5 Ways Hunting Is Actually Environmentally Friendly

Slow down. Before you call PETA to request they send a hitman, hear me out. A majority of people eat meat, so why is farming a better source of meat than hunting? Turns out it’s not, at least in terms of their respective “green” scores. When done for sustenance and not just for sport, hunting can actually be an environmentally friendly activity.

Let’s be clear – this statement only applies if you are following a specific set of guidelines. You are consuming or using every part of the animal you kill, to the best of your ability, and are not just killing for the sake of killing. The population of animals you are hunting is one that actually requires control, and that control is professionally and/or properly managed. You are also making every effort to ensure the animal is killed humanely and that the weapon you use to do so is efficient.

Think Jake from Avatar, not Uncle Jimbo from South Park.

With all that in mind, consider that hunting has been part of the human story for countless generations. It is an ancient source of nourishment, connecting us to our wilder selves, and to nature. It might be surprising, but here are 5 ways hunting is actually environmentally friendly.

1. It Maintains and Controls Animal Populations

In the US at least, hunting is a highly regulated activity. Laws are in place at local, state, and federal levels that keep numbers of prey animals in check. These efforts help us do things like cut down on deer-car collisions and protect our agricultural products from grazing wildlife, helping us co-exist. At the same time, the overall health of the species is also protected in most places because of conservation laws limiting which animals can be hunted, when and where you can pursue them, and how many you are allowed to take.

The process has and will always need constant management, so animal populations that are popular with hunters may have a leg up, since they will be more vigilantly monitored for conservation as well as for the sake of preserving the sport.

2. It Bypasses Livestock Farming Practices

Entire books have been written about the environmental debacle of large-scale livestock farming. Let’s just cover the basics. We use 30% of the land on Earth to grow vegetables used to feed livestock like cattle, chicken, and pigs. We only use 10% to feed ourselves directly. We also use one third of the Earth’s fresh water hydrating our farm animals. Not to mention that methane emissions from livestock farming, produced as a by-product of digestion, account for at least one-third of all agriculture-related greenhouse gases.

Just like any other mass-produced food, commercially farmed meat often goes to waste. Supermarkets, restaurants, and consumers alike purchase more than they need and end up throwing too much of it away. And unlike the habitats of animals in the wild, livestock farming has already required the destruction of millions of acres of carbon-absorbing forests worldwide, accounting for as much as 15% of global carbon emissions.

While smaller-scale and “backyard” farms are great alternatives to large-scale commercial sources of meat, hunting is also a viable option. Deer, elk, wild hog, duck, and rabbit are all good substitutes for traditional livestock.

3. No Added Ingredients

One of the best things about eating game meat is knowing that it tastes just how nature intended. And you might be surprised to learn that much of our commercially-raised livestock actually does have added ingredients.

Agricultural livestock animals are often given small doses of antibiotics. Not to stave off infection, as you might think, but to promote growth, an accidental side effect discovered in the 1940s. This is a problem because the practice leads to the emergence of antibiotic-resistance bacterial strains. Though the potential impact on human health hasn’t yet been quantified, the possibility of a future outbreak certainly exists.

US farmers often give livestock animals steroid hormones or synthetic equivalents to promote growth and metabolism of feed into meat. The FDA claims these chemicals are safe for human consumption, but studies have shown they are excreted in feces, where they can make their way into the water systems, causing endocrine disruption for fish and other wildlife, and possibly finding their way to us.

Unless you’re buying organic or grass-fed, the meat you purchase at the store was likely raised on GMO feed. Genetically modified animal feed is made from plants that either produce pesticides themselves or are bred to withstand heavy applications of nasty chemicals designed to kill bugs. Those chemicals aren’t being removed from the plants before they’re given to livestock. Instead, they’re collecting in the animals’ fat, which we then cook up and eat, exposing ourselves to substances that cause cancer, reproductive problems, and many other health issues.

As long as you aren’t hunting in an area with a known environmental contamination, you won’t have to worry if your game meat is full of nasty things whose names you can’t even spell. Nope, just pure, natural, chemical-free cuts of tasty goodness.

4. The Sport Keeps Itself Wild

Hunters are among the most active conservationists. It’s logical – in order to enjoy hunting as a sport, the land needs to stay wild. Without a well-preserved habitat, game species simply won’t thrive, and access to them will become limited.

People who purchase hunting gear also make a huge financial contribution to protection of hunting habitats. In 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Pittman-Robertson Act, allowing an 11% tax on firearms, ammunition, bows, and arrows. The piece of ingenious legislation has been a steady and unbroken source of conservation funding ever since, amassing over $18 billion total. The money is distributed yearly to states to spend how they choose – education, research, restoration, or however they see fit. The results, such as the resurgence of bighorn sheep populations in the southern Rockies, have been well worth it.

Fees paid for obtaining a hunting license or tag also assist in conservation efforts. States use the revenue to lease land for hunters to access, keeping it at least temporarily undeveloped. They also use it to run fish hatcheries, fight invasive species, keep wildlife populations healthy, and to offer special programs and education. In Colorado, the Parks & Wildlife Department estimates that 62% of its funds dedicated to wildlife efforts come from licensing fees, with all taxes and grants combined only contributing 34% (donations and direct sales made up the rest).

