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90 responses to “The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill”

  1. Barbara Christensen

    Well said, Sir. Well said.

  2. Kevin

    You say it best Hank, there is no guilt-free food. It’s a difficult notion for many to wrap their minds around, including those who are entrenched in particular ‘food lifestyles’ that they feel frees them from this burden.

  3. Will

    Hank, again and again, you capture many of the feelings we hunters have and put them to words with exacting prose. I have similar feelings when I am in the woods hunting one animal and reveling in the mischief of all the others that are not my quarry that day. Lately I have been entertained by, and willing to let the wild rabbit that has been frequenting my yard have a go at the fading garden, however, when I encounter his kin in the field come late November, my mind will be set to a very different purpose.

  4. Steve

    What you write about is there for all to see, but only seen by those that take the time to go outside to see. Like the frog at the bottom of the well,what we perceive is determined by where we are.

    Thank you for going out and sharing.

  5. Jan's Sushi Bar

    This is absolutely beautiful.

  6. Christopher

    Bravo! Every moment in the woods is a reminder that I am a part of nature, never separate. When I interact with the wildlife I sometimes hunt, I feel a connection that non-hunters will never feel. Well said, Hank…

  7. Nic Heckett

    As a gardener I also love that which I kill. I maintain an expanse of moss, from which I daily pluck all small seedlings. Each blade or pair of leaves is a perfection. Why should the moss grow free of weeds? Because it pleases me to make it so. Moss calms me, and the weeding becomes a meditation. My pigs also please me greatly. I enjoy seeing them free in their natural mountain woodlands, and I also love the taste of their aged hams. There is a genetic memory triggered by this meat. I do love them, and am proud of our joint evolutionary heritage – pigs, dogs, and humans sharing protection of the fire together, 3 species in harmony against the wild. The cows came later, the goats and sheep herded in the wild. Pigs, and dogs, came to the campsite of their own will – as they did in New Guinea, following the humans. They made an ancient compact with humanity, we feed them, and do our best to keep them from their natural and violent fate, in return they give us their young, save the breeding population that ensures genetic success. This compact did not include the modern practice of incarceration that breaks our end of the bargain. I doubt the ancient swine would appreciate the CAFO and the gestation crate.

  8. Andy

    The cultural forces that condemn hunting condone timidity–to live we must kill.

  9. Alan

    This was thoroughly enjoyable. Keep up the good work.

  10. Dan Solberg

    A super amazing read as I head out to butcher and process my own farmed rabbits…at more peace than usual – no doubt this calmer inner-self translates to a calmer rabbit and a calmer more peaceful death…Thanks Hank

  11. Rachel Hoff

    I don’t hunt but my husband does. I do, however, help slaughter and butcher the animals we raise for food. I love them deeply and I do find it upsetting to slaughter them but realize that they are feeding my family and giving us life. Most people don’t understand how we can do this so I thank you for putting into words that which I haven’t been able to truly explain.

  12. Dawn | KitchenTravels

    Hank, I so enjoy your writing. Whether one is an omnivore or a staunch vegan, I agree it is absolutely true that to live on this planet, something must die. I wish more people would focus on the methods of how we cultivate and kill/harvest our food – especially in the commercial realm – to ensure we are caring for Nature in the long run.

  13. joyofcooking

    Beautifully and well said.

  14. George

    Hear, hear!!! That’s all I have to say about that…

  15. janetpesaturo

    Hello, Hank. Very nice essay. I am an omnivore, but perhaps you unfairly diminish those who strive to avoid killing animals. Just a tad? Sure, some people who object to killing animals for food are ignorant of our inextricable connection to the web of life on Earth, but many realize that something else must die even if they eat only plants. These people simply strive to minimize killing and suffering. Whether they succeed or not, I won’t judge. I don’t see their side as “ignorance”, but as a different way to cope with the anxiety which arises from the conflict between in our ability to love animals and our need/desire to eat them. That conflict should be celebrated, not dismissed, because within it lies compassion for other living organisms. And the latter is just as necessary for the future of humanity as is our food. Because without compassion to temper greed, we lose species.

  16. Alma

    Beautiful and honest. You describe what other hunters feel but can’t explain. Keep writing.

  17. Ted

    Wow! Beautiful writing,expressing elusive feelings and subtle realizations…. and references to Alfred Tennyson and the Acts of the Apostles too!

  18. Sylvia

    I understand vegans who oppose hunting for meat. That makes sense. If you’re against killing all vertebrate animals, then all vertebrate animals shouldn’t be killed. It’s a view I don’t share, but it’s one I can see in abstract.

    I also understand people who are opposed to sport hunting, because it does seem like an ecologically useless activity to be killing bears or wolves just to have a trophy. Where does it fit into the food web? It’s entertaining, sure, but it doesn’t seem practical or necessary the way hunting for meat is. It’s also more ecologically fragile – predators have smaller populations, so the careful management of their numbers is more important, especially for the long-term genetic health of their populations. The modern American ecosystem (on the mainland, I don’t know about Alaska) is practically begging for human hunters to fill the place that wolves once did – but the last thing it needs is for its few remaining natural predators to have even smaller populations.

    What I don’t understand at all though… is people who eat burgers, who hate all hunting. That makes no sense at all to me. Personally, I don’t think that people who are grossed out or frightened by the idea of hunting and butchering wild game and poultry and fish, deserve to eat those animals. It seems like a huge act of denial to see nothing wrong with eating grocery store meat but to see food hunting as wrong.

  19. Sara Thompson

    My husband doesn’t understand when I say that I want to learn to butcher rabbits on my own. Rabbits because we have a rabbit farm nearby that will help/teach you to butcher and because I feel like if I can’t take the life of an animal with my own hands to provide food for myself then I shouldn’t be eating meat. I feel it’s unfair to ask an animal to die to feed me when I keep myself isolated from that death. We’ve raised animals to have someone else butcher but I’ve never done it myself. I do have you to thank for this realization and desire to expand my horizons.

  20. Matt Ames

    You should have killed those rabbits in your camp. Just saying.

  21. The gold digger

    I have to agree with Matt: The only good rabbit is a dead rabbit.


    A gardener who is sick and darn tired of her flowers being eaten.

    PS That goes for squirrels, too.

  22. Stan Perry

    I am constantly amazed by the fact that a great many people believe that the meat they eat grows in neat little Styrofoam containers. Hunting provides a real connection between the food on our plate and the reality of it’s source.

  23. Bruce

    I often think about this, always have, and I have discussions with other likeminded people about it. We hunt, we fish, we kill; dealing death definitely is the business of life. We love what we do but never lose sight of the certainty that for the sake of future life we ourselves are born to eventually die, like everything that lives. The minute we get to understand that certainty, and not fear it, we become whole. This was very well written, a joy to read – thank you.

  24. AlaskaRosalie

    My daughters asked me why I was crying as I cracked and cleaned crab. It is hard, I told them. I feel sad for the crab. But I also remember that if I fell into the water, they would eat me. And they wouldn’t feel sad about it, anyway.

  25. Rua Lupa

    Really well said. One of the best explanations I’ve ever come across. I’ll be glad to share its message. Thank you.

  26. Tina Street

    You beautifully describe the sense of mindfulness one feels when your plate holds food from sources you know and love, be they garden, farm, or field, raised, wild sourced, or hunted. The paradox is no different if you hunt or fish, or raise the lambs or rabbits you slaughter and eat. Or if you pick it up from the meat counter, I suppose. But the mindfulness seems so much easier, and the gratitude so much fuller if you have been the direct cause of that animal’s appearance on your plate, if you have touched every part of the process that brings it there with a sense of joy and anticipation. And gratitude, always gratitude. For the abundance of nature. And for life.

  27. John

    Great essay. Thought provoking! You are my hero Hank!

  28. Mel Earwood

    You can’t go wrong when you start with Walt. Beautifully said.

  29. David Duffield

    Makes me remember many days afield. I enjoy the hunt, dislike the kill, and love the eats.

  30. Pete

    Hunting brings an interaction with nature that I don’t believe is possible to have unless one hunts. You cease being an observer of nature, and become a participant. It’s an amazing, and humbling, feeling.

    I especially like the line “Dealing death is the business of life.” I always enjoy your essays, they’re partly responsible for me getting into hunting. Keep it up.

  31. Amanda

    I don’t think your stance is hypocritical at all. I think it’s thoughtful, and with thought comes gray area.

    It takes guts to hunt; I only hope that most (I can’t hope for all) hunters ponder this issue the way you do. If hunting and family farms were entirely responsible for our meat supply, then I would feel a lot less horrible about so many people eating so much meat.

    As it stands, though, there is no virtually no appreciation for the circle of life in our current food system which is reflected in the sheer quantity of meat consumed. With Old Ways food systems, that much meat consumption would be impossible.

    Thanks for your thoughts and wonderful writing.

  32. The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill | Hunter Angler Gardener Cook | Play Outdoors

    […] The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill | Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. […]

  33. Ann

    Truly wonderful article!!

