Though I’ve never been a hunter, and haven’t fished in decades, I’ve often thought (and occasionally said) that those of us in the environmental movement should reach out to sportsmen and women more than we do. While some of us take issue with the act of hunting, and still others of us just don’t want to get up early on cold mornings, we do have a lot in common with hunters: native ecosystems with clean air and water are critical to their enjoyment of their chosen sports. Many of the organizations to which hunters and fishers belong serve largely – even primarily – as conservation groups.
The environmental ethics of sportspeople goes beyond the desire for clean, healthy landscapes for hunting and fishing, though: many who participate in these activities also promote a “zero-waste” approach to their sports. Many take an “eat what you kill” approach, but, as I discovered at Aljazeera America this week, others go beyond just stocking the freezer and donate portions, or all, of their kills to food pantries, churches, homeless shelters, and other organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry.
Writer Regina Schrambling explores the “supply chain” of donated venison in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. Hunters, of course, make the kill, and then take it to a processor that supports, and even promotes, the contribution of meat. The state, as well as in-state business interests, contribute to pay for processing so hunters and butchers have even more incentive to participate. From their, the meat goes to distributors that ensure this fresh – and, yes, local – protein source makes it to tables where the less fortunate gather to eat.
Opportunities for hunters to donate aren’t limited to the Keystone State – most states have a program similar to Hunters Sharing the Harvest. Here in Missouri, for instance, Share the Harvest is run by the state’s Department of Conservation, and offers some cost support for processing. This results in pretty impressive numbers: according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, hunters donated 11 million meals in 2010 (the last year for which numbers are available):
I’m thinking there’s very little here for a greenie not to love. Hunted meat certainly falls within the concept of “local food” in most cases, and with minimal processing and no CAFOs or other heavily polluting centers for raising deer, the environmental impact is pretty low compared to more traditional meat.
So, what do you think? Should we do more to promote hunted meat as “local food?” Highlight these kinds of donation efforts more? Encourage people to get up early on cold mornings during deer season? Share your thoughts…