Hunting connects us with nature and promotes conservation

Illustration by Killian Goodale-Porter

Adelaide Verdugo-Thomson, contributing writer

Have you ever voluntarily woken up before dawn? Without the buzz of other people, the world is incredibly intimate: there’s just you and nature.

Hunting provides space for these moments, allowing us to truly learn about the animals that scurry through the forest and the rivers that run through it.

Perhaps this seems like a strange topic for me, an unsuccessful hunter, to talk about. After all, hunting has had its own juicy dose of controversy, from trophy hunting to animal cruelty. As an ex-vegetarian, I have received my fair share of raised eyebrows and questions about my decision to hunt.

Yet ever since my first hunt, I’ve reveled in the cool, still air as I focused on the task at hand. The hunt took place in a Wildlife Management Area, or WMA, a protected land set aside for outdoor recreational sports. Waiting to hear a squirrel, I sat down against a tree and closed my eyes. The air was sweet to breathe.

Although I didn’t take a single shot the first time, as I watched the squirrels’ bushy tails wagging and swishing as they chased each other, I felt as if I had access to their private lives unadulterated. Instead of jumping off utility poles or running over fences, the squirrels were in their natural habitats. At that moment, I realized how vital hunting is to having a healthy relationship with the natural world.

Even though I am no longer a vegetarian, my opinion on meat remains the same: the industry is cruel.

The word cruel has its roots in the Latin word rawlis, which means “insensitive.” By distancing ourselves from hunting animals, we have removed our feelings from the equation. the slaughter occur in big gray factory farms with few windows and a rotten stench. Society is quite happy to ignore the vulgar nature of the meat production process because it has made consumption so much easier.

In fact, we are quite comfortable distancing ourselves from things we find ugly, including the death of animals. When we distance ourselves, we devalue cattle because they are no different from any other form of product. Meat is getting cheaper and so is our relationship with the natural world.

I argue that hunting for meat is in harmony with the natural world. Killing oneself forms an intimate bond between humans and animals; there is a true appreciation for the food on our plate.

The first time I saw a squirrel get shot, I cried. I focused on the moment and realized how grateful I was for the squirrel. Without him, I wouldn’t have come to such a serene forest, witnessed his playful nature, or had food for the night. At that time, I made a vow to make sure the squirrel’s life was not wasted.

Although hunters are 3% of Virginia’s populationthey have contributed $14 billion for conservation through taxes on guns and ammunition thanks to the Federal Aid for Wildlife Restoration Act. Hunting does not exist without healthy habitats and healthy wildlife; therefore, conservation is a top priority.

The hesitation around hunting stems from a lack of understanding. As more people flock to urban areas for job opportunities, it may be more difficult for people to go hunting in WMAs in rural settings. However, hunting clubs could be established in urban areas to create a sense of community among urban hunters. By having a community, people can share the journey and learn from each other.

Those who are interested in hunting can also find online communities. The website meat eater has numerous articles on hunting, fishing, and farming. The website Hunter-ed has courses to help you get your hunting license. Hunting communities are also popular on various social media platforms; it just takes a bit of searching.

While some hunting-related challenges are simply one of accessibility, others are social and political. Lax gun laws have heralded a backlash from communities in times of violence. Pew Research Center found that almost 70% of gun owners say they own a gun for personal protection. There needs to be more nuanced conversations about guns and the reasons why they are bought. Having a proper firearms education in a country where firearms are legal is essential.

Those who are against firearms can still hunt. Bowhunting is a popular alternative to hunting with a firearm. Bowhunters use a bow and arrow to hunt and often gain early access to hunting seasons.

With all the options for hunting today, accessibility is slowly growing. Meat eaters should try hunting.

Humanity in meat consumption has been lost with the mechanization of animal husbandry and slaughter. We can restore humanity by inserting ourselves in the process.