VEGANS: trying to save the world in an almost cult-like fashion, bashing on those cruel and heartless meat-eating monsters of humanity. If the whole world became vegan, we can stop the devastating environmental symptoms of climate change and the world will be a better place. If you want to live a truly spiritual life, you must live cruelty-free and avoid meat and animal products at all costs, because meat is poison to the mind, body, and soul. Therefore, one is superior to all others if one is a vegan.
HUNTERS: savagely and ruthlessly annihilating the lives of innocent creatures using unfair Genghis Khan-like weaponry. Stuck in a human-macho mindset thinking humans are greater and more powerful than all other animals of the world, and I will prove it to you with this shotgun. Nothing feels better than coming home at the end of the day and drinking an ice-cold beer in the company of the heads of oryx, lion, deer, elk, bear… In other words, one is superior to all other creatures if one is a hunter.
It seems as though hunters and vegans, although both human, are two completely different species. And for a very long time, I, a vegan, could not come to accept those who hunt because I thought they are cruel and inhumane. But, while studying abroad in Namibia over the summer, I learned that hunters actually give more to the environment and to conservation than do vegans.
As paradoxical as it may sound, the reason endangered species and other wildlife are thriving in Namibia is due to hunters.
How can this be? In order to understand how hunting helps conservation, let us entertain an analogy regarding substance abuse. When drugs, such as cannabis, alcohol, and MDMA, are heavily scrutinized and citizens can be charged with many years in prison for being caught with these drugs, more people abuse these drugs. In places where these drugs are illegal, people get the drugs on the black market – from gangs, which leads to gang violence and more homicides, which then leads to more people in prison. In places such as Amsterdam, where almost all drugs are legal, regulated, and can be bought in a store, people tend to abuse these substances less often. And having these drugs available at your local CVS or Walgreens means that gangs are out of business, which leads to less crime, violence, and, in turn, less people in jail.
Same thing with hunting. If hunting is made illegal, people will illegally poach animals. Just as someone who wants to smoke cannabis will find a way to smoke cannabis, someone who wants to hunt a lion will find a way to hunt a lion. When hunting is illegal, the animals suffer, because there are no rules when it comes to illegal poaching. The poacher will kill any animal he or she chooses, and this can have terrible repercussions for animal populations.
Take, for example, elephants. Elephants, with their giant brains and hippocampi, have great memories. There are stories of elephant herds visiting the remains of their dead elephant friend year after year. They are very emotional and social creatures, and illegal poaching can leave an entire herd of elephants depressed for the rest of their lives.
Regulated hunting, on the other hand, uses science to figure out which populations of wildlife are doing well, and which members of the population can be hunted without any ill-effects on the population.
Back to the elephant example, Namibia allowed the hunting of 69 elephants in 2013. These elephants were not members of a tribe. Instead, they were most likely old, lonely bulls who finished their genetic reproduction. Regulated hunting allows for a conscious management of wildlife populations, as well as an influx of finances to local communities, who then see the reward of their conservation efforts, leading them to continue conserving wildlife. The moment hunting becomes illegal, wildlife populations are not safe of illegal poaching, and they may suffer grave consequences.
So, hunters and vegans…are we really that different?
Both hunters and vegans love the outdoors. Both hunters and vegans love nature, the environment, the animals. So what is the difference?
The difference is, that hunting financially contributes to conservation on a level much higher than vegans contribute to conservation. For example, consider the Arizona Fish and Game Department, the branch of Arizona governance dedicated to wildlife conservation. Do you know who provides most of the finances to AZ Fish and Game? Yes, you guessed it: hunters. Of the $91 million received by the AZ Fish and Game Department in 2014, 93% came from hunting groups.
How could this be? Well, let us go back to 1901. Teddy Roosevelt, a lifelong sportsman-hunter, feared that unregulated hunting would decimate wildlife populations in the United States. Roosevelt wrote:
"We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denuding the fields and obstructing navigation."
After becoming president in 1901, Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service in order to protect wildlife and public lands. He established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game reserves, 5 national parks, protecting nearly 230 million acres of public land during his presidency. And he did all this because of his love of hunting. Because how can you hunt something that is extinct? Thus, in order to continue hunting, Teddy Roosevelt had to save the wildlife. That is the ultimate beautiful paradox.
We, the people of the United States and the entire world, have arrived at the most crucial time in our history. It is a time when we, the people, have the technology to unite the world for the greater good, end world hunger, and suffering, and protect our Spaceship Earth for our future generations, our kids. And in order to do so, we must come together, as one. Vegans and hunters alike, we are one in our love of the natural world. So let us put aside our imagined differences, and unite for the sake of our world - for the sake of humanity.