  34. Pan Wilson

    I am surprised to see comments about killing out of hate or disgust among this list.
    I truly appreciate your insights and agree totally with the opinion that our attitude toward death, especially our own, is at fault here. My wife and I do kill and slaughter our own fowl and rabbits and never do so without some tension and feelings of guilt and concern over the realization that we are bring to an end the life experiences of another being.
    How can folks presume to be free of conscience by buying meat under cellophane from today’s production factories? We have decided to face this fact and at least know the health and life conditions of what we eat.
    Well written and appreciated. Thanks.

  35. Kitty Sharkey

    Beautifully written. As an urban homesteader who raises meat animals, I am often asked how I can kill and eat an animal that I raised from a babe, loved, nourished, held in my arms, and delighted in it’s playful antics. It’s hard to explain, but when you raise (or hunt) your own meat or raise your own fruits and vegetables there is a much deeper connection and appreciation for the food on your plate. I am connected to the circle of life and participate in both the giving and the taking. There isn’t joy in the act of killing, but rather necessity. I agree completely with the comment from Tina Street above.

    “But the mindfulness seems so much easier, and the gratitude so much fuller if you have been the direct cause of that animal’s appearance on your plate, if you have touched every part of the process that brings it there with a sense of joy and anticipation. And gratitude, always gratitude. For the abundance of nature. And for life.”

  36. Gary Dillon

    It sure is nice to read about someone else who shares my hunting ethics.
    Many times in the past I have had to try to explain why I hunt and never came close to explaining it as well as you.
    I grew up in a small farming community where hunting was the norm. Although I was a basically a city kid, I lived at the edge of town near woods and the river. Being in the outdoors was ingrained in my being and communing with nature was a daily occurance. Taking a gun to the field was hunting, but the act of harvesting an animal was not necessarily the goal. I knew areas where I was almost guaranteed to get any animal I wanted for dinner. So a lot of hunting was for new unexplored areas, saving the honey spots for when I couldn’t find dinner elsewhere. Or just a reason to be out in the woods or field. As you say, to sucessfuly hunt an animal you need to know it. And once you know it, you begin to appreciate it and it’s place in the eco-system. The act of killing was one of choice, and not something done haphazardly. Waiting for the perfect kill shot and not wounding an animal became second nature. I couldn’t count the number of times that I have let game go at the last moment just because I didn’t feel like shooting. Watching nature is as fun as harvesting. I believe there is a special bond between hunter and prey that no non-hunter an understand.

  37. Chelsea

    My father has always hunted. Growing up in a fancy suburb, this was not a part of the normal culture, so I asked him why he liked to kill the poor, cute animals. He replied that it was a reason to spend time in nature and was enjoyable no matter what. If you ended up killing the creature you were after, it was an added bonus. Eating a wild turkey was no sadder than eating turkey from the grocery store; in fact it was less sad because that turkey got to spend its days in the forest doing turkey things, instead of living in a crate unable to even flap its wings. This made sense to me, and in first grade, I brought half a quail wrapped in aluminum foil for lunch. The other kids called me “bird murderer” and teased me relentlessly, despite the fact that they were guzzling cafeteria hot dogs made of god-knows-what.

    I would think of the quail often in my teens and early 20s when trying to explain to people why I was vegan (because it is easier to consume no animal products at all than to snobbishly refuse to eat factory-farmed meat and dairy) but even a vegan diet causes suffering; from the underpaid migrant worker harvesting your lettuce, to the animals displaced by deforestation to make way for more soybean farms. It is very difficult to eat ethically today. Strangely, hunting your own meat might make for the most ethical choice for protein consumption, as it seems that an animal you’ve killed and butchered yourself will have significance to you and will be savored instead of thoughtlessly consumed for every meal like the endless supply of ready-to-eat animal parts on styrofoam trays at the grocery store.

  38. Dizzysailor

    Never knew you could eat a Jack. That in it’s self is a world of of information. Your expression of your feeling do add something.

  39. Kirsten

    This was beautifully written and a pleasure to read. I do not hunt, but I can understand your feelings that morning at your campsite.
    Thank you.

  40. James Millensifer

    Unlike most, we truly know where our food comes from. Best wishes Hank! See you in November!

  41. Christian Mrosko

    I sure tuned into that one Hank. Well done…

  42. Howard Foye Yeager Jr

    Excellent piece!! Your writing reminds me a bit of the late Gene Hill! Without exception, every vegan I’ve ever encountered has been multiple generations removed from anyone who lived an agrarian life. There seems to be a complete disconnect between them and the whole life death/prey predator natural world. My teeth are not the teeth of a cow! Nor are they the teeth of a wolf! Rather, they are a combination of both. And considering that unalterable fact, I will be true to my omnivorous nature!

