26. What About Wild Game?

I have explained in previous posts why factory farming of livestock to provide copious “cheap” meat is both unsustainable and incompatible with feeding the world.  But the question might be asked whether hunting wild game could fill the gap.

I believe the answer is both No and Partly Yes.

No:  when people think of hunting they think of going out into the woods with a gun or bow and hunting traditional prey animals like deer and ducks, or taking rod and reel to go fishing.  But between habitat loss and overhunting, many once-plentiful game species are no longer plentiful, while the human population is vastly larger now than in the Stone Age when hunting really could supply much of some clans’ food needs.  Even deer, which due to suppression of wolves and coyotes are actually overpopulated in some places, could not begin to supply the shortfall of meat that will result from ending the factory farming of livestock.

On the other hand, there are some highly edible animal species that are actually becoming pests, and whose numbers really need to be reduced solely from the ecological perspective.  Besides deer in certain situations, there are feral swine all over the US southwest that are doing serious ecological and agricultural damage;  invasive Asian carp swarm throughout the Mississippi basin and threaten the Great Lakes;  Canada geese infest (and grossly defecate in) urban parks all over the US;  rabbits in Australia come to mind.  Each of these species is particularly noted for being good eating (if you eat animals at all).  So one modest suggestion would be that public policy should encourage those folks who want to hunt and fish anyway to go after these invasive overpopulated species.  In some cases, such as Asian carp and wild swine, such hunting/ fishing might even be commercially viable.

There are certainly concerns that must be addressed.  Deer and Canada geese are a problem when found near human habitation, so there are considerations of how to humanely hunt these creatures without endangering either people or non-target animals (including but not limited to pets);  hunting might have to be limited to certain well-publicized places and times when non-hunters would be warned to stay away from an area.  Some of these creatures, like swine and carp, can be quite dangerous, though this would probably be an attraction rather than a deterrent for some people;  the public policy concern in this case would be to prevent hunters/ fishers or their heirs from suing any government entity if they got hurt doing a government-sponsored activity.  Neither poison nor traps could be used to control edible pest animals, since both these methods might kill non-targeted creatures, both can be extremely cruel, and poison would render the meat of targeted animals inedible.  So orchestrated hunting of pest species for food would require considerable public discussion before it could be implemented.

Inevitably, part of that discussion would include the opinions of a significant fraction of the population who feel passionately that no hunting or fishing can ever be humane, that killing fellow-creatures for food is wrong, and that everyone should just go vegetarian or vegan.  Since I myself have not eaten any meat in the past 16 years at this writing, I would be the last person to suggest that eating meat is something people ought to do.  But I do recognize that there are still many people who want to hunt and eat meat by preference, and people for whom hunting and fishing are recreations they would not willingly give up. As long as this remains the case, why not put the people who want to hunt and eat meat together with the need to decrease the populations of certain tasty and nutritious animals?  I’m not a fan of Wild Boar Barbecue myself, but some folks would be, and something really needs to be done about those feral swine.

I do not believe that even the prolific Asian carp, rabbits in Australia, and so on would provide the volume of meat currently available in American supermarkets. But they could provide some significant amounts.  And this might as well be added in to the strategies for feeding the world.

Louise “Gentle Bee” Quigley

 

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