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5 Ways Hunting Is Actually Environmentally Friendly

Slow down. Before you call PETA to demand they send in a killer, hear me out. The majority of people eat meat, so why is farming a better source of meat than hunting? Turns out they aren’t, at least in terms of their respective “green” ratings. When it is for food and not just For sport, hunting can actually be an environmentally friendly activity.

Let’s be clear – this statement only applies if you follow a specific set of instructions. You consume or use every part of the animal you kill, to the best of your ability, and you don’t just kill for the sake of killing. The population of animals you hunt is a population that really requires control and that control is done professionally and/or properly managed. Also, make every effort to ensure that the animal is killed humanely and that the weapon you use to do so is effective.

Think Jake from Avatarnot Uncle Jimbo from South Park.

With all this in mind, consider that hunting has been a part of human history for countless generations. It is an ancient source of nourishment, connecting us to our wildest selves and to nature. It may come as a surprise, but here are 5 ways hunting is actually environmentally friendly.

1. Maintains and controls animal populations

At least in the US, hunting is a highly regulated activity. There are laws in place at the local, state and federal levels that keep game numbers in check. These efforts help us do things like reduce deer-car collisions and protect our agricultural products from wildlife grazing, helping us coexist. At the same time, the general health of the species is also protected in most places due to conservation laws that limit what animals can be hunted, when and where you can hunt them, and how much you are allowed to take.

The process has and always will need ongoing management, so animal populations that are popular with hunters may have a leg up as they will be more closely monitored for conservation as well as the preservation of the sport.

2. Bypasses animal husbandry practices

Entire books have been written about the environmental devastation of large-scale livestock farming. Let’s just cover the basics. We use 30% of the land on earth for growing vegetables used to feed animals such as cattle, chicken and pigs. We only use 10% to feed ourselves directly. We also use one third of the Earth’s fresh water that hydrates our farm animals. Not to mention that livestock methane emissions, produced as a byproduct of digestion, account for at least a third of all agriculture-related greenhouse gases.

Just like any other mass-produced food, commercially raised meat often goes to waste. Supermarkets, restaurants and consumers buy more than they need and end up throwing too much of it away. And unlike animal habitats in the wild, livestock farming has already claimed the destruction of millions of acres of carbon-sucking forests around the world, accounting for up to 15% of global carbon emissions.

While smaller-scale and “backyard” farms are excellent alternatives to large-scale commercial sources of meat, hunting is also a viable option. Deer, elk, wild boar, duck and rabbit are all good substitutes for traditional livestock.

3. No added ingredients

One of the best things about eating game meat is knowing that it tastes exactly as nature intended. And you might be surprised to learn that much of our commercially raised livestock actually has added ingredients.

Farm animals are often given small doses of antibiotics. Not to prevent infection, as you might think, but to promote growth, an accidental side effect discovered in the 1940s. This is a problem because the practice leads to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. Although the potential impact on human health has yet to be quantified, the possibility of a future outbreak certainly exists.

US ranchers often give animals steroid hormones or synthetic equivalents to promote growth and metabolism of feed into meat. The FDA claims these chemicals are safe for human consumption, but studies have shown they are excreted in feces, where they can enter aquatic systems, causing endocrine disruption in fish and other wildlife and possibly finding their way into to us.

Unless you’re buying organic or grass-fed, the meat you buy at the store probably came from GMO feed. GM feed is made from plants that either produce the same pesticides or are bred to withstand heavy applications of nasty chemicals designed to kill the bugs. These chemicals are not removed from the plants before being fed to animals. Instead, they collect in animal fat, which we then cook and eat, exposing ourselves to substances that cause cancer, reproductive problems, and many other health problems.

As long as you’re not hunting in an area with known environmental contamination, you won’t have to worry if your game meat is full of nasty things whose names you can’t even fathom. No, just pure, natural, chemical-free chunks of delicious goodness.

4. The Sport Keeps Itself Wild

Hunters are among the most active conservationists. It makes sense – to enjoy hunting as a sport, the land must remain wild. Without a well-maintained habitat, game species simply will not thrive and access to them will be limited.

People who buy hunting gear also make a huge financial contribution to the protection of hunting habitat. In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Pittman-Robertson Act, authorizing an 11% tax on firearms, ammunition, and bows and arrows. The piece of smart legislation has since been a steady and unbroken source of conservation funding, raising over $18 billion in total. The money is distributed annually to the states to spend how they choose – education, research, rehabilitation or as they see fit. The results, such as the resurgence of bighorn sheep populations in the southern Rockies, have been well worth the effort.

Fees paid to obtain a hunting license or tag also help with conservation efforts. States use the proceeds to lease land for hunter access, keeping it at least temporarily unexploited. They also use it to operate fish hatcheries, combat invasive species, keep wildlife populations healthy, and offer special programs and education. In Colorado, the Parks & Wildlife Department estimates that 62% of its funds dedicated to wildlife efforts come from permit fees, with all taxes and grants combined contributing only 34% (donations and direct sales make up the remainder).

In short, hunting pays for itself. Hunters as a group give back more than they take in by paying higher taxes and fees on hunting-related products and services and by promoting land use that requires it to remain as is.

5. Creates a Lifelong Appreciation of Nature

Learning to hunt skillfully can give you a solid appreciation of both animal behavior and the rules of the wild. It teaches you respect for the land and the animal, the cycle of life and death, our dependence on other life forms for survival.

Hunting a deer is an all-day endeavor, to say the least. It’s simply not possible to spend so much time in nature and not connect deeply with it. Hunters learn to work with the land, rather than against it, to achieve their goals, and enjoying their time outdoors leads to a naturalistic passion that knows no bounds.

Are you a hunter? Has hunting brought you closer to nature? What other ways do you think hunting can be environmentally friendly?

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