So, I recently sat down to write a new article for YogiApproved. In essence, I tried to make an extension of the “Eating Meat with Integrity” article but I just might be tiptoeing into uncharted, and arguably dangerous, territory. I titled the article “lets have a real conversation: the vegan vs hunter debate.”
In the article I basically discussed the ever-persistent existence of conflict between those who eat meat and those that do not. Not just vegetarians and the occasional Texas Road House goer but I went a step further. What’s the most extreme veggie lover? A vegan. And what’s the most extreme meat eater? A hunter.
I write about the controversy in starting a real conversation about why we make the dietary and lifestyle choices that we do. I talk more about tolerance and the conversation than I do about anything else in the article. So I wanted to use this blog post to get to the real meat (ha ha) of the issue. Why do we eat what we eat?
Being more aligned with the hunter’s point of view myself I naturally turned to my favorite resource on the subject, Steven Rinella. The host of a show that is literally called Meat Eater on Sportman’s Network and author of a book bearing the same name. So being daring enough to be both a yogi and a meat eater, I finished my YogiApproved article and then continued my research….
One day while I was scouring the internet for documentaries on everything from veganism to recipes on rabbit (we’ll discuss my abnormal attachment/ addiction to documentaries another day) I came across this