As some Albertans move away from factory farmed meat production by eating a plant-based diet, others like Calgarians Robert Best and Brad Morgan continue to eat meat by hunting it themselves.
Morgan and Best say that hunting their own meat has instilled a stronger sense of gratitude for what they are eating because they are directly involved in the process.
“Even though my hands are physically bloody, the spiritual side is clean. You’re completely connected to the process of it all. There’s a part of us that is very primal, and when you connect with that part of it, it kind of completes a circle in a way,” says Morgan, who works for a local general contractor.
Best explains that when Indigenous Peoples would harvest an animal, they would tell the story of the animal and its death to honour it.
“There are trials and tribulations and a whole process that goes into hunting, a whole story behind it,” says Best, who is a biologist.
Morgan explains that one has to be skilled and respectful when hunting, because it reminds him that he’s taking the life of a living being with its own place in the world and the ecosystem. As someone who meditates and is conscious of his footprint in the world, his hunted game is a reminder to him of his place in the ecosystem, too.
“The approach that I take is just to live my life rightly, just like when I see these other experienced hunters. They’re living rightly because they’re very respectful to the land and to the animals,” says Morgan.
Morgan thrives by eating a primarily plant-based diet, but he also consumes wild game and freshly caught fish. He tried full-on veganism for a long while, but fell off the wagon because he didn’t know how to nourish himself properly at the time.
Morgan does believe it is possible to thrive on a vegan diet, but in his particular case the over-consumption of grains and a lack of adequate planning led to inflammation in his body and he became unwell.
Once he decided that he was going to eat meat again, he knew he had to think about where it was coming from because of what he knew about meat production. “If I can’t kill the animal myself, why should I have the luxury to eat it?” he wondered.
Morgan says that if you’re going to eat meat then hunting it yourself is really the only way that it should be done, partly because an animal that has lived a healthy, stress-free life will inevitably be healthier to consume.
Brad Morgan practicing his aim after receiving his gun license. Photo courtesy of Brad Morgan.
“When I hunt it myself I can be sure that it’s pharmaceutical free and and that it lived a full and free life,” says Morgan.
Best says that when he attends potlucks or gatherings that friends and family are excited to eat the food he brings because they know it is a natural product.
Although Best still purchases chicken and pork from ethical producers, he says that hunting his own meat is the most optimal way to provide high quality meat for his diet.
“It’s ethically grown, so to speak. It’s been able to do its own thing for its entire life. The way I hunt is that the animal would not know that its life was going to end and I want to make sure there’s minimal suffering,” says Best.
Responding to questions about ethics, Katelyn Laverdure, communications manager at Alberta Beef Producers,, says there are efforts going toward more sustainable production.
“We have a code of ethics in Canada that is all about humane handling and care,” says Laverdure.
She says her organization respects whatever decision people make regarding their diet, but hopes people are making informed decisions. She adds a lot of information is available on their website to ease concerns.
However, reducing reliance on industrial farming is something Best says is necessary. He encourages people to make incremental changes to eat more sustainably.
“Hunting isn’t for everybody because it can be a very emotional thing for some people, so I think people need to look at other local and sustainable methods of farming if they continue to eat meat, and really understand the philosophy of who they’re purchasing that animal from,” says Best.
- By Megan Atkins-Baker