Hunting in Canada is on the rise, a trend possibly driven by a growing number of people who only want to eat what they themselves kill.
In recent years, organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and various anti-hunting movements have challenged the perception of hunting as a traditional pastime.
However, with questions surrounding what’s going into our food and the harms associated with factory-farmed animals, many Manitobans are revisiting their roots and are heading back to the bush.
Across Canada, statistics show a rise in the number of hunters over the past five years. Chris Benson, with Ducks Unlimited Canada, told Maclean’s in January 2014 the hike can be attributed to new people being introduced to hunting.
“It’s not just the boys going hunting,” Benson told the magazine. “It’s women, it’s environmentalists, it’s people from large urban centres who just want hands-on, outdoor experience.”
Winnipeg veterinarian Erika Anseeuw is one of them.
“I appreciate an animal more when I’ve hunted it, killed it, cleaned it and done all the work myself rather than going to the store,” says Anseeuw. “I just think it’s more responsible.”
She says she only eats meat she hunts herself, in part because there are some ways in which animals are raised commercially that she doesn’t agree with.
“I believe in a good life and a quick death,” says Anseeuw.
“That can be obtained through agriculture, but a lot of times it’s not. So I know if I’m a diligent hunter, and I do my job right, then I can still eat meat.”
Hunting to put food on the table and supplementing the grocery bill is somewhat of a new trend among North Americans.
Companies like EatWild in Vancouver are trying to change the way people think about food. EatWild owner Dylan Eyers told the Vancouver Sun in April 2013 he’s noticed a hunting resurgence, fuelled in part by young urbanites, as part of the sustainable food movement.
One high-profile convert is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who in 2011 shared he’d only eat meat he killed himself.
Lucas Kurylowich, 21, says he would love to only eat the meat he kills himself. The University of Winnipeg student and part-time farmer says he has tried in the past, but he doesn’t think it’s doable for someone looking to exclusively eat and process game.
“It’s a nice idea though, the idea to just be entirely responsible for your own nutrition and not having to question nutrition guidelines or nutrition information, processing techniques and what not,” says Kurylowich.
“To say, ‘this is the food that nature provides us, and this is the food that I’m going to consume.'”
He says the reality of today’s busy lifestyles make it impractical as the sole means of providing food.
“The cost to hunt every day for three meals a day — if all you were to eat were sustainable resources — it’s just too time-consuming,” says Kurylowich.
Aside from the health and environmental benefits, Kurylowich says hunting is very important for society. He says in the Internet age, people need to remember hunting is the original form of connecting with nature, surroundings and people.
“When I’m hunting, I take a friend or a family member, and we spend the day afield just talking and sharing stories,” says Kurylowich.
“That’s where those hunting stories come from, our days spent in the field connecting with people, rather than just forgetting about everyone and secluding yourself to an Internet-based social life.”