ethical Hunting – The New Locavore Movement?

As the movements of sustainable eating, urban farming and locavore-ism thrive, we are seeing the pendulum swing to simpler ways of life like growing your own vegetables or raising your own backyard livestock — and hunting.  Hunting– really?

An episode of The Fabulous Beekman Boys followed their journey in the slaughtering and butchering their first pig on the farm.  It was emotional and it was peek into the, sometimes, tough reality of living on a farm, especially watching from afar from the comfort of the city.  I found myself emotional for them and wondered if it was practical for urban farmers to raise livestock in their backyards for food.  Josh sums it up by saying that every time he sees a $1 value menu hamburger, he’ll think about the true value of their pigs on the farm.  Elsewhere, the most recent issue of Sweet Paul, they feature a Pheasant supper that was styled by a fourth-generation pheasant hunter, Craig Lieckfelt and photographed by Christina Holmes, who grew up on a Michigan farm. The story touched on their lives growing up in Michigan defined by hunting, foraging for mushrooms, cultivating ingredients from the garden and picking roadside asparagus.  And it made me wonder if hunting is the latest component to urban farming.  I certainly don’t think it will be for everyone, but it truly amazes me how trends in urban farming are recycled versions of the old days.  Is urban farming merely a reversal of time and a desire for simpler things?

Yesterday, I listened to a piece on Boston NPR station, WBUR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook. The subject was about a new generation of hunters who follow a philosophy of “kill what you eat” or “green hunting”, whereby when you kill an animal, you intend to use the entire animal and kill for the sole purpose of food hunting. Tom’s guests were:

Lily Raff McCaulou, author of the new book Call of the Mild: Learning to Hunt My Own Dinner. You can find an excerpt here. You can find her New York Times op-ed on hunting and the National Rifle Association here.

Steven Rinella, a lifelong hunter, he’s the author of the new book Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter. You can read an excerpt of his book here.

Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University. He testified before Congress in June, talking about consevation and environmental stewardship.

Call of the Mild by Lily Raff McCaulou

Meat Eater: Adventures From the Life of an American Hunter by Steven Rinella

Some are calling this a form of hunting, ethical hunting.  It is such a fascinating topic because there are so many areas of black, white and a ton of grey.  I have many vegan friends who would never consider killing an animal for food, sport or otherwise – – pretty black and white. I have never prescribed to veganism and so hunting falls into one of those ethically squishy areas for me.  I believe, in many cases, that without hunting (by people or natural predators) there are many implications from overpopulation of a species that can cause a domino effect –that’s for another topic entirely. However, for me, I can now definitely see how hunting could fall into a new form of locavore eating.  And found the guests on this program, informative, insightful and extremely respectful and reverent of the animals they hunt. Is the view on hunting among animal rights activists immature?  Is it misinformed or perhaps mislead?

Listening to this piece also gave me new perspective on hunting as a whole.  I have never hunted and for most of my life have been personally opposed to hunting, while also remaining completely accepting of others who choose to participate.  I believe I’m like most urbanites who have been so far removed from the hunting, slaughtering and butchering process, it has become a foreign concept that we don’t ever even think about. I am just finally getting comfortable with pulling the bag of guts from the cavity of the chicken I just bought from Whole Foods.

A question was raised by a caller, who was raised Hindu vegetarian, who had just taken up hunting — “When the time comes and I’m staring down the barrel of my gun, can I pull the trigger?” This question brings up a myriad of moral questions —

How much more ethical is to eat animals purchased at a Super Market?

Does hunting an animal yourself raise the value of the animal?

Does this make the hunter more worthy of eating this meat?

Can I even do this?

I am appalled at factory farming and the treatment of animals who are raised in truly inhumane conditions.  It is  one of the reasons we started Sow Swell, but I remain an omnivore.  And I do continue to purchase meat from the grocery store.  I try my best to purchase food that is humanely and sustainably raised. But frankly, sometimes it is out of sight, out of mind for me.  I can’t always be sure the meat I’ve purchased was all those things I so carefully sourced from my grocer’s labeling or researched on the internet. I can go by at-shelf signage or purchase from a trusted butcher, but unless I hunt it myself, I’ll never really know.  It makes me wonder — could hunt for my
own dinner?

Tom Ashbrooke also touched on the issue of Trophy Hunting.  McCaulou had interesting insight, she stated that she doesn’t hunt in the traditional “Trophy Hunting” sense, but that it really depends on what you consider a trophy.  Meaning, that she has the skulls of several animals she has hunted.  Her intention was not to hunt these animals for sport, but for dinner.  And the few skulls she’s collected have become trophies of sort.  Which is such a different visual for me than the images from the Sarah Palin, helicopter, wolf-hunting videos from YouTube.

I was truly impressed by these guests.  They all live in the city and hunt only for food.  But there was a tremendous defense and respect for traditional hunters.  Rinella and Pimm both touched on the fact that without hunters, many protections for these animals would not be in place.  And that the restrictions on hunters, lengths of hunting seasons, etc. all contribute to what make hunting ethical and what keeps breeds of animals in check and what helps them flourish.

And so, this new philosophy of hunting is encouraging and makes me think perhaps I could hunt for my dinner.

I am interested to hear how you feel about hunting and the topic of “ethical hunting.”  Could you hunt for your dinner?  Are you a hunter?  Are you an urbanite who is open to hunting?  Are you vegan and could never consider it?  I am so fascinated by this topic and hope it churns some interesting discussion.

4 comments on “Ethical Hunting – The New Locavore Movement?

  1. tamraf
    November 19, 2012

    I just finished up slaughtering my fourth and final deer this fall. Kind neighbors did the hunting and field dressed them for me. I am happy to have a freezer full of healthy venison as I cannot afford the prices or the health-related issues with store-bought beef. I’m a DIYer single mom and this was my first season of actually working up the courage to do the butchering myself. I watched videos on YouTube for two hours to get the basics, took a deep breath and started skinning my first buck. My fascination and respect for that beautiful animal grew with every passing minute. The only thing that slowed me down was not knowing how to properly sharpen my knives! I am not wild about the hunting part, but the meat tastes wonderful and I am thankful that I can provide meals for my family that are as healthy as they can get.

    • sianabanana
      November 19, 2012

      That’s incredible and what an awesome experience. Did you share it with your kids? I’d be interested to know how they reacted to their mom skinning a buck! Congratulations and kudos to you!

  2. tamraf
    November 20, 2012

    My teens shuddered and went to their rooms to avoid having to watch me skin it on a folding table in my backyard. Only my eleven year old daughter took an interest. She focused on the deer’s head and eyes while I worked, talking to it incessantly about school, its life in the forest and fields, and why we wanted to eat it. I think I recall her even singing to it. Talk about bonding!

  3. tamraf
    November 20, 2012

    In all fairness, I have to add that my thirteen year old daughter did help with the burger grinding and packaging of the final cuts. The boys loved the jerky I made last night and did help with the prep on that.

Sow, what do you think?

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This entry was posted on October 12, 2012 by in Locavore, Urban Farming and tagged , , , , .
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