In short, hunting pays for itself. Hunters as a group give back more than they take by paying higher taxes and fees on products and services associated with hunting, and by promoting a use of the land that requires it stay just the way it is.

5. It Creates a Lifetime Appreciation of Nature

Learning to hunt with skill can give you a solid appreciation of both animal behavior and the rules of the wild. It teaches you respect of the land and the animal, of the cycle of life and death, of our dependence on other life forms for survival.

Hunting a deer is an all-day endeavor, at minimum. It just isn’t possible to spend that much time in nature and not connect deeply with it. Hunters learn to work with the land, instead of against it, to achieve their goals, and their enjoyment of their time outdoors leads to a naturalist passion that knows no bounds.

Are you a hunter? Has hunting brought you closer to nature? What other ways do you think hunting can be environmentally friendly?

The “Painted Stone” in Celestun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

On a recent visit to Merida, the capital city of the Yucatan State, we opted for a side trip to the Reserva de la Biosfera Ria Celestun (Celestun Biosphere Reserve).

This protected, coastal wetland reserve and wildlife refuge encompasses over 147,000 acres and showcases their hugh flocks of vibrant pink Caribbean Flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber).

The flamingo nesting area was one thing, but pink was not the only spectacular color on parade.

We were pleasantly surprised by the wide spectrum of other colors that Mother Nature has on display… more than justifying the name Celestun which means “painted stone” in the Yucatec Maya language.

The Drive to Celestun from Merida

The drive out of Merida was through small, congested villages with multiple speed bumps and the occasional “traffic” jam created by the residents and their assorted modes of transportation and a livestock trailer or two.

Once you get out of the city traffic and head southwest to the coastline you are driving on Route 281 which is a well-maintained two lane road that goes for 56 miles straight through the jungle… straight as an arrow… straight as a bowling alley with no intersections, or landmarks… just a hypnotic drive through millions of trees.

The ingenious people living along this strip of asphalt mark their homes/driveway by hanging painted tires from a tree to announce their location… such as… turn into the first driveway past the two red tires.

Arriving at the Celestun Biosphere Reserve

There are numerous options for touring Celestun and the famous flamingos. You can take an organized all day tour from Merida with transportation and lunch included, or drive yourself and make your own arrangements… dependence versus independence… as usual we opted for the latter.

The official reception area is well marked and set up for tour buses and car parking. We purchased our “cuota de recuperacion por servicios” (admission tickets) at the office and arranged for a boat. (This was about 175 pesos or less than $20 USD at the time.)

Tour Boat dock area
There was another couple scheduled for our tour but they did not show up so after five minutes we left the dock with our now private tour guide Francesco and a pleasant, smooth ride out into the vast lagoons and mangroves.

The flamingos were the main attraction but to our amazement the reserve proved to be an outstanding excursion into nature on dramatically colorful and calm waters throughout the shallow lagoons.

The tour boats keep a respectful distance from the birds as we glide past large flocks of more mature birds with deeper pink tints and smaller groups of young birds with various shades of white and pink colors.

As a flamingos go… you-are-what and where-you-eat.

These majestic, social birds live in groups consisting of a few pairs to thousands and they forage in these shallow lagoons for algae and small crustaceans, such as shrimp, which provide their vibrant colors.

Cruising through a Bird Sanctuary
There are over 300 different migratory and resident bird species nesting here; the largest mangrove area in the Gulf of Mexico… a bird watchers paradise!

Celestun biosphere reserve is also “home” to other critters such as jaguars, ocelot, crocodiles, iguanas, boa constrictors, and four different species of sea turtles… Hawksbill, Green, Loggerhead, and Leatherback, as well as assorted land turtles, to name a few.

Yes it IS a jungle out there!

The Painted Stone’s Water Features

Throughout the boat ride you are continually going from one color hue to another. The blending of saltwater and freshwater with the algae along the mangroves produces amazing pigments throughout the reserve.

Fresh Water from Underwater Aquifers
The water becomes crystal clear inside the mangroves and our tour boat captain skillfully worked our way through assorted tree tunnels and passageways up to a boardwalk area inside the canopy.

We were invited to jump in and swim in this tranquil natural pool setting but remembering the part about crocodiles during the over view and we opted to just take some pictures.

After the two hour tour we headed to the beach for a few cold beers and lunch… It was tough saying “wow, look at that!” and “isn’t that beautiful!” and “what colors!” for almost two hours.

The Beach Dining Options

We drove to the beach area and the recommended “La Palapa Restaurant”. The Yucatecan Cuisine menu was a seafood lover’s delight with all local and fresh ingredients such as shrimp, lobster, fish, blue claw crabs, stone crabs, conch, octopus, and crab cakes.

We dined on the beach and enjoyed Quesadillas De Camaron (tortillas stuffed with cheese and shrimp), followed by Los Filetes Al Mojo De Ajo (fish fillets in butter and garlic sauce) and finished off with Lopulpos Al Mojo De Ajo (grilled octopus in butter and garlic sauce)… and of course the requisite number of ice cold cerveza.

The eventful day was topped off by a delicious and memorable meal which made the drive back to Merida more pleasurable… still boring and hypnotic… but tolerable.

Summary

The Painted Stone provided us with vivid memories and we were awestruck by this abundant and beautiful environment which awaits the adventurous that step out of the tourist comfort zone and into exploring nature in its purest state.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired…

© 2017 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar