If you’ve visited a college campus within the past decade, you’ve likely seen the macabre PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) flyers depicting conditions at some industrial animal farms. The photographs showing botched killings, overcrowded living pens and animals crawling over their own feces and are meant to encourage people to take up vegetarianism, or even veganism, arguing that adopting said lifestyles would help put a stop to such practices.
For some, it worked. While many college-age students didn’t necessarily adopt the PETA view in full, they did begin to question the source of their meat and without good enough answers, many became vegetarians. Since living without meat can be difficult from a health perspective, many went through an ethical battle, leading them to adopt different forms of self-sourced sustenance–hunting being one of them.
Slate Magazine writer Emma Marris attributes the growing “evolution of the new lefty urban hunter” to the following chain of events:
- 2006: Reads Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about the ickyness of the industrial food complex. Starts shopping at a farmer’s market.
- 2008: Puts in own vegetable garden. Tries to go vegetarian but falls off the wagon.
- 2009: Decides to only eat “happy meat” that has been treated humanely.
- 2010: Gets a chicken coop and a flock of chickens.
- 2011: Dabbles in backyard butchery of chickens. Reads that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to only eat meat he killed himself for a year.
- 2012: Gets a hunting permit, thinking “how hard can it be? I already totally dominate Big Buck Hunter at the bar.”
Marris’ in-depth article into this growing curiosity and initiative to “know thy food” points out that these new left-wing, typically liberal hunters who have not grown up in a traditional hunting family could partially be responsible for a 9 percent increase in the number of hunters from 2006 to 2011. Her article title refers to them as “hipsters,” a reference to socially-hip urbanites.
The on-point definition of a hipster in the Urban Dictionary is “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter… [they] are often seen wearing vintage and thrift store inspired fashions, tight-fitting jeans, old-school sneakers, and sometimes thick rimmed glasses.”
They are a growing subculture and hunters are embracing them. Author of Nature Wars, Jim Sterba, points out the paradox between endangered and thriving species; the ones that thrive are able to do so because of hunter conservation dollars and efforts. Sterba welcomes the onslaught of more and more people who turn to hunting for their food since it just means more money toward a decades-old movement.
Marris writes, “In general, he [Sterba] argues, people need to reconnect with real nature ‘in ways that, to put it bluntly, get dirt under their fingernails, blood on their hands, and even a wood splinter or two under their kneecaps and butts.’ In other words, he’s all for hipsters taking up hunting.”
Many are realizing that it may be more ethical to harvest one’s own meat than to simply turn away from meat eating altogether. Luckily for hipsters and for conservationists alike, hipsters want to be ethical, but not because it’s cool…okay, maybe a little bit.