By Aaron Farley:

How can you live with yourself, MURDERER?!” She screamed from the crowd as she waved a sign that said something so clever and impactful, I can’t remember it.

I was only ten or twelve, but I remember watching the news with my grandpa that night. There was a story about some people standing outside of a store protesting their sale of fur. That news story was the first I’d ever heard of someone who thought the death of an animal was immoral, wrong, and murder. At the time, I did not have a stance on animal rights or understand the connection between a woman’s coat and a bucket of red paint.

In the years since, I have seen versions of this issue come up a lot. The paint drenched fur coat is not as common anymore. Today, it is more often an accusation against a meat eater, or hunter. Maybe it’s because I am looking for it, or maybe it’s because it is a real issue in our culture, but these conversations seem to cross my path more often than I would like. Below, I have outlined a few things that are helpful when entering into the fray with people who consider us hunters to be murderers.

Remember, it’s hard to rationalize with emotional people.

And that’s okay. It is easy to approach these discussions like a fight instead of a conversation. While there is definitely an element of arguing involved, it helps to address the felt need before the facts. Most of the time the person has little or no exposure to the ethical, caring, responsible, and honorable way we live the hunting lifestyle. Hunters have the same type of embarrassing spokesmen as PETA, or any other movement. Perhaps they have been misinformed.

I try to disarm the potentially explosive argument by agreeing with them first. Admitting that there are some idiot hunters out there, who I also dislike, seems to bring the emotional level way down. We can both agree that poaching, unethical killing, wanton waste, and other abuses of hunting are wrong. From there, it is much easier to explain the ethics of taking responsibility for our own food. The idea of personal responsibility is likely also the foundation for their views of not killing their food. Now we have common ground on which to engage.

When someone uses the term “murderer” it’s typically an emotional appeal from their conscience. Killing in our culture is more often associated with criminals, mass murderers, diabolical evil, and terrorists than with food. The average news-watching, non-hunting/farming American can easily make that association. Many people assume that if a person kills, even for their food, they must enjoy it. If they enjoy killing animals, they are only a few degrees away from enjoying killing humans. Hunters must therefore be some level of murderer. This logic is lopsided and not carried to its end, but common.

What is the end of the logic?

By leading with the main point, we can keep from wasting a lot of time. Helping someone think through their stance can be rewarding. However, wasting 20 minutes talking to a brick wall is not. I like to make my point early enough to determine if I should just politely disagree and move on, or not. Most people have never stopped long enough to consider the end of their logic, and that’s usually a good place to begin.

If a person eats meat, but has problem with hunters, they have not carried their reasoning through. Both of us eat meat. Both of us require that meat to be killed in order to eat it. One of us chooses to allow an animal to enjoy its natural habitat and freedom until its life is ended quickly and responsibly. The other, pays dues to a system that pins, abuses, and wastes the animals’ life, freedom, and meat. Simple research on slaughterhouses and meat production process in the USA will usually lead to a more favorable perception of hunting. By following the logic through to the end, a hunting meat eater can be seen as the more responsible and ethical of the two.

If the person doesn’t eat meat, their logic may not be so easy to reconcile. Do they choose not to eat meat because of the killing? I like to point out that plants die immediately after harvesting. Perhaps it is okay to harvest from plants because they can continue to produce after harvest? The same is true of deer, which when allowed to grow to maturity will reproduce several times over before they are harvested. What if a person disagrees with eating meat because deer (for example) feel the pain of death? When someone objects to the cruelty and suffering of the animal, they are not considering the natural order of predation.

Suppose that person could actually stop all humans from eating meat. Would that person have stopped the killing? No. The animal’s natural predators in the wild will continue to kill for food. And don’t forget, the deer who is killed by a pack of coyotes will die a much crueler, more painful, slower death than the one that dies at the weapon of a hunter. Wolves are even known to kill, and not even eat the animal. What should we do to prevent all the deer’s natural predators from killing the deer? Humans are, by far, the more honorable and responsible predators.

Honey will always attract more flies than vegan toast.

The goal is not to burn someone with a rock solid argument. That kind of interaction only furthers the tension. The hunting world does not need any more piffy clichés or sarcastic e-cards to save the day. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m so glad I heard that guy spouting off at the mouth with that condescending attitude. It really changed my life and made me re-consider my foolish ways!”  What we really need are some well thought people who are actually concerned about making a difference, instead of dealing low blows.

The best thing we can do is to speak with intelligence, share our passion, and invite others in. If we take a stand, lock shields, and hold the fort, we will never win any battles. Compelling words that are kindly spoken from someone who cares can still accomplish great things.

Aaron Farley –

How do you handle situations such as these? Please share in the comments!