The Non-Hunter Elevator Pitch and Why it Matters
We’re lucky to live in the United States in the year 2018. Sure we’ve got our issues, but when you look into the past, it’s simply not that bad.Bands of Vikings aren’t raiding our neighborhoods, deadly plagues aren’t sweeping the country, the guillotines have all been retired (I hope), there’s free WiFi just about everywhere, and thanks to intensive farming, a trip to the grocery store means you likely aren’t going to starve to death. While the convenience of mass food production keeps us alive, supports our rapidly growing population, and frees up our time to do countless incredible things, it has eliminated a significant part of the human experience. Most Americans, excluding farmers and hunters, no longer have a relationship with their food.
For those of us who have done what it takes to successfully harvest an animal and bring it to our dinner tables, we still maintain at least a portion of that connection with our food and its habitat. While enjoying that meal, we recall the life of that animal and the moment that life ended, and we feel an immense sense of gratitude for the nourishment it provides us.It is a small reminder of how humans lived for the majority of our existence. Hunting is not a new experience; grocery stores are. Hunting wild game as a source of nutrient-rich and delicious protein is as old as humanity itself. However, for much of the American public, meat has been reduced to a substance not unlike a jar of peanut butter. It was grown, processed, packaged, transported, and put on a store shelf. Most Americans do not identify the meat they eat with the animal it once was.
I happen to have a very unique perspective which has helped me solidify this realization. I work with kids. I teach ancient history and I also happen to coach archery. Being the obsessed bow hunter that I am, deer, venison, and all things hunting are frequent topics of conversation in my world. Kids of course are curious and often unapologetically honest. Students over the years have asked me the same question, “How can you kill an innocent animal?” The opinionated and sarcastic side of me has many ways that I’d like to respond, however, I’ve become much more effective and impactful when having this conversation. This is a conversation that I believe all hunters need to know how to have. The goal of this conversation should not be to create a new hunter or to “win” the argument, rather, help a non-hunter connect the dots. In a calm and non-combative way, help them understand what much of humanity has forgotten; that we all have blood on our hands. It is an unpleasant reality of the human condition. All humans are responsible for animal death in one way or another, however some choose to take responsibility for that death, while others outsource it. There is nothing wrong with buying meat, but it is important for all to recognize where that meat comes from.
The easiest rebuttal to the “innocent animal” question is simply, “Well, do you eat meat?” The response to this question is fascinating and often entertaining. The questioner typically begins to realize they may be caught between a logical rock and a hard place and usually falls into defensive mode. Responses may include, “but I don’t kill it myself!” or “but I don’t eat deer,” or my personal favorite, “but those animals are already dead!” Whether it is a twelve year old or an educated adult, this point in the conversation is crucial. The individual asking the questions, likely has little or no experience with hunting and likely never will. This is an opportunity for you, again, not to create a new hunter, but rather open someone’s mind. Help them to see what you already know; that hunting is an ethical and morally acceptable way to obtain natural, healthy, protein for you and your family. Remind them that someone still had to kill the animal that provided the meat that ended up in the Styrofoam tray that they purchased from the grocery store. That meat was likely handled by dozens of people and traveled hundreds of miles before ending up on their dinner plate. What is natural about that? Conversely, hunters know exactly where their protein comes from. They share a bond with that creature and the place it came from. I can personally say, I never waste a bite of venison, as I feel a personal responsibility to utilize the meat from the life that I took, not to mention the hard work that went into acquiring that meat.
I think everyone would benefit from having a better understanding of their place on the food chain. Regardless of whether you kill an animal yourself or hire someone else to do it for you, animals die so that we can survive. Just as the bird eats the worm and the fox eats the bird, humans must eat as well. Hunters need to better communicate the idea that it is possible to both love an animal, but also take its life, and that its life may be honored and revered for having sustained you and your family. That is what makes us human. We have the ability to respect our prey and show it mercy, while still understanding our place in nature. Remind non-hunters that while we enjoy many aspects of hunting, at its core, it is just a different way to obtain meat. It is the original, way. The way our ancestors did for hundreds of thousands of years.
So imagine the non-hunter you are speaking with standing in a voting booth, considering whether or not to allow or disallow hunting in your state. What thoughts and impressions do you want them to ponder while waiting to check that box? Do you want them to be thinking about how that hunter guy they met that one time was a jerk and tried to force his opinion down their throat, or do you want them to remember the humble, intelligent hunter, who helped them to understand why they do what they do, and how it positively impacts them and the natural world. Leave them with a positive memory and a better understanding, not bad taste in their mouth. All hunters should be prepared when asked, “Why do you hunt?” or “How can you kill and innocent animal?” These simple conversations, while seemingly inconsequential, may one day help to preserve our hunting heritage for our generation and for years to come.
Daniel Amore of Macomb, Michigan is a member of the NDA digital media team, and an avid deer hunter and conservationist. He earned a master's degree in public administration, and is a middle school history and multimedia teacher.