by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, MUCC
It’s important for us as hunters to talk about the health benefits of eating wild game. Surveys show that non-hunters are more likely to support hunting when they know it’s for food. Sometimes who’s listening is just as important as what we’re saying, though, and the growing concern about where our food comes from offers that opportunity.
I teach an Environmental Science course at Lansing Community College. The other day, one of my students gave a presentation about the effects of mass agriculture on the food we consume. She talked about the benefits of free-range and organic food and the detriments of some large poultry farms. After her presentation, the class was upset about the tight spaces they live in (even some labeled “free-range”), high levels of growth hormones and antibiotics injected into some of animals we consume.
The interesting thing to me was that we had been talking about the benefits of organic and local produce for the past couple weeks, as well as the benefits of hunting, yet I had not gotten a reaction like this until now.
Then it hit me: we have heard that pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, GMO’s, hormones and antibiotics are in our food, and that these are not good for us. It seems we have heard it so frequently without seeing an immediate impact that we simply carry on with our lives, living in known ignorance. Information is valuable, but when we are inundated with it, we seem to accept the facts and continue on as if we didn’t know.
I took the opportunity to discuss the meat resource I utilize: Local, organic, free range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free venison. The meat I consume comes from animals who had a great quality of life until the moment I pulled the trigger. Their lives then ended quickly and humanely with the shot I practiced many times before using a live target. I don’t worry about hormones or antibiotics in my meat. I know where it came from, and I know what it ate.
The students responded differently than they had to this same information they heard a few weeks ago. They now engaged, asked more questions, and seemed to see this as a viable and ethical option. Whereas before, hunting for meat seemed like a foreign concept and something out of reach and implausible for them to participate in.
While we need to continue talking about the meat that we get from the animals we hunt, we need to be open to when that message is going to be best received. There are a growing number of people who are concerned about what they eat and its quality of life prior to its demise. Be prepared to share why you hunt and the benefits to not only you and your family, but the animals we value and harvest from our own backyard. You never know when a great opportunity will present itself, so be ready!