  43. Galen L. Geer

    Well written. After the holidays perhaps we can discuss additional publication? glg

  44. Marcia Luick

    That was a lovely commentary. It moved me to tears. I expect no caring person could not contemplate this issue. Yes, being a vegetarian is the best some can do to resolve this but for those of us who are not we must and should respect and love our animals.

  45. Chambre Beauvais

    Mr. Shaw-
    This is my first reading of your blog, how beautiful. It reminded me of a demonstration I did several years ago at a Montessori school about food and where it comes from and the decisions we make consciously or not. In trying to relate to several age groups I used the wheel of life analogy explaining that in life and death we all go around the wheel. Sometimes we are predator and sometimes we are the prey. I explained further that most of our lives we are the predator whether we are eating meat or vegetables, and that we should say a prayer of thanks to the carrot as well as to the hare, buck or cow. To further make the point I ended with the idea that even the lowly earthworm has its time as our predator. A silence settled over the kids and I was feeling quite proud until one little boy went running out of the room screaming “I don’t want to be eaten by worms”.

  46. Sheila

    I truly appreciate the life you live.I’m in the southern California area and would like to know of person(s) or group that’s on a quest like yourself. My family and I are interested in hunting, and fishing. We do gardening, but would love to meet people who maybe friends of your who lives in the LA area.


  47. Reflections on harvest, abundance, gathering in and appreciating.

    […] disparate and mindful friends offer provocative reflections on all kinds of things: random jackrabbits passing by a campsite, butchering of animals, eating of meat or opting not to, rants against excess, followed by […]

  48. Tony Jimenez

    Very nice. Poetic

  49. Rachel in Oregon

    Thanks Hank. Perfect.

  50. Marisa

    I don’t hunt, but I do care a lot about where my food comes from and how it lived. I love your writing, and I am beyond excited to attend the book tour event at Hinterland in Milwaukee in October. Thanks for this post.

  51. Jeremy

    Man, I found your blog today. I love your topics and your writing style. Keep it up.

  52. Lands with a thump… » The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill | Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
  53. Kaia

    Hi Hank. Came across your blog today via a Facebook mention of your new book. What great writing & topics. I did not expect to find such solace for my recently missing pet kitty, who I can easily guess got eaten by the coyotes when he was out too late the other night.

    We’d had him for 8 years, and to lose him so unexpectedly has me on the edge of tears as I think how he will be missed.

    But you nailed it. Our culture gives is so little experience of death, though none of can escape it. It’s part of life as you say.

    Anyhow, thanks for the lovely reflection on death & the greater context.

    And I look forward to the duck book too! Maybe someday I’ll become a hunter too.

  54. Kevin

    Beautiful, profound, and ultimately a fantastic summation of what it is to be human AND part of the ongoing cycle of life on this planet. Plus, the Whitman quote is gold. Thank you.

  55. Ryan Jacque

    If I could only tell stories as well as what I try to say in a drawing, I’d write a longer ‘thank you’ for this story (by Hank). This was the nicest way of saying what I’ve privately thought all my life

  56. Sel Sel

    A very interesting and honest read Hank.

    ‘For something to live, something else must die’ is a poetic sentiment. And in fact, the whole of this article is a romantic sentiment of the game played by predator and prey.

    I now feel almost guilty saying: ‘For me to live, a potato must die.’

    That is not to say that vegetarians cause no suffering whatsoever. We do (the dairy industry is revolting). No ones hands are totally clean. But still, a lesser degree of suffering would be caused by simply replacing the meat part with a meat-substitute.

    The idea that something *must* die for something else to feed is romantic; forcing an archaic notion onto the world where it is no longer relevant.

    It is not being a ‘realist’ to say that life must kill life to survive. If it is used as a justifier for the leisurely pursuit of killing, all the worse. It is romance. It should be left in the domain of literature and art. Unnecessary death should have no place in our (supposedly) enlightened age. We can do better, and we can be benefactors of this Earth. We are a damn fine species – but an underachieving one (see factory farming).

    ‘It isn’t death I am seeking, but death is the price I must pay for what I seek’

    Maybe not forever *winds up jackrabbit cyborg made out of potatoes and releases it into the wilds…*


  57. Jeffrey

    Very good essay, well said.

