So, what about hunting…?

For those of you that are unaware, November officially marks the beginning of hunting season in Minnesota. Recently I had the pleasure of spending the weekend, which also happened to be hunting opener, with two friends of mine who are hunters. During our car ride up north, they asked where I stand on hunting. The answer is simple, I love animals, so I object to seeing them suffer in any way. That was not enough. My friends wanted more details.

This got me thinking. While I had heard a few arguments against hunting in the past, I could not think of anything really convincing. My friend and I went back and forth on the population control issue. He argued that hunting was necessary to prevent famine. I argued that there were alternatives. Then we argued about the causes of overpopulation. This went on for a while, but it didn’t really get to the root of why hunting is wrong.

I will focus on white-tailed deer because they are the most hunted species in Minnesota, based on number of permits issued per species. My own encounters with white-tailed deer have been nothing short of breathtaking. Last year I lived in a rural area where deer could be seen on an almost daily basis. I saw them walking through the yard, eating from the apple tree and even locking horns! Seeing two males battle it out over a female is quite a sight. Does choose their mates carefully knowing that a strong male will create strong offspring. I have also seen a mother and fawn walking side by side. Newborn fawns do not know their mother immediately. Newborns have a tendency to walk off and follow just about anyone, so the mothers keep the fawns close in order to establish a parent-child relationship. However, fawns are instinctively intelligent when it comes to safety. At just a few hours old, fawns will fall to their bellies at the site of any unfamiliar movement and they will stay hidden until they feel it is safe.

Reading up on deer, I found out many amazing facts. For instance, I didn’t know that deer are great swimmers. They can swim for up to 5 miles! Deer may use this skill when trying to escape a predator. Another skill they use to escape a predator is a hide and run maneuver, where deer hide until the predator is near and then sprint away. If this plan fails, they have back ups, like taking the predator through a course of obstacles which is well-known to the deer.

Here is a brief excerpt from a study conducted by M.P. Skinner in 1929. He closely observed and recorded the lives of white-tailed deer in Yellowstone National Park:

Causes of extermination. It is unknown just what caused the extermination of the white-tailed deer, but no doubt accidents, cougars, coyotes, and emigration all had their part. But since all these destructive forces had operated for years, it was more probable that man was responsible for finally turning the scale against them. That the white-tailed deer should have been the first animal to disappear in the Yellowstone seems very strange indeed, for elsewhere they have been very resourceful and able to maintain themselves long after all other large animals have been locally exterminated. Over most of their range, and changes wrought the white-tailed deer withstood the improvements
by man, and were often able to live in a comparatively small patch of wilderness. This they could do because they were adaptable, and quick to suit themselves to changing conditions.”

These creatures are beautiful and intelligent beings with rich lives that they value. I cannot fathom releasing a bullet to steal their lives just for my own momentary pleasure.

My Veg Journey

Greetings and welcome to my wonderful veg blog site! To start my weekly blogging, I want to introduce myself. I am currently working with an awesome animal rights non-profit organization in Minneapolis called Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA). Prior to working with CAA I was a student at Saint Cloud State University (SCSU). During my studies at SCSU I got hooked on social justice issues, especially animal rights. After watching films such as The Witness and Meet Your Meat, I knew that I had to take action. In 2008 I co-founded an animal and environmental rights group at SCSU called AniMent. For two years I helped organize film screenings, speaking engagements and interactive demonstrations; I facilitated workshops on animal rights at the bi-annual Social Justice Conference with Youth; I collaborated with local and national organizations, and I have worked with many great individuals. One of my proudest moments was receiving an award from SCSU for Most Outstanding Collaboration for a student group. In just two years I was able to accomplish so much and reach out to so many people. I knew this was the path that I had to travel.

People often ask me, “why animal rights?” Why care about animals when there are so many human animals in this world who are also suffering? My perspective is that there are laws in place to protect humans. Of course, these laws are not always followed, but at least they are there. However, non-human animals have very little legal protection. Domesticated animals in the U.S. (such as dogs and cats) are gaining more legal protection but animals raised for slaughter (i.e. pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys) remain unheard and exploited. I hope that by working in this field I will be a powerful voice for these animals.

Animal rights is also important because it is connected with so many other issues.

On the health side, factory farming contributes to human health problems such as bacterial antibiotic resistance and increased hormone levels.  Diets high in any animal fat (include those sustainably raised) have been linked to such health problems as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

Going further into health risks, there is a rising trend in food recalls. I know some of you are thinking it’s not just meat that is being recalled. Yes, there have been recalls on vegetables, but often times factory farms can be blamed for this as well. Runoff from factory farms’ manure pits often gets into waterways. I remember years ago there was a big spinach recall and people were blaming the workers for not washing their hands.

Environmental hazards are also significant. Manure pits, which can often reach the size of a small lake, have been known to burst, causing a flood of fecal matter, blood, and urine to rush down roads and waterways. From New York to North Carolina millions of gallons of crap from these “spills” have affected the lives of ecosystems, animals and townspeople.

Minnesota is not exempt from factory farm pollution either. The fresh farm air of yesteryear has been replaced with the rotten stench of decaying manure and dead or sick animals. Manure pits are swarming with hundreds of gases including methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Air quality in some Minnesota areas had become so polluted with hydrogen-sulfide gases that residents have become ill.

So, for the animals, for my health, and for the environment, I have chosen to spend my time on animal rights.