Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance, which has earned praise from hunters, ecologists, and vegetarians alike, gave an informational keynote speech at the 65th General Assembly of the CIC.
To ensure the future of hunting, we must, of course, ensure its sustainability in terms of wildlife populations and habitat. Yet it is equally important—and, in much of the world, even more urgent—to ensure its sustainability in terms of social and cultural habitat, in terms of systems of value and meaning in which hunters and hunting are understood not merely as acceptable but as worthy.
One of the overarching stories that I often hear from hunters is that we are under attack and increasingly isolated. And there is truth in that story. But I think we need to ask questions that strike closer to home: What are we doing—or not doing—that contributes to this state of affairs? What roles do our stories and our mindsets play in perpetuating this pattern, in blinding us to the shared values that we may have, in shaping others’ perceptions of us, and in sometimes polarizing and oversimplifying the debate?
If we are accustomed to thinking that our values and our critics’ values are fundamentally opposed, and to defending ourselves against them, seeing them as enemies who must be defeated, it is difficult to imagine other possibilities. It is difficult to see, for example, that our values and our critics’ values are often rooted in the same core ideas, including respect for the land, for animal welfare, and for the sacredness of life.
I want us to create and protect the social and cultural habitat in which hunting can thrive. I want us to create and protect a world, as the CIC Vision Statement puts it, “that values and supports sustainable hunting for the benefit of people and nature.”
To do that, we need to tell much more powerful stories: stories that convey our respect for animals and the larger natural world, and that illustrate how deeply relevant and connected hunting, and we as hunters, remain to the changing world we inhabit.