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Is Hunting More Ethical Than Factory Farming?

Hunting is often brought forth as an ethical alternative to factory farming.  But does the method by which an animal is killed effect the morality of their death? [tweet this]   And does killing our own dinner imbue the meal with greater justification than if it were factory farmed?  There’s been quite a lot of debate over this ethical quandary, and I figured I might as well take a shot…y'know…cause it's like hunting?  …(That's not a very vegan joke)

This is the second video in my series on common hunting myths.  In the first, we looked at incredibly pervasive myth that hunting is necessary to control deer populations.  And today we’re taking on the question of hunting’s ethical superiority to factory farming.

Even the staunchest meat, dairy and egg eaters will readily agree that factory farming is far from ideal.  It’s environmentally devastating, a serious health hazard for animals and humans alike, and an ethical land mine of horrific practices.

In case you’re not aware, factory farming, also known as intensive animal farming, industrial livestock production, or concentrated animal feeding operations, is a modern form of farming that focuses on producing the highest output at the lowest cost possible.

With money as the only focus, the lives and health of the animals involved, the environmental cost, and the impact upon consumer health are all left in the wake of factory farming’s destruction.

This method of farming, wherein animals are kept in higher stocking densities than was traditionally practiced, includes the use of battery cages, gestation crates, and requires ample use of antibiotics and pesticides to mitigate the spread of disease exacerbated  by the overcrowding. Not only are the living conditions of these animal manipulated, but also their very genes as well.

All factory farmed animals have been genetically manipulated to produce more faster.  These animals grow twice as fast, or more, than is natural, resulting in a myriad of health conditions and injuries.  (See this example of genetic manipulation in turkeys)  Then there’s the environmental devastation and the adverse health effects for humans to consider as well, which I won’t go into detail on in order to keep this video focused.  You can get more information on the precise environmental cost of animal products in this video post.

Now before we try to comfort ourselves with the idea that this kind of farming exception to the rule and desperately attempt to resurrect the vision of the local, family-run farm, we have to realize that 99 percent of all farmed animals raised in the united states are factory farmed.  And according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, 80 percent of growth in the livestock sector now comes from these industrial production systems with factory farms now accounting for 72 percent of poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production worldwide. [tweet this]

In comparison to this perverse method of acquiring our food, almost any alternative will look ethically preferable.  And hunting, in particular, holds the gleam of being a far more sustainable, honest way of killing animals for our meals.

When we look at the numbers and methods side by side, it’s no question that hunting is far more sustainable.  Thought hunting also has a negative effect on the environment and is the third most known cause of animal extinction since 1600, its impact is undeniably smaller than that of factory farming.

Hunting is third leading cause of extinction

The idea the hunters are conservationist, however, is groundless, as hunters investment in habitat protection has nothing to do with the habitat itself and everything to do with ensuring future hunting opportunities.  This is evidenced by the frequent hunters endorsement of clear-cutting large areas and logging on public lands as both create edge habitat for deer.

On the human health front, hunted animals are typically wild and not genetically manipulated, antibiotic-free and not living in their own filth.  So on a pure hygienic, human-health stance, hunting would be preferable.  That is, assuming that we need to eat animals, which is a pretty big assumption.

But what about the million dollar question?  Is it more ethical to hunt and kill an animal for food than purchase animal flesh produced at a factory farm? [tweet this]

Well first off, the majority of hunting today is recreational.  But let’s assume a hunter is hunting with the express goal of consuming the animal.  Hunting proponents will argue that hunting is far more humane than factory farming as their prey hasn’t had to live in horrific, cramped conditions and their death will be swift and painless.

First, that’s assuming the hunter is an expert shot and can cause instantaneous death.  Second, and more importantly, it’s assuming the completely unrealistic idea that a hunter can accurately asses how another being of another species experiences their death.

But again, for argument’s sake, let’s say a hunter is able to cause instant, painless death, which is rarely, if ever, the case.  Is that death somehow cleansed of all wrong?

This line of questioning closely mimics the humane, free-range, and cage-free arguments.  And I find that, statistics and philosophy aside, the best way to put all of this in perspective is to reframe the situation.

For instance, if I followed you around and then shot you, but made sure you died instantly, does that make it okay?

Since I didn’t keep you in a cage or castrate you or pump you full of antibiotics, can I wash my hands of your blood in good conscience?

If I am sure to use all of your parts and leave nothing to waste, does that give you comfort? [tweet this (if you dare)]

Would it comfort your family to know that used a bow and arrow to kind of even the playing field between us?

