How Do Vegans Feel About Hunting for Meat?

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When I’ve talked to others about whether it’s right to kill and eat animals, one of the questions I often ask is:

If there was a pig (for example) in your backyard that you had to kill if you wanted to have ham for dinner, would you be able to?

Most people in that situation would say “no, unless my life depended on it.”

But, there are some people who would “sure” – hunters (maybe fishers too).

I’ve read a lot about this topic, and wanted to share how vegans feel about hunters. 

Read on if that peaks your interest, whether you’re a vegan with confused feelings on the topic, or a hunter who has questions about if it’s right in the back of their mind.

The Core Issue Vegans Have With Even “Humane” Hunting

Many hunters will say that they care about animals, and I don’t doubt that some do.

The logic that’s typically brought up is that yes, the animals are killed, but they lived a good and natural life (hopefully) up until that point.

And if you said that to me 10 years ago, I’d probably say that it was reasonable. It’s definitely a true statement, but where it falls short to a vegan is that animals are still killed.

Animals are just like you and me, they want to live. They may not have the same level of consciousness, but research has consistently shown that they feel pain and pleasure, fear and joy. 

If a person lives say 18 years and has a great life, and then dies, people say “it’s a tragedy, they had so much more to experience ahead of them.”

Why is it any different for an animal?

So although vegans will of course have individual opinions on hunting, this issue will ultimately be why the vast majority believe it’s wrong.

Can You Make an Argument for Ethical Hunting?

I want to make this as balanced as possible.

There are 2 types of hunting, quite different from each other.

The first is hunting for sport. Animals are often transported in just be killed. It’s for the thrill of killing, or to feel powerful, or just for fun. There’s something wrong with you if you enjoy hurting and killing animals, which is highly correlated to sociopathy.

Even most hunters would agree it’s plain wrong, and I’m not going to mention it much more.

The second type is more interesting for our topic: hunting to combat overpopulation. The concept behind it is that in some areas, there’s an overpopulation of certain animals like deer, and hunters are simply trying to keep the ecosystem in balance. 

It’s definitely the best argument in favor of hunting being morally okay, but there’s a few issues that I take with it.

Why Hunting for Overpopulation is Needed

Overpopulation doesn’t just magically happen, it typically happens when an apex predator (e.g. wolves or bears) are removed from an ecosystem.

The process generally looks like this:

  • Humans kill the top predators in an area
  • Species like deer get overpopulated
  • They cause damage to local biodiversity and the environment in several ways
  • They can even impede traffic

For the sake of this topic, I’m going to assume that all animals are killed “humanely”, no pain, every hunter is a perfect shot (obviously not true, but not too relevant at this point).

With all that said, it seems fairly reasonable at first glance.

But there are 2 things I’d like to point out.

First, the whole issue is man-made. I realize the deer (or whatever animal) hunters probably aren’t the same ones who removed the predators, but the overpopulation issue itself is always avoidable.

Second, does hunting to control overpopulation even work? Before writing this post I came across research that shows it really doesn’t (at least not in many cases).

“We don’t usually give animals due credit for their persistence, especially deer,” said Labisky, who has spent three decades researching white-tailed deer. “With males-only hunting, it is very, very difficult to deplete a deer population.”

If doe hunting is not allowed, which it often isn’t, the overpopulation issue is not even corrected.

Are There Alternatives?

There isn’t too much published data on it, but I’m sure in some situations, hunting for overpopulation control can be effective.

But it’s not the only option.

Two logical alternatives would be:

  • Reintroducing the predator that was removed.
  • Use contraceptive drugs or neutering to control the population – Still invasive, but I’m sure the deer would take it over being killed.

Yes, deer will still die with the first option, but the overpopulation issue will be fully corrected fairly quickly.

There are vegans who are passionate about wild animal suffering, but that’s typically far down the ladder from suffering caused unnecessarily from humans.

It Comes Down to Motivation

Look, if you’re a passionate environmental activist and you just want to preserve a local ecosystem, and you have evidence that hunting to combat overpopulation will be effective, I think many vegans can view that as the best of a bad situation.

However, as mentioned, if that’s truly what you care about, you’d probably also campaign for the other solutions mentioned above, right?

From what I’ve seen, hunters like this either don’t exist, or are freaking unicorns.

The vast majority of hunters use terms like conservation and overpopulation control in order to justify whatever reason they want to kill animals. To feel powerful, to get a surge of adrenaline taking an animal’s life, “it’s natural”, whatever.

End of the day, they want to go kill an animal.

Some point to hunting being a cultural bonding event between father and son, go camping or a million other things you can bond over where animals don’t have to be murdered.

So how do vegans feel about hunting for meat?

That was the original question. I don’t speak for everyone, but my perspective, it’s better than buying factory farmed meat if you’re actually eating it, but it’s still wrong.

If you’d like to discuss this further, rationally, please do so in a comment below.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

2 comments

  • Hi, I am fairly new to veganism. I am trying to totally convert but I have a hard time with the topic of hunting. I believe if you hunt you should eat it. I feel it can’t be just sport alone, that is wrong! There are regulations on hunting and there should be more. I feel if you hunt you should eat it yourself or feed it to a hungry family, but then again we don’t need meat everyday. I also feel if you have killed a deer you should make it last. So, usually there are 2 seasons a year. So, for a small family a deer should last 6 mos., only eat meat once a week. I feel the same about fishing, eat what you catch! I no longer buy meat at the grocery store. I do buy eggs that are certified humane. I also have a friend who has hens that lay eggs and if she was near I would get them from her. I eat eggs maybe once a week but will never just buy any egg. I have seen many documentaries on plant based diets and the cruelty of animal farming. What they do to animals is disgusting and more people need to watch these. I’m not sure if totally saying no to meat if I know where it came from re: my son likes to hunt, he hasn’t had time to do so……but if he did and he killed a deer I would eat it, if he went fishing and brought home fish I would eat it. Many years ago humans hunted for meat and vegetables/plants. I hope I am making myself clear and heading in the right direction. I also started ordering from Misfits Market because too much food is thrown away because it’s imperfect. Thanks for reading my point of view. More life & less waste.

  • Just wanted to thank you for this write up. Vegetarian here, still fighting the temptations holding me back from full veganism :/.

    Anyway, game me some food for thought…insensitive pun not intended, lol. I’ve typically been in support of hunting, but I can’t say I love it or understand the desire to kill an animal. This gave me some more aspects to consider on the topic and discussion points when talking about it with others.

    Ultimately though, I think I see it as a lesser of two evils, as you more or less said. I would LOVE to just wake up tomorrow to learn everyone decided to go vegan (without the negative side affects of dealing with huge factory farm animal populations and the economic difficulties of massive job losses), but that just isn’t going to happen. So, if people are going to eat meat, I’d much rather see it come from hunting than factory farms. And having grown up and spent most of my life in a very rural area, I’ve known of low income families who hunt to help feed their families.

    Of course hunting for sport is 110% wrong.