Food. Where does it come from, and is it as good for you as it should be? Is it obtained in an environmentally sound way?
For most of us, the answer is no.
The Wild Harvest Initiative is the first serious effort to evaluate the sustainable use of wildlife in the wider contexts of food security, rural economies and human health, as well as wildlife habitat and environmental management.
The study focuses on providing evidence of the wider benefits of wildlife and wild animal harvests to the public. The project will also address an important question facing North American conservation policy institutions: If hunting and angling were to cease tomorrow, what would be the consequences for nature and people?
Some 47 million people in the U.S. participate in the harvest of wild things each year. These people know exactly where their food comes from and that it is all-natural and not modified via chemicals. They know how it got to their freezer and onto their grill to feed their family and friends or those in need. Over three million pounds of game meat is donated each year, providing 12 million meals to those in need.
While we all do not choose to hunt or fish, those who do are at a distinct advantage. Take our COVID experience. Did you experience any food anxiety with empty store shelves? Many hunters and anglers were more relaxed when they looked into their home freezer and saw many healthy meals ready to go.
What impact do hunters and fishermen have? It is mind-boggling when you look at the total picture.
If you equate all the wild meat harvested as quarter-pound hamburgers, the number of meals provided annually by recreational hunting is a staggering 2.17 billion meals of wild harvest, chemically free meat.
If you further equate that to the retail price of beef, these meals have a value of $6.1 billion. With further scrutiny, the actual value is much higher if you did a more equitable comparison of wild meat to free-range, chemical-free beef.
Also, these harvest numbers are low compared to the likely actual annual harvest. While most state wildlife agencies have a good handle on the number of large game animals harvested each year, the number of small game like squirrels and rabbits and quail are only guesses and the subsistence harvest by indigenous peoples are rarely reported or tracked. The number of feral animals like feral hogs harvested are rarely tracked. Only Texas tracks its feral hog harvest and from that one state and one species, you can add another 281,000 meals.
And fish — there is a can of worms. How many trout are harvested from Ashurst Lake each year? Can you imagine the total number of fish harvested in the U.S. by recreational anglers? If they figure out how to accurately track that, the number will be unbelievable.
The point is, hunters and anglers acquire and consume incredible amounts of pure, lean, environmentally sustainable protein each year. In the process, they reduce the need for commercial livestock, saving forage for native wildlife, keep the amount of the greenhouse gas methane from livestock lower, reduce the need for antibiotics in livestock, reduce the need for pesticides to grow feed for livestock and so much more. Hunting and angling are much more environmentally friendly than commercial food production.
America's hunters and anglers donate billions of dollars and millions of man-hours each year to conserve, improve, and protect wildlife habitat. But they are losing the war. As the world’s human population continues to grow, wildlife habitat continues to shrink and degrade as more land turns to commercial food production.
I challenge each of you, especially if you would like to see hunting disappear, to watch this 14-minute video from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cct_KP0ghdA
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