That’s bring up another issue: The idea that hunting is natural, or simply the circle of life is nothing but an ungrounded, romantic notion. [tweet this]  Unless you’re able to complete your hunt and eat your kill without any weaponry, tools, or cooking, it’s not natural.  And looking at our biological hardware and aversion to biting into an animals hide and consuming the raw flesh, blood, lymph, tendons and bones, it’s evident we weren’t meant for this.

This may seem an absurd visual, but it’s in these absurdities that we can better see the reality of the situation.  Choosing between factory farming and hunting is like me asking you:

“Would you prefer to be skinned with a rusty spork or filleted with a cheese grater?” [tweet this] or

“Would you like to try our specialty turd sandwich or moldy baguette.” [tweet this]

In all seriousness, the comparison of factory farming comes down to the fact that that for the animal being hunted, that individual doesn’t know the horrors they didn’t have to endure, they just know those that they did.

We may be tempted to rank cruelty and find the lesser of evils, but the reality is we can eliminate all evils.  Hunting may be less horrific than factory farming, but why must we choose which is worse when there’s a third option? [tweet this]

We don’t need animal products to survive and in fact thrive far better without them.  And hunting, or “humane” farming, isn’t going to stop factory farming.  It just adds more lives to the death toll. Death is still death, and murder is still murder.  So let’s ditch the debate about which is worse and eliminate them both. [tweet this]

Now I’d love to hear your take on this matter.  Do you think hunting is more ethical than factory farming?  And does it even matter?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

See ya next nugget!







★Watch More!

Featured Videos:

Is Deer Hunting Necessary for Population Control?

The Exact Environmental Cost of Animal Products (the Really Inconvenient Truth)

Humans Vs. Carnivores

Humane, Free-Range and Cruelty-Free

The Hunting Myths Series


Farm Forwards

Worldwatch State of the World 2006 Report

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

Rising Number of Farm Animals Poses Environmental and Public Health Risks by Worldwatch Institute

Does Hunting Help or Hurt the Environment? in Scientific American

Are Hunters Environmentalists?

Is Deer Hunting Necessary for Population Control?



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  1. Joy Johnson on March 25, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    There is no such thing as “hunting.” There hasn’t been since advent of the ability to quickly kill at long safe distances. The activity engaged in today is technology aided slaughter – often team based. The cumulative intellectual and work product, lab tested, and factory made, of millions, many millions, of humans is utilized to simply kill a v 1.0 sentient beings. From ATVs to GPSs, scientifically tested baiting, calls, traps, poisons, and projectile weapons, wildlife does not stand a chance.

    That v 1.0 sentient being has already been weakened by repeated endless technologically aided slaughter of the best / biggest of its species and has been forced to live in environments made increasingly toxic by humans and increasingly small to the point where they simply can not live naturally at all – free of the massively negative effects of humans. There simply is no “hunting.” That is the lie told by those who kill for pleasure.

  2. sally anne hubbard on March 26, 2015 at 2:29 am

    PZP (porcine zona pellucida) is an immunocontraception vaccine that can be used to control fertility in adult female deer and other mammals so there goes the excuse that hunters love to use that they are doing a good thing.
    Also they love to say they kill deer to help the deer because with over population they starve. Then why is it the pictures of their kill are all healthy fat deer and not starving ones?
    Hunters hunt because they love to kill, it is fun. They are sick brained.

  3. sharon on March 27, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    death is death – there is no ‘ranking’ when lives are taken… as for the bow and arrow scenario – well, yeah, if the deer or other species had the same weaponry – but hey, that’s not going to work for them – equality would mean we face them with nothing but our agility, teeth and claws – wtf, you mean we’re not real carnivores?

  4. The Vegan Junction on March 27, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Another solid video, and thank you for providing some resources. I’ve far too often heard the argument that hunters care about the environment and non-human animals. Um, k. Then why kill one and help in the destruction of the other?! And if it’s really about “population control” couldn’t they do it in a more “humane” way – ie. one that didn’t involve fear, trauma, pain, and a slow, agonizing death? Let’s face it, it’s about “sport.” A horrifying one.

    Thanks again for being a clear, coherent voice amongst the chaos. ;)

  5. Greg Baker on March 28, 2015 at 10:55 am

    One major point about hunting that most vegans try to sidestep, and that was not discussed in this video, is the hunting of feral animals. You stated that hunting is detrimental to the environment – almost as if it were fact. But there can be little doubt that removal of feral animals is beneficial to the natural environment. In Australia, for example, almost the only hunting that is legally permissible is that of feral animals, including pigs, deer, rabbits, foxes, cats, goats etc. The only exception I can think of is the hunting of just a few species of native duck for a specific season timed not to interfere with their breeding. All of these feral animals have negative impacts on the environment. What’s more, hunting the edible feral animals produces few greenhouse emissions and uses little water – much less that what would be used to derive the same amount of protein from vegan food sources. As for the argument about hunting possibly causing pain and suffering to a targeted animal? Do you believe that all wild animals die a peaceful death, dosed up with morphine, and having their hooves held by loved ones? I think not…..

