A recent episode of the excellent tv show, 30 days, put a life-long hunter living with a family of vegan animal rights activists. The episode itself was pretty emotional as it shows some of the truly horrific things that are done to animals as part of the food-making process in our country. To get prices down as low as possible a system of factory farming has developed that completely removes the humanity from the treatment of the animals. They are treated just like machines designed entirely to produce food for humans, with no respect for their rights as living creatures. It’s really terrible and it’s now starting to have dramatic effects on the health of humans consuming the food as well.
I’m not an extremist when it comes to the issues of animal rights. I understand that people have the right to choose what they eat and don’t eat, and I support personal choice in that regard. I do wish that more people actually knew what sort of acts are being committed on a daily basis in the production of their food though, and tv shows like this episode of 30 days will hopefully make a bit of a difference there. I also think it should be illegal to treat farm animals the way they are treated by factory farms.
I also have some personal experience with hunting, and I support the rights of people to do that. I went to highschool in North Dakota and while there I went hunting with my dad and friends. I was (and am) a very bad hunter and I never actually killed anything (it’s hard!) but overall I think the experience was a good one for me. I would not go hunting now, but I don’t feel guilty for having done it. All of the hunters I interacted with back then were very respectful of both the animals and the land. A lot of emphasis was placed on avoiding needless suffering, and we always picked up our spent shells and any other trash. In North Dakota at the time, one hunter could only legally kill one deer per year with a gun, and one additional using a bow. The gun season is also very short (only a couple of weeks) and many hunters are not skilled enough to actually kill a deer in that amount of time. It’s a lot harder than you might think, even with a rifle. They’re quick! The bow season was a few months long and most of our time hunting was spent using a bow. I’m sure other places have different rules.
Overall, I think the key is respect. Animals are, of course, not all human, but humans are animals. We are part of a natural ecosystem and we should remember our place in it. That sounds obvious to me, but somehow it’s not obvious to everyone. If we are respectful of the rights of animals to live a healthy and natural life (I won’t go so far as to say ‘happy’!), we’ll also be producing more healthy and natural food from them and that can only be a good thing for us as humans.