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Importance of Survival Skills

Veganism, Subsistence Hunting, and Colonialism

In most urban communities, choosing to eat
less meat is a good choice. The production of meat requires more energy,
more land, and more resources than the production of plants, and cattle farming especially contributes
to rising carbon emissions and antibiotic resistance viruses. CAFOs and other industrial animal farms dominate
the market, meaning many purchases of meat support those that exploit cheap human labor,
often underpaying and endangering undocumented immigrants with threats of calling ICE should
they be ungrateful. Beef is high in fat and relatively low in
vitamins, and the methane gas cows produce plague the world. That all said, though I don’t eat red meat
myself, I am repulsed by many modern, urban forms of vegetarianism and veganism. Not all, certainly, but many. See, though vegetarians and vegans are often
concerned with the well-being of the world and of animals, both concerns I would describe
as virtuous in a vacuum, the way they go about voicing these concerns are often disproportionate,
and, in some cases, colonialist. Giving individual examples is beyond the scope
of this channel. I’m not a harbinger of drama, and even though
most of my regular audience is pretty relaxed, I don’t want to even possibly encourage
harassment. Rest assured, these are trends I’ve noticed,
and encountered both online and in real life, and bear mentioning. Consider the indigenous peoples of the Arctic,
pretty much around the globe. In many areas, to survive, people have hunted
bowhead whales for centuries. Given the relative lack of food in the Arctic,
many governments have granted exemptions of anti-hunting laws for these indigenous people,
who need the whale to survive. Though, sure, whales are intelligent, and
some sub-populations of bowhead whales are endangered, I would hope that the life of
a whale is valued less than the lives of dozens of people. Right? Very few people would directly say that an
animal is more important than a human, at least out loud. Yet, many vegans would rather indigenous hunters,
around the world, but most prominently in the Arctic, not hunt for their food. Sure, they’ve been doing it for centuries
without driving the populations to extinction, but some vegans are less concerned with conservation
and more concerned with animal cruelty. After all, there’s no denying that to eat
a whale, you have to kill it, or at the very least butcher its corpse. I bring up this trend for the Arctic, not
anywhere else in the world, because, unlike, say, in Manhattan, alternative eating options
aren’t really available to people above the Arctic circle. Often times, the nearest supermarket is a
day away, and what soil that isn’t completely frozen or covered in snow is insufficient
to grow edible plant life. The hunting of whales this far north is called
subsistence hunting for a reason. For a lot of people, there is no other option. So, for those who wish them to stop but don’t
wish them to die, their solutions are rather imperialist. Some have suggested that indigenous northerners
should move south, and adopt capitalist eating habitats. Ultimately, this is suggesting that people
leave their homes, submit to a superpower’s authority, and assimilate into a foreign culture. All because their hunting practices are seen
as uncivilized. I’m used to hearing these excuses. Buildings aren’t two stories tall? Need to be civilized. Believe in more than one god? Need to be civilized. Respect women too much? Need to be civilized. Throughout the history of the world, colonizers
have used any justification they can to erase the cultures of the people they oppress. But of course, often the colonizers don’t
see themselves as the villains. Missionaries abducting children think they’re
saving souls. Soldiers killing civilians think they’re
securing freedom. And now, vegans encouraging starvation or
assimilation, think they’re conservationists. And as a zoologist with a background in ecology,
let me stress: indigenous people of the Arctic are not a threat to the survival of Arctic
animal species. Though animals can and certainly have been
hunted to extinction by humans, those have most often occurred in cases of recent human
introduction to an area or non-subsistence motivated hunting. As peoples like the Chukchi, the Inuit, and
the Yupik have spent centuries hunting these whales, they are far less of a threat to the
species than, in fact, most vegans in the United States. Veganism can absolutely be sustainable, but
in college, the majority of vegans I met ate imported avocados, supported fusion restaurants,
consumed plastic wrapped products made with palm oil, and still had the gall to criticize
indigenous people unable to visit a Whole Foods. I’m not saying you can’t be vegan. Far from it. But veganism isn’t an excuse to harass and
demean people unable to afford or access your lifestyle. If your passion for the well-being of animals
is enough to drive you to remove all animal matter from your diet, you should be concerned
with conservation. And if you’re concerned with conservation,
you should recognize that subsistence hunting is one of the least ecologically damaging
lifestyles possible to live on the earth today. Even if you don’t, you should have the common
decency to not force a more destructive lifestyle onto somebody else.

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