A Former Vegan’s Argument to Hunt and Kill Animals For Meat
I used to raise rabbits for meat.
I was 9 years old when I started, as I recall, maybe 10. I had joined 4-H, and when I joined the rabbit club, they asked me if I wanted to raise rabbits for fur, for meat, or for show. I figured raising rabbits for meat was the most sensible, and I ignored any twinges of my heart, because my self-image did not allow for impractical soft-heartedness.
For the next 6 years, I increased my herd until I had about 15 does, 2 bucks, and however many babies they had made. My dad would take the young rabbits that were ready to eat, called fryers, to a rabbit buyer when they were ready. I hardly ever went with him. I never killed a rabbit myself. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted rabbit, even though I raised hundreds to eat.
I did experience rabbit death. Young hairless ones would die, and I’d just throw them over the fence into the woods. Sometimes older ones that I knew personally would die. The easiest way for me was when I came out and they were already dead in their cages. The hardest way was when they were sick, and I wanted to ease their comfort, and didn’t know how. That was really challenging for a child.
My anxiety and guilt about the rabbits came out in my dreams. A recurring theme was that I had just remembered that I had forgotten to feed them and give them water for days, so I would go down to their hutches and tell the ones that were still living that I wouldn’t forget them again as I gave them food and water. I had those dreams for years, even after I sold all my rabbits.
In hindsight, I think maybe 9 or 10 is a little young to be making decisions about whether to raise animals for meat. I think it was certainly affecting me on an emotional level, and at that age I might not have had the right tools to process those emotions. On the other hand, I was eating meat, so it only seems right that I confront the truth about where meat comes from. Later, when I was 14 or 15, I bottle-fed calves destined for the veal lots in California. They were all male calves from dairy breeds, mostly Holsteins. Knowing that veal comes from male dairy calves is what helped me switch years later from being vegetarian to being vegan, because I knew that even if I just drank milk, I was also supporting veal farming. Ignorance may be bliss, and yet that bliss can result in some other being’s suffering.
Years later, I realized that the worst thing I had done to the rabbits wasn’t that I had caused them to be killed for meat. The worse thing was that they had lived in cages their whole lives. All those anxiety dreams I had about them starving and dehydrating to death because they were trapped in cages and I had forgotten to take care of them, and never once did it even occur to me in my dreams to take them out of their cages. Death happens. It must happen. Ending a life in order to live is what it means to be human, unless you go the fruitarian route. How an animal lives before its death is way more important to me, and to the animal, than at what age it dies.
That’s why I’ve gone from feeling sorry for the animals that hunters kill to feeling that hunting is absolutely the best way to eat, as long as the species being hunted is not threatened as a whole, nor the web that that species belongs to. Hunting animals who are invasive or who have had their predators killed off by humans helps the ecosystem as a whole. Animals who are hunted get to live their whole lives in a natural environment, following their desires, being their own creatures. That’s way better than living in a cage!
Hunting allows people to eat while preserving natural ecosystems. To me, that’s better than cutting down forest to make farmland. Agriculture is very destructive to the habitat of other animals. Most vegetarians who eat grains are contributing to the deaths of field mice, moles, and other rodents who get run over by field machinery. Most vegans who eat organic veggies are contributing to factory farming because the amendments that grew their organic vegetables are things like blood meal, bone meal, fish meal and feather meal.
I hope I’m not coming across as judgmental. I’m not saying anyone has to eat like me. I understand that if the whole world switched from buying their food in supermarkets to hunting for animals and living off food they grew themselves, it wouldn’t work because there wouldn’t be enough food to go around, and whole species of animals might become endangered or extinct. I just wanted to share a little bit about how I went from being a rabbit-raising kid who thought hunting was cruel to a vegan to an advocate for hunting.
For me, it was about seeing a bigger and bigger picture. I started to look beyond the deaths of animals to their lives. I started looking at whole systems and comparing their effects. I tuned into the fact that I wasn’t a fruitarian, and that I do believe that plants have feelings, too. All these things have led me down a path of searching for better food choices, even as my definition of better refined itself. What was the life like of this organism I’m eating? What other lives are affected by me eating this organism? Is paying for this item a vote for better ecosystems or worse ecosystems? By these standards, eating hunted deer in Oregon, or wild pigs in Hawaii, is just about the most ethical choice I can make.