It is dinner time with my family for the holidays. The strong smell of roasted poultry fills the air as she sets a plate with half of a potato on it dripping with melted butter and cheese. I remind her, “I don’t really eat any animal products, which means no butter or cheese on my potato, can I get a plain one?” She smiles back at me “Oh, sorry, sweetie! I forgot! Let me show you where they are… isn’t your dinner going to be so boring, though?” The question I would get daily. “Do you just eat nuts and seeds?” “Is your food all very plain?” “I could never be vegan.”
I would never be mad at my family for eating meat. I just chose not to eat it. Some of them would ridicule me, mostly in a playful way. Sometimes I would joke back, but the meat eaters and hunters in my family outweigh me, I am the only vegan in the family.
I talked to my grandpa, who is not only a meat eater, but also a hunter, about his thoughts on me being vegan. He said he is worried that I don’t get enough protein and that vegans all try to shove their beliefs down his throat. I hear this a lot, too. I asked him “Grandpa, have you ever felt like I tried to shove my beliefs down your throat?” He paused for a minute. “Well, no, I guess you don’t talk much about my hunting or you being vegan.” I looked up at him and laughed as I see him reach for his venison sausage mid-conversation. We are on facetime and he thinks I can’t see him eating the meat that he hunted last week. I look at him with a raised eyebrow as he drools and I giggle. Next, I asked him why he hunts. He told me stories about his father taking him to shoot ducks for the first time when he was 12 years old. I could see the spark in his eyes as he talked about how proud he was when he hit his first duck and took it home to eat it with his family. I can only imagine how bright the spark was on that day, I can still see a little glimmer in his eyes when he brings home a new animal to feast on.
I could never understand why someone would want to kill another animal. I do understand that people need to eat, and I am Christian so I believe that God did put animals on the earth for us to eat. I know, it’s a little confusing. But once I got to be in high school I learned how poorly animals are treated before going to the slaughterhouses and started to change my eating habits. In the documentary Forks Over Knives, I watched what the meat industry doesn’t want consumers to see. I saw cows being shoved and slaughtered carelessly, baby calves screaming for their mothers as they are being dragged away to be killed so they don’t drink her milk, and then their mothers getting artificially inseminated so she never stops producing milk. Yet, besides all of these facts, I was never a vegan who hated meat eaters. I understand that everyone has different opinions and never thought mine was above anyone else’s. Yet, not all vegans view meat eaters, or worse, hunters, in a positive light.
I have 2 close friends that have been vegan for years. Kelly, who has been vegan for 1 year, and Sophie, who has been vegan her whole life. I asked both of these girls what their opinion of meat eaters are, and especially what they think of people who hunt. Both laugh and roll their eyes. I know, they get asked this a lot. Sophie sighs and says “I don’t understand how someone can be so cruel as to promote animal cruelty by buying meat and animal byproducts. There are so many alternatives that are better for the wellbeing of those sweet helpless animals.” Then I ask, “could you ever listen to a hunter’s opinions and begin to understand and possibly accept their actions?” Both of their responses were stares at the ground and soft whispered “Hm, maybe. I don’t quite know. It would be hard.” But, this is progress towards both types of people being tolerant towards the other group.
I began to think of similarities that non-sport hunters and vegans may have. I thought of the respect they have for the animal, and how neither choose to eat meat from the store that has been factory farmed, A.K.A. in the terrible conditions of slaughterhouses. “Bringing home meat that will keep me and my loved ones alive means so much more when I know exactly where that food came from. It took a lot of commitment to get it. Choosing to live this way has built a sense of gratitude and respect; not only for that animal, but the system as a whole.” http://harvestingnature.com/2012/07/02/the-traditional-hunter-in-the-modern-world/
This quote is from a hunting blog, along with another quote from the cookbook Eat Wild Game: Recipes for the Adventurous by the author Justin C. Townsend. “That animal’s life was taken to feed our family and friends. The meat should always be respected by using correct butchering techniques to avoid waste and by properly honoring the animal through the preparation of a delicious and hardy meal.’ both of these quotes, from the view of hunters, talk about the respect they have for animals. Hunters realize they are taking a life and appreciate the animal for that, which is what vegans need to understand.
Next, I wanted to see what vegans would say about hunters. It is easy to find a vegan who says anyone that kills animals are terrible and wrong. Yet, when you dive more into it, shouldn’t they appreciate the respect hunters show for their prey? “Hunting is far more humane than factory farming as their prey hasn’t had to live in horrific, cramped conditions and their death will be swift and painless.”
This quote from a vegan blogger relieved me, there is a common ground that hunters and vegans can find. What is the one thing that vegans seem to hate most? Animal cruelty. Well, store bought meat that comes from factory farming is full of horrific brutalities and desensitizes the people who eat meat to what the animal had to go through so that they could have a nice burger or turkey sandwich. If both vegans and hunters could understand the mutual respect and appreciation that each group shares for animals, they could possibly begin to get along.
Each group can be tolerant of the other without taking on their beliefs or changing their actions. A vegan doesn’t have to eat meat to understand that not all hunters are bad, and visa versa. Yes, both groups can be seen as polar opposites that will never get along, yet, I do not think there is no hope for these people to have a mutual respect for one another.