Growing up Vegetarian in a Hunting Household

I live a life of contradictions. I’m a vegetarian, but I’m also a hunter. Because I have been hunting since the early age of five, the issue of animal rights was never on my mind when I became a vegetarian. I can vividly remember sitting in the goose pit when I was five, wearing my dad’s camo shirt as a dress and peaking my head out of the straw cover wanting to see the geese fall out of the sky as they were shot.

I was always excited to go hunting with my dad because it meant spending extra time with him. Because he was a hunter, our family was constantly eating meat, red meat in particular. We would have steak, hamburgers, or pork chops for dinner almost every night with leftovers being our only lunch options. My stomach couldn’t take the constant work that was needed to process red meat. So, on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, I decided to cut out meat from my diet completely.

The first few weeks were awful, my body felt like it was rejecting the decision to take meat out of my life and I felt as though I had no energy. However, after a month I started to have more energy than ever before. I lost almost 20 pounds and felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Everyone in my family wondered how I could give up meat and how I could survive without it every day, but it wasn’t as hard as everyone thought. It was simply a lifestyle choice.

The most frustrating part is spending Thanksgiving Day with my grandparents, and having to say, “No, Grandpa, I really don’t want any ham.” When you grow up in a family like mine, where meat is almost always factored into every meal, you learn to expect having nothing to eat at family gatherings. Bringing your own vegetarian friendly options, and figuring out ways to politely thwart grandpa’s attempts to feed you the ham because he doesn’t think that you are eating enough, became a regular occurrence.

Explaining to people how I can support hunters while upholding my own vegetarian values always surprises people. Spending time in the field with my dad and seeing that hunters take the time to humanely hunt their game while being responsible for the life that they are taking, made me feel that much better about being a vegetarian growing up in a hunting household. Hunters treat the animals so much more humanely compared to meat packaging plants, which makes it easier to live in a meat centralized family.

My family was extremely supportive when I decided to become vegetarian. Although my younger sister will still make pointed comments when we have completely vegetarian dinners, it was an overall improvement for our entire family. My dad still goes hunting, and I support him completely and will go hunting with him again whenever I can. Just because you have a hunting family, shouldn’t keep you from eating how you want. Anything can work out if you put the effort into it.

Note: All photos were taken from Google Images and were labeled for reuse.