Ex-Vegan Turned Hunter

Former vegan Tovar Cerulli talks about pursuing wild meat in the spirit of vegetarianism.

| July/August 2013

  • Hunters Are People Too
    I needed to take responsibility for at least a few of the deaths that sustained me, to confront that emotional and moral difficulty. I needed to look directly at living, breathing creatures. I couldn’t have all the killing done by proxy.
    Photo By Fotolia/lynea

  • Hunters Are People Too

Watching hunters headed to the woods each autumn, I used to shake my head. As a vegan who abhorred violence and suffering, I wondered what possessed such people. That they ate flesh was bad enough. That they spent time and money in pursuit of the chance to deal death to fellow creatures was incomprehensible.

From where I stood in our organic vegetable garden, I saw hunting as a barbaric relic of humanity’s pre-agricultural past, the antithesis of our gentle efforts to coax sustenance from the soil. I couldn’t possibly have pictured myself a decade later, mapping deer trails all summer in hopes of dragging home venison come November.


Like many vegans and vegetarians, I abstained from animal-derived foods because I cared about the consequences of my eating, for the planet and for the beings who inhabit it. I sought a kind of responsible dietary citizenship, a respectful, holistic way of living as a member of the larger-than-human world. My turn toward hunting was an unexpected extension of that same search.

By the time my fiancée and I returned to eating eggs and dairy due to health concerns, I had realized that everything I ate took a toll on animals. I knew that clearing crop land wipes out wildlife habitat, that grain harvesters mince birds and mammals, and that farmers kill to protect virtually every crop grown in North America. Even local, organic greens and strawberries came to us courtesy of missing forests, smoke-bombed woodchucks, and rifle-shot deer. If farmers had had their way in the late 19th century, deer populations here in the Northeast would have remained at the near-extinction levels to which they had been driven by overhunting and the clearing of forests for agriculture.

Our return to eating local chicken and wild fish was even more unsettling. These creatures had not died as a side effect of agriculture. They had been killed specifically so I could eat them.

Bobby Caldwell
7/20/2013 7:00:25 PM

" hunting will never provide a substantial portion of our national food supply" -- end of conversation

7/19/2013 3:24:40 AM

Yet another "ex-vegan" who has chosen to conveniently ignore the fundamental moral distinction between "incidental" and "intentional" harm and wears his ignorance like a badge of honor. Is causing some suffering unavoidable? Of course! But there is a significant moral difference between the unintentional killing of animals as a consequence of growing vegetables, on the one hand, and marching armed into the woods to intentionally kill an animal, on the other. This faulty line of reasoning is morally and logically indistinguishable from the notion that because we cannot avoid at least some complicity in exploiting laborers in developing countries as a byproduct of our consumption habits, it follows that we can intentionally seek out individuals to exploit, because at least we're "taking responsibility" for the suffering that sustains our market demands. Self-serving silliness.

Sue Kidder
7/8/2013 5:19:39 AM

How detached we've become from the ecological underpinnings that define life on the planet. In the present day, and only relatively recently, can so many of us even have such a conversation, or fail to see the absurdity in it. “Veganism is a way of life, a philosophy, that says that exploiting animals is unnecessary and wrong…” “…veganism extends far beyond your diet--veganism defines your soul.” Also quite fascinating to hear such fundamentalist gibberish –a belief that mere belief can sustain all human bodies, and comfortably prescribe to others. Another example of the left brain’s Interpreter trying to run the show; where our rampant disconnect stems I suppose. Ignorance must indeed bring some sort of bliss, as long as you can stay ensconced in the philosophical box you built around yourself.

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