    I shot my very first jack-rabbit five days ago and my first cottontail. The jack rabbit was very hard – I had wounded it just enough for me to be able to chase it down and grab it. Then I had to figure out how to deal the final blow. I had no club, only a knife and my 12 gauge shotgun and a lot of sagebrush. Wild-eyed the hare made a high-pitched desperate scream which was unsettling to say the least. I held on tight as it struggled and kicked. I felt bad for it. I tried to comfort it as much as possible. Regret passed through my mind. I thought No, I am a hunter, a predator, the top predator and this animal who ran out in front of me was prey. This is nature. At least I had feelings for this animal and tried to be as compassionate as possible. I love wildlife. Hunting has given me more understanding and respect for the creatures I pursue than I ever thought I would have. I killed the rabbit as humanely as I could, but I couldn’t watch, I had to close my eyes. After it was said and done I skinned it and gutted it -all the while marveling in its beauty and the wildness of its environment, feeling alive and thankful for the fact that I was a part of the Natural Cycle.

  58. Jason H

    I’m an Englishman and cook who has just stumbled across your wonderful blog. The cook in me can empathise with a lot of this. I passionately believe hunters and cooks are far more powerful advocates of animal welfare than 90% of the populous who are happy buying shrink wrapped chemical laden rubbish from supermarkets and who don’t want to accept the consequence of their convenient low priced gorging. The piece you write about the look in the eyes in hard to read and really does make me look inside myself, its beautifully written. The reality is in our world that the animals you kill have had a better life and certainly a better death than 99% of all meat that ends up in supermarkets and will as such taste better as well. Humane hunting for food is I believe the most true connections to our life on this earth we have. Thanks for the post.

  59. Brent S

    Hank, excellent piece. I think also, the hunter, more than ever feels the responsibility that a species must not only survive but thrive, so that the cycle continues for future generations. No hunter is on a mission to wipe out a species most spend spare time and money to improve habitat and prevalence of the species.

    I found your blog after watching the episode of meat eater in which you hunted with Steve and have been using your recipes and I just want to thank you for them. I used to just use my venison to make chili or taco meat (not the loins of course).

    I thank you for your well thought out description of what hunting is and hopefully can be better understood by those who oppose it.

  60. Angela

    Beautiful!! Thank you for an eloquent expression of the deep heart of one who sees into the nature of things unflinchingly as they are. I do not hunt, but my spouse does. And, we both grieve and feel such tremendous gratitude at every meal. We believe that we live more honestly this way–the majestic stag that wandered the forest floors free gives over its life, and we take in its nature when we take the time and the trouble (and, it really is no trouble at all) to respect and enjoy to the fullest the magnificent gift that was given us. Thanks so much for your beautiful perspective. It articulated precisely the extraordinary reverence that comes with so ancient a human experience.

  61. Friday Morning Mashup 2/7/14 ‹ Wired To Hunt

    […] The Hunter’s Paradox: Loving What You Kill – Hunt Angler Gardener Cook: An incredible article that I just recently ran across while I was working on writing about the same topic. Hank Shaw very eloquently explores this enigmatic topic that lives in the minds of many hunters. […]

  62. Kendra

    Loving the acknowledgement of the respect most hunters have for the animals they hunt. I think many people, especially city dwellers who only hear of ‘barbarian rednecks’ (referring to stereotypes, not actual people, I don’t mean to offend) don’t know about and especially don’t understand this. Maybe reading your blog (which is written beautifully by the way) may change a few minds.

  63. Andrew Venables

    A profound and thought provoking essay encapsulating thoughts I have had and feelings I have been unable to properly express on my own hunting journey.

    I write this from the UK where urban “values” increasingly make hunters themselves an endangered species, constantly fearing public censure based on purely sentimental argument fed by misinformation on the subject.

    Thank you. I have saved it, will print it out and disseminate wherever possible to educate, inform and spread the words, so eloquently provided.

  64. John Sadowski

    This article is amazing. Many times I have stumbled to try to explain that I love to hunt but I don’t “enjoy” killing. Your words are perfect. Thank you.

  65. Nate

    Nicely stated. I’ve felt this way as well out in the field and I agree that it’s a difficult thing to explain to those that haven’t experienced it.

    Being a hunter means having a front-seat view into the fact that we are all part of a cycle that has been going on for millions of years and will continue long after our lives (and maybe even our species) is gone.

    It’s sad to me that so many people today equate hunting with dominance over nature and bloodlust. While most of us that practice the art feel exactly the opposite—we hold habitats and quarry in high esteem and respect, and would do anything to protect our game’s continued overall livelihoods.

    Couple this disconnect with a continuing culture of glorification of human-human violence, desire for instant gratification, and endless gluttony for the “luxuries” of life and it all amounts to a hypocrisy I will never understand in our modern society.

  66. Anne Hansen

    I enjoy reading your work and this is your best yet! Thank you.