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on March 28, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      Greg, thanks so much for sharing your perspective. i think the key is that we aren’t wild animals hunting other wild animals. we don’t need to hunt and don’t need to eat animals to survive, so that argument is moot. also, modeling our behavior on wild predators is a slippery slope- unless we want to run around naked, sleep outside, tear into live animals hide and all- we can’t really use their behavior as an example for us. as for feral animals, i can look into doing a video on that, but i’d still argue he ethical principles of the issue stand.

  6. Econdemocracy on March 29, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Fantastically well made points Joy…I’m gonna have to ‘steal’ those great phrases, and images: cumulative millions of human minds and years of technology, versus v 1.0 animal on other hand…and “technology aided slaughter”… such good points made so well, thank you!

    I have nothing to add to your eloquence or your analysis..but will mention one did just remind me of it, a little google and I found this:

    Basically a complete novice can out-shoot an “Expert” human because you basically tell the gun what your target is, and *it* tracks, and you “squeeze and hold the trigger” while it, the machine, *it* selects the precise instant to actually “pull the trigger” to guarantee a hit.

    “A Precision-Guided Firearm is a comprehensive, purpose-built weapon system. It incorporates the same tracking and fire-control capabilities found in advanced fighter jets. Shooters of any skill level can now shoot better than the best shooters who ever lived.”

    “WHAT IS DOES: A TrackingPoint Precision-Guided Firearm ensures never-before-seen precision at extreme distances and high target velocities. Here’s how:TriggerLink™ connects the tracking optic with a guided trigger. Tag-and-Shoot™ technology lets you designate an exact target impact point. The tracking system then guides the trigger release.”

    All for “only” 7,000 to 19,000 bucks they say…the prices will unfortunately probably come down.. hopefully (especially thanks to Emily among others) we can spread the vegan mesasge, health, envrionment, and definitely ethics, faster than this technology spreaders or becomes cheaper

    Yup, the tracking does it all for you, it’s press-a-button slaughter. Next version the automated machine will “spiritually honor” the animals you just kill, “for you” so you don’t have to do that either… Some (very) grim humor there..

  7. Karen DeBraal on March 29, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    What a great topic to sink one’s teeth into! I would have to add, morality aside, that “hunting” is an addiction of the creepiest kind. I know of no other way to explain it. All of the false rationales and excuses to keep it going . . . and for so many it just gets weirder and bigger and worse.
    I would love to see a piece on feral animals and what to do or not do. I spent some time working for the National Park Service and saw what havoc feral pigs could wreak and they are rampant in so many places. I also happen to love feral pigs. They are incredibly smart, have an enormous number of vocalizations, are sociable critters and not aggressive if not routinely fed by park visitors. They will mind their own business and do their thing of destroying native ecosystems and breeding wildly due to a lack of natural predators. Not even mountain lions care to tackle feral pigs. I have thought about this endlessly and have no answer unless there is some way to easily sterilize these populations. Seems if we can shoot people into space and explore Mars, we ought to be able to solve this one without resorting to murder.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on March 29, 2015 at 7:25 pm

      very true- it is rather disturbing for sure. and i LOVE me some piggies. and i *love* your final sentence- amen to that.

      • Elena Pavic on January 18, 2017 at 12:11 pm

        I’m wondering what is your opinion on feral pigs? How can we stop them from breeding too much and destroying the nature?

  8. Melissa on April 16, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I understand both views of this topic. I just wish we could work together both vegans and meat eaters to stop the main issue here which is these slaughter houses and companies around the world that abuse animals for money . I’m tired of everybody attacking each other just because of how someone lives and what they put in their mouths. We need to come together more then ever to stop this industry. How can we stop something so powerful if we cant join together as one? I would like to say that thou I do eat meat, I do love your videos and it has opened my eyes to the truth about where my meat comes from. And because of that I will no longer support any company that abuses or tortures a animal for personal gain and waste.

