Hunting and the Youtube commenter
Admittedly, I am fairly new to hunting. I am an accomplished tournament fisherman, but hunting has been something I haven’t had a lot of interest in until lately. A younger cousin of mine is obsessed with bow hunting and invited me on an upcoming hog hunt. Intrigued at the thought of a little more dangerous winter time activity, I accepted. Preparing for this hunt I’ve done a great deal of research, reading, and general thinking about what goes into harvesting an animal. I thought it only right to do so before indulging myself with buying all the equipment that is necessary for a proper hunt. With that said, I think this article is written from a fresh-to-hunting viewpoint, but definitely a researched and learned one.
While trying to familiarize myself with hog hunting by browsing through hunting videos on Youtube, I "mistakenly" read the comments section and was appalled by the amount of hatred people have towards the hunting community. Nearly every comment was filled with animosity and with a very delusional tone about hunting and, quite honestly, life in general. I started to respond, but thought it probably would be as beneficial as arguing with someone about politics or religion. Throughout the day, more and more reasons about why these people are misinformed and why hunting should be embraced by the everyday animal loving person flashed into my head. I thought it may be of benefit to outdoorsmen in general to know some viewpoints non-hunters have and some facts and ways of thinking they can share to help the lay population understand why we hunt and how hunting is far from the stereotyped redneck perception that people generally have of us.
Without a doubt the most popular comments on these videos were related to "How can you kill an innocent animal?" This strikes me as a comment that is a product of our social situation presently. Our wealth of technology and comfortable lifestyles have grossly dissociated us with how our food is made. What people nowadays do not want to face is the reality that in order for a person to eat meat, an animal has to die. The vast majority "subcontract" this process out to people at factory farms who do the killing for us. With the everyday person so far removed from that process, it is hard to put the butchering of an animal in context with the ordering a hamburger.
The problem is that people eat meat. The same meat-eating, leather-wearing Americans are violently opposed to hunting. To me, as someone who has thought countless hours on the subject, this is the most absurd/delusional thought about food to have ever been conceived. Take a second and think about the life of each animal in these respective animal products: a hamburger vs. a deer steak.
The factory farmed cow is born into a small enclosed pen. There are hundreds of other cows smashed in on top of him with very little space. He’s prodded and pushed into pens from the day of his birth. He's force fed antibiotics. He’s raised on mostly corn, which is very unnatural to cows and very tough on their digestive tracts. He knows not a day of freedom. Then, once he’s fattened to the right point, he and hundreds of his buddies are pistoned in the head without a second thought and then shoved down the assembly line.
The deer, on the other hand, lives a totally free life. He flourishes in an ecosystem he has adapted to over thousands of years. Most often, he grazes in a small herd of his own who roam freely, mating and carrying on with life as nature intended. When he is harvested, it’s in an instant. The moment is a surprise to him. He's not scared, being pushed into a pen to be mass murdered in a surgical fashion. The hunter has remorse. An animal has to die, but his life is celebrated in the fact that we pursue him after a life of natural freedom and respectfully use his life to perpetuate our own. This existence seems much more respectful to the sanctity of life than promoting the process of ordering a hamburger at a fast food place. When someone who eats meat but opposes hunting asks "Why kill defenseless animals?", it demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the whole process. You have to know you are killing something every time you order a chicken nugget, a sausage biscuit, or a hamburger; the question is, how do you want that animal to live and die?
Another branch of commenting I read repeatedly that struck me as absurd is the old "What happens when you kill off all the animals?" and "Why do hunters hate animals so much?" This comes from a genuinely uninformed opinion. Animals are way better off when hunters and outdoorsman place value upon them. Contrary to popular belief, outdoorsmen have a sincere love and intense respect for their quarry. We see their beauty in its natural environment. We respect what a privilege it is to have these animals in our country and the right to hunt them.
Most people think of Robin Hood as stealing money from the rich and giving to the poor, but, in actuality, the story originated with the right to hunt in England. People were starving, and it was illegal to hunt the King's animals, mostly because of scarcity. Our country has done an amazing job of managing our wildlife and sharing it with the citizenry. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one of the most (if not the most) efficient and successful government agencies there are. They are run by people who honestly don’t make a lot of money based on their extensive schooling and competition for job placement, but they without a doubt have a sincere love for the outdoors. Here are a few statistics to chew on when thinking about if hunters are detrimental to our populations of animals. In 1900, we had around half a million white-tailed deer in this country; we’re now at over 32 million. Elk were numbered at 41,000 as opposed to now over a million. Turkeys were at 100,000 in the early 1900's and are now at over seven million.
These increases are directly related to hunting. Hunters are the single biggest contributors to habitat funding and wildlife restoration in our country. Through SELF-IMPOSED excise taxes and license fees, the hunting community contributes eight million dollars daily to wildlife conservation. That’s over 2.9 billion dollars per year towards retaining wildlife habitats and conservation. The contributions from the World Wildlife Federation are a drop in the bucket comparatively speaking.
The Fish and Wildlife services from each state use not only the huge financial impact from hunting, but also the hunters themselves as conservation and management tools. Hunters are utilized to manage exploding populations of certain animals. They manipulate how many tags on males or females are taken when numbers are high, increase predator harvesting when necessary, or decrease the number of overall tags if need be.These numbers aren’t random. They’re calculated by highly trained and sincere biologists looking towards the long term management of these animals. Without hunters, certain animals would explode in numbers causing disease and starvation issues not only for that particular animal, but also for other animals utilizing the same food base and ecosystem. A very high number of animals is rarely a good thing for that species and, more times than not, is worse than a very low population.
These are by far the two biggest comments in the Youtube world that were contradictory to an actual understanding of the world of hunting. These are a direct result of a lack of information about our food and about the animals they pretend to care about. Maybe some of those commenters will read this and can add to the discussion in a more enlightened manner in the future, or maybe hunters can use something here to help dispute the stereotyped misinformation associated with us. Over 90% of Americans are non-hunters, and hunting is a privilege that we enjoy at their leisure. If the non-hunting majority voiced their opinions, we would have far different legislature enacted than what is presently being utilized. California has already been a victim of this with traditional hunting of mountain lions being wrongly banned and now populations of different animals being thrown into disarray because of a lack of management controls. I am coming into hunting with a pure excitement about the camaraderie of hunting with family and getting in touch with the most organic, free range protein available (to use new age terms). I have zero blood lust in this endeavor and am truly remorseful to the animals, but I realize the respect I gain for my food just after the practice with bow and preparing for this hunt. These negative comments are the result of an emotional reaction instead of a knowledgeable one that we have to deal with in these “fast food, internet, and texting-while-eating-dinner” times we live in.
Gun statistics compliments of NSSF.org