  67. Mike Garland

    I agree with much of the detail and sentiment you shared in your essay. I have the utmost respect for all I hunt, and do not hunt anything I don’t enjoy eating not merely tolerate. I also enjoy the year round interaction wildlife whether it be for scouting purposes or purely for enjoyment.

    My only additional point to add relates to your thought of people knowing animals as Disney characitures. The anthromorphism of animals by the likes of Disney tries to make them relatable and human. This very act strips away what makes the animals in fact animals. Further, by humanizing animals it prevents a person from learning and appreciating the beauty of the animal and its unique life. I shake my head watching the narrarated wildlife program describing the thought process of the female animal with young as if it were a human mother; more accurately a skilled loving human mother, plenty of humans lack the skills of some animals. The reality is that the mother animal is working on instinct and thoughts that are much different from a human. The weasel for example, might use instinct to evaluate her fat layer and available food sources and know that she must kill and eat a portion of her litter to insure the survival of the remaining young. This is a neccesity for the species survival as well as the family unit, but would not make a warm and fuzzy Disney or Discovery segment. Likewise, hunting is not a camera friendly event for the larger public but serves as a management tool if used responsibly.

    Those are my thoughts. Keep up the good work Hank.

  68. Tim Sopuck

    Well stated! My only comment is that I have always had these conflicting emotions about hunting but could not, until recently, talk about them in polite company!

    For those who don’t hunt, one of our dirty little secrets is just how much time we spend waiting for something to happen. Enforced contemplation in nature: that’s my mental health spa and spiritual retreat. Maybe my church. If I am lucky, there’s some honest food on the table, too. I guess the secret is out!

  69. Hank Blackstock

    Well put as it captures my feelings exactly. I feel a spiritual connection to nature and the creator I believe in as a Deist when I am in the field.

  70. Aram

    Hi Hank,

    Interesting and thoughtful perspective. I myself do not eat meat and do my best to avoid any sort of animal products whatsoever from dairy to leather etc. My reasons are strictly moral and nothing else.

    My question for you, and something you should also consider, and I say this respectfully and politely in the spirit of sharing ideas and perspectives, is as follows:

    I understand the whole natural “circle of life” sort of thing and why nature works the way it does. I also understand how nutrition and diets work as well as the evolution of all a kanal and their lifestyles and in our case civilization which adapts and grows based on the situation. What I mean by that is I get the whole ancient need for hunting and eating meat as a means to survive and defend ourselves.

    But the reality is that there is no single evidence anywhere that points that eating meat is any way even close to being required to live a healthy life. In other words, at this point with where nutrition, agriculture, and 21st century human diets are, we DO NOT need to eat meat to survive or even be healthy. It is simply a choice and a culinary luxury. There is just no evidence whether in principle or in practice to refute that.

    So while I appreciate your connection to nature, as I have one also, albeit from a different perspective, I don’t understand the notion that it is something that is needed.

    Hence, perhaps you could understand the viewpoint shared by myself, and others like me, that killing animals to eat them is unnecessary. And since we both seem to love animals, I am having a bit of a hard time understanding the logic behind it.

    But again, with that said, I’d like to point out that in a purely logical world, and I don’t mean this more in a figurative sense, so don’t take offense to the verbiage as it is more a figure of speech, but hunters are the “lesser of two evils” when it comes to people who eat meat. And might I say people who criticize hunting yet eat meat themselves are complete hypocrites and get me upset because as I said above, at least you are front and center and aware of your food source as well as “picking out” your food directly out of the natural habitat as opposed to out of the completely unnatural and sadistic hell that is called an animal farm or slaughterhouse. So in a hypothetical scenario had I only two options I would rather go hunt my own food rather than buy something from the meat industry.

    But in either case I would be interested to hear your response, and opinion regarding what I had said above about the fact that eating meat is not necessary to live and be healthy. Taste and gastronomical preference aside, purely “survival”.



  71. NickI

    Totally agree. In the UK hunting and conservation go together. The act of killing may be unpalatable to some but equally the mass processing of untraceable meat is unpalatable to others.
    Heather moors and ancient woodlands exist because of shooting. Without it the management of these treasures would be lost.
    Shame that this is not understood by the plastic wrapped meat eaters.

    Keep up the good work – great site!

  72. Mark

    Just discovered your website. Cooked chilindrone as per your recipe with venison and it was awesome.

    On killing. I teach biology and begin the section on energetics with the statement, Every day that you are alive, something has to die. It is a cold, hard fact and makes me glad that I am at the top of the food chain.

    Thank you for making it delicious.


  73. Korrena

    Hi, I just wanted to tell you how thought-provoking this essay was for me. I am studying ethnobotany and stumbled upon your website through a Google search for wild ginger. As someone who had struggled with human relationships and responsibilities to animals and the natural world, this essay really resounded with me. I have never hunted, so it was really eye-opening to read about hunting from the perspective of someone who hunts and has a deep love of nature. In my studies I have identified this same reverence for the animals killed in the cultures of First Peoples. Modern society is so divorced from the less pleasant aspects of daily life that many people simultaneously consider themselves “animal lovers” while being consumers of factory-farmed meats and animal products. As long as we’re not present or aware of the horrors of factory farms we think our hands are clean. But if we’re the ones bankrolling corporations that treat animals like little more than machines, how can we be innocent? I look forward to reading more on this site and your books. Thank you for your unique perspective and for talking openly about an issue that can get so heated.

  74. Tom in Oregon

    This was excellent reading. Loved it!

  75. David

    Great article! I haven’t hunted as much as you so I appreciate your thoughts and feelings on the subject. While it was a small part of your essay I would like you to consider some alternative thoughts to one of your statements. You state that in order for us to live something else must die. That is very true. But you also state that this has been going on for 600 million years. I believe that number is greatly exaggerated. The Bible says that we and the entire universe have only been around for about 6 thousand years. Later you quote Acts so I’m assuming that you have some knowledge of the Bible and that is why I believe that you would consider what I’m about to say. Only since evolutionists have dominated scientific thought has the idea of millions of years been around. But if we read the Bible and study its timelines the Earth can only be about 6 thousand years old. How do we reconcile this with what the evolutionists and evolutionary geologists tell us? Well, the creation account in Genesis was dictated by God to the writer. God was there and told us what he did and is an eyewitness. No geologist was there so all of their ideas are based on assumptions that can be proven false. I’ll leave it to you to look up the various Creation Science organizations and discover for yourself how evolutionary thought is more of a faith based philosophy than most religions. One book that I can recommend which is short and to the point is, “Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe” by Russell Humphreys. He is a Christian physicist who has worked at Sandia National Labs working on such projects as pulsed-power research and “Particle Beam Fusion Project.” I think you’ll find his book enlightening.

    And probably the reason we feel some remorse for taking life is that there was no death before Adam sinned. Men and animals all ate plants. Only after The Flood was Noah given permission to eat flesh in Genesis 9:3.



  76. Wade

    Fantastic article. Thanks for sharing it. I love it.


  77. Sharon Cruz

    Thank you for this wonderful essay. I am married to a hunter and it definitely was hard to get my head around it at first. My husband is such a compassionate man, caring and one of the finest people I know. Apart from us, he lives for the fall and his time in nature. I feel our kids and I have been blessed to eat natural, organic meat that came from healthy animals that lived good lives in their natural habitat. There have been many times in nature when we have simply marvelled at wild animals, and admired their beauty and freedom. My husband takes a lot of amazing pictures of them as well. I can understand the paradox, and you have expressed it so well.

  78. Janice irvine

    Thank you the author I must say that you know how I feel when I am hunting .it is such a learning experience for young an old .It know if I hunt I will eat .I hate the idea that an animal will die for Such action.but I also know that I have taken the time to learn about the animals life an what it took for me to be there so I must say I don’t like to make a mockery of death .it must fast an sure but there are many pleasure sitting in a stand waiting .have the interaction with nature .Thank you janice irvine

  79. michelle

    Interesting article. When I was young I ate animals, but as I grew older I could no longer justify doing so. I still understand killing when there is a need and no other option — such as Inuit — but to me, love of life means all life, love of animals means all animals. You don’t express love by killing. Tolstoy said, a man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore if he eats meat he participates in the taking of an animals life merely for the sake of his appetite.

  80. Michael Patterson

    Michael: This was so Awesome to read what everyone has and is saying. I have never seen a sight for hunting and the love of Nature as I have seen here. A very Good Read on everyones part. Thank You Hank.