  9. Scott on June 14, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Since your a vegan, what are your thoughts on GMO’s being the only way to sustainably produce enough food for the population? Not to mention a lot of environments have been destroyed from over farming and the use of chemicals to aid in farming to produce the amounts needed by the population including vegans.
    I’m an avid gardener that uses no chemicals and I’m a former vegan turned hunter. I’m not aided by “technology” other than a gun. I take only enough animals to feed my family of four for a year and that is for around 2 meat meals a day for about 6 days a week. Factory farming is abusive and detrimental to the population. We are so far removed from understanding where our meals come from that it’s taken for granted. If people had to work for their food instead of just buying it from the store there would be a lot more respect for the environment and animals. Obesity and heart disease , to just name a few, would be on the decline because you couldn’t over eat the processed and non organic food that you were never meant to consume anyway.
    Don’t attack hunters. Not all of them are bad. Hunting for trophies is worthless. Just like taking more than you can eat and the grocery store and then throwing it out is worthless. Waste not want not.

    • Emily Moran Barwick on January 25, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      I don’t think GMOs are the only way. We have more than enough food to feed all the hungry people in this world, only we divert it to our “food animals.” There’s even a surplus if we’d just stop funneling our food through our food.

  10. Dustin Chaney on November 19, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Being a hunter myself, I am 16 years old and it’s a family tradition to go hunting every thanksgiving morning. I started hunting at 8 years old with my uncle and have seen him kill deer, 1 shot 1 kill, and we have never lost a single one because we don’t want to risk losing a deer and wasting it. I shot my first deer in seventh grade, and never lost any of the three deer I have killed. However sadly there are assholes that ruin it for everyone. And bow hunting has the most mistakes out there, which is why I don’t bow hunt. I despise of unethical treatment of animals but I don’t agree with stopping eating all animals because it is natural and that is how our bodies are composed. No you don’t need to eat them, and no I don’t disagree with vegan because my girlfriends dad is and I respect them and their opinions, but I won’t and neither will she. But put it this way, is killing another person is murder of our own species, but a bear will kill us because that is his food, it would not go to waste. However I do think there needs to be something done on irresponsible hunters they are bullshit.

    • Autumn Wheeler on September 15, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      As a meat eater who advocates for sustainable farming and ethical treatment, I appreciate your comment.

  11. MVO on February 26, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful comparison of factory farming vs. hunting!

    As a former vegan/vegetarian, I agree with many of your sentiments, particularly the ones regarding factory farming. It is abhorrent, destructive, inhumane, etc. As far as hunting goes, my opinion differs.

    A number of years ago, I moved to rural Alaska. My particular “town” of 1,200 people is lucky enough to have a grocery story (albeit a limited one), but many communities on the island I live on do not. People drive upwards of 4 hours to come to the grocery store – some have to travel by boat (imagine how limiting stormy seas during the winter can be.) Aside from my island, there are 176 (don’t quote me on that…) or so communities/villages in rural Alaska that have zero access to roads – meaning the only way in or out is via bush plane, meaning – if they are organized enough to even have a market of sorts, then the ability to bring food to the community from outside sources is entirely dependent on weather. During the winter, it may take weeks for a plane to be able to land in rural areas. Often, by the time a shipment of food arrives, it only has days left; or it might have begun rotting already. In many parts of Alaska, it is possible to forage for plants and such, and just about everybody does. And just about everyone hunts or fishes to ensure enough food to make it through the winter. Taking into account that not every single resident of rural Alaska is able bodied and able to go out to forage for themselves, and that there are many, many children and elders who are being provided for – it would be wildly challenging for people to collect/grow enough plant based sustenance to sustain life through the winters here. Hunting is essential.

    I have often wondered, as a vegan who moved here from a big metropolitan city, and had access to all sorts of vegan options and health food stores, what a vegan would say about this Alaskan way of life? A vegan friend of mine nonchalantly told me that Alaskans could grow their food – of course, if the wild rains, winds, and subzero temperatures would cooperate. We could build greenhouses (many do), we could subsist on what we can from the grocery store (which many do), but the simple fact of the matter is that – for Alaskans, we are limited to the resources available. Grocery stores or not, gardens or not, we are at the mercy of the elements in Wild Alaska and we use the resources available to survive. The consumption of factory farmed meat is destructive to the environment – so is shipping up container after container of “fresh produce” from “down South” to Alaska. Barge after barge of vegan options, and the fuel emissions they produce – just for the produce to turn within a few days of hitting the store shelves. My town receives one barge a week – and sometimes during the winter, we must wait longer. Sometimes, we don’t get produce, and the shelves stay empty. But we are prepared.

    I would love to hear a vegan opinion on this. Is there morality in hunting/fishing when utilizing the natural resources with intention and purpose? Is it potentially more sustainable, economical, and in ways, ethical than increasing shipping costs and pollution to bring more food options to rural communities? And what about those communities that truly only have access to hunted/fished meat – those communities who can’t get regular shipments of food from outside sources?

    Input is appreciated :)

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