A recent New York Times op-ed by Jonathan Safran Foer titled “The End of Meat is Here” chastises meat-eaters as haters of poor people, racists, and enemies of the environment.
“If you care about the working poor, about racial justice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals,” the novelist wrote.
Are Americans eager to nix meat from their diets? Fat chance. In fact, more people are consuming wild fish and game meat in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For those especially worried about factory farming or meat shortages, these options—not vegan or vegetarian ones—are great alternatives.
Compared to red meat, wild game is packed with iron, zinc, leaner in fat and is hormone-free. Fish is also a good source of healthy omega-3 fats, selenium and vitamin D. In comparison, plant-based “meats” like Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers contain more saturated fat and are heavily processed.
With the recent surge of license purchases, outdoor industry experts and thought leaders are very optimistic about the growth of and interest in hook and bullet activities.
Matt Morrett, marketing director at the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said more Pennsylvanians are taking to the field. Hunting license sales, he said, are up 1.46 percent with 858,619 general hunting licenses purchased as of May 3rd, 2020. This is welcome news for the agency. In the last five years, the department documented a 3-4 percent slump in sales. The Keystone State, however, still boasts the second largest share of hunters in the U.S. after Texas.
“People are becoming naturalists more and more every day,” said Morrett. “People are really taking advantage of the opportunities. And probably people that haven’t done it for a long time. Quite frankly, because they have the time.”
He added, “No doubt in my mind that the participation rate is up and just through attrition, we’re going to experience hunting license numbers go[ing] through the roof. Without a doubt.”
Brad Luttrell, co-founder and CEO of the GoWild App, said the pandemic has afforded people more time to go afield with their families—especially in pursuit of delicious, free-range food.
“Family recreation is back in style, and with a pending meat crisis, there's no other activity that can compete with the cost effectiveness of the entertainment and food acquisition that hunting and even fishing provides,” Luttrell said.
Back in March, his company announced $250,000 in available marketing funding — $5,000 to individual states— for state wildlife agencies that encourage safe fishing and hunting practices.
Scott Leysath, host of “The Sporting Chef” on Sportsman Channel, said eating fishing catches and hunting harvests has been trending in the last 10-15 years.
“It just seems fairly obvious that for those who have thought about maybe getting out and finding that sustainable high protein, renewable free-ranging organic food source, ‘Maybe I ought to try what dad tried to get me to do years ago,” Leysath said.
“Just to get out of the house right now sounds pretty exciting too,” he added. “I mean, to get out and go shoot a turkey or shoot a pig or shoot whatever we happen to have in season right now, which isn’t a lot. Getting out of the house as opposed to distancing yourself from your friends. To me, it sounds a lot more fun than stay[ing]-at-home.”
Michael Pendley, Realtree’s Timber2Table blogger, explained the pursuit of organic meat is natural since Americans are prioritizing self-sufficiency now.
“The breakdowns in the food chains have made people take a closer look at where their food comes from and how many people handle it before it makes it to their tables,” Pendley said.
“People are realizing now that wild game is healthy, nutritious, and, most importantly, delicious.”
Jeremiah Doughty, proprietor of From Field to Plate, similarly echoed this sentiment and recommended bird hunting as a good starting point for new hunters.
“Bird hunting is your cheapest and easiest way to get into hunting from turkey, dove, quail and pheasant,” Doughty said. “Duck hunting is also a blast, but takes a little more effort, money and time.”
Georgia Pelligrini, bestselling author and TV host, believes returning to our hunter-gatherer roots should be celebrated even after coronavirus has run its course.
“Learning fundamental self-sufficiency skills like hunting and gathering our own food, or growing it in pots, windowsills, raised beds or a full garden, means that we aren’t at the mercy of any global or local events,” Pelligrini said. “We can rely entirely on ourselves to be content. To me, practicing those skills allows us to achieve our greatest potential as humans. It’s what we were designed to do.”
Pelligrini is confident her forthcoming PBS program “Modern Pioneering” can be a resource for those interested in taking up these pastimes. Due to the coronavirus, the program is unable to air as originally planned. She launched an IndieGoGo campaign to boost support for the show’s mission.
Why celebrate the surge of license sales and subsequent interest in organic meat in these trying times? It’s encouraging to see these activities, especially hunting, start to bounce back. It’s been at historical lows compared to fishing participation. The oft-cited 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey noted from 2011 to 2016, hunting atrophied after two million participants aged out or quit the sport altogether.
Not only a positive sign for sustenance and self-reliance, the surge of license sales is very good for conservation. Excise taxes collected on guns, ammunition, and licenses primarily fund hunters education courses, habitat restoration efforts, and wildlife conservation projects here in the U.S.
Calling for an end to meat is foolish and self-defeating. Millions count on animal protein to survive, especially the poor among us, and to maintain balanced diets. Instead of chasing veganism or vegetarianism, Americans are giving fishing and hunting a shot to nourish their appetites and feed their souls.