  81. Patrick Nolan

    This may be the first blog I wanted to print and put on my wall. As a boy visiting my grandparents, I slept under my grandfather’s bolt action, walnut stock rifle. I fell asleep imagining what it was like to deer hunt in upstate NY wearing the orange. Today, I’m 52 and I live in Austin, Texas but we bought land in the Texas Hill Country. We had a late start to the season as work kept me from fixing the deer feeder that came with the property and I won’t even talk about the condition of my inherited blind. Nevertheless within the last four weeks of deer hunting season, feed was added, a new timer set, new battery and solar panel installed and tested. After having hand sprinkled corn from the main deer paths toward the feeder for a few weeks, I was seeing deer under my feeder. All of my prep was paying off then I, like you started to grapple with these thoughts. Holding the power of life and death in my hands seemed unfair. Was I prepared to handle the total responsibility of not only pulling the trigger but the very real field dressing and processing. Each time I came back from the field I got on YouTube and blogs like this to check and recheck my comfort level and in fact the responsibility I felt toward honoring the deer by being able to provide an instant kill and the ability to process in a timely matter. For me, the idealism I’d imagined of deer hunting was meeting the reality of deliberate preparation in order to follow through. For my young self it was about the taxidermy and the proud animal on the wall. Last weekend I finally had the courage and I felt the mind set ready to take my first deer, one of three does. I line up the perfect 120 yard shot and pull the trigger. Click! The rifle jammed. Slowly I did everything I could think of to clear the round as the doe eyed me. Then without thinking in frustration, I sighed. She heard me! She bolted and her friends did too. I was dying inside. Later in the day I cleared the round I was misfed and was ready for the next hunt. The following morning, I was late getting to the blind. I get in, sit down and I look down the shooting lane. A 8 point buck is standing there looking at me. The weak morning light illuminating his crown, an incredibly regal sight. One problem. Its two weeks past buck season for branched antlers. We are literally at a draw with each other, sizing each other up. I decide that I better use the privilege of his presence to actually sight him in to see what a beautiful animal would look like in my crosshairs to even further see if I could hold the shot. He decides to walk away and I’m blown away by the experience. An hour goes by and as I think that was the last deer I’d see he brings back two more deer with him. This time the doe hid in the woods nearby as he ate and then a 4 point buck walks into view. What an honor I’d been given to spend time with such noble animals. This year I spent a fortunate preparing for my first deer hunt and despite losing all opportunities, the end result was not disappointing other than I wish I’d packed my camera along with my rifle to preserve the experience. Over the course of four days, I’d witnessed and nourished nine creatures of the Texas Hill Country passing through and by respecting the rules like a golfer adheres to the standards of the game, I walked away with a sense of conscience. I didn’t cheat the light for the shot. I didn’t take my trophy. I didn’t even take an ounce of venison. I had bacon and eggs back at camp and reflected on all I’d learned for another time when I will bring truer skill and understanding and honor to the hunt. Thank you Hank for the chance to weigh in on my recent experience.

  82. Judy Nickell (Whitney's great aunt)

    I really like this essay. You are a gifted writer!

  83. Joseph Feher

    I enjoyed this very much and am impressed with the truth of it. I am aa hunter from way back in the 50’s. I hunted with my father and have always loved nature including fishing. I have never killed to be mean..I have done it because dad thought me it was like a gift of nature and often a benefit to wild life it’s self Still hunt and enjoy the wonderful food I love It is no different than eating meat someone else grew and killed. Better than you can buy. Hunters are not bad people

  84. Diane of the dogs

    very well done

  85. Loving what we kill. - Manitoba Hunting Forum - The Premier Hunting Forum Of Manitoba

    […] Loving what we kill. Good article i have thought this way many times.…-what-we-kill/ […]

  86. Martin Bredl

    I am also a bowhunter. Your thoughts help me to better understand what I feel when hunting.
    As you know there are so strong feelings when an animal dies. It is so easy to misunderstand that these feelings. And today the whole vegan community with their worldview has taken over the interpretation of these feelings. I accept all vegans with their religion. But it is not mine.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  87. Not much time, but we’re still going! –

    […] Again and again and again, I see my own death in the eyes of that jackrabbit, or duck or deer. And I am afraid. I know not what lies beyond, nor does the animal I stand over. All I know is that someday, the dying eyes will be mine, staring at a doctor, or a lover. Or the unblinking sky. It is a searing moment that feels like staring at the sun in a windstorm. It leaves me gasping.  – Hank Shaw […]

  88. Martin

    Well, then go live in the forest…you can always return to the safety of the city. And how about not using a gun, or a modern bow, but crafting your own weapon, and wearing a bear skin in the winter. That would be a real challenge, one were you must kill or be killed by the forest. To experience famine for missing a prey, to suffer and to rejoice when a meal is served, because you ain’t doing it to “return to nature” anymore, you’re doing it to actually keep yourself alive.
    I probably don’t understand your feelings and thoughts about nature, but also I guess you don’t understand me when I choose to not hunt animals for food (I know that crops kill animals, but if people cut their meat consumption, then a lot less would be needed), I can feel conected to nature by working the land (hope I can do it some day, and not depend on large scale crops).
    May an honorable death, away from humanity sick cities, finds you in the end, maybe in a forest so you can feed the trees with your flesh. Peace and please excuse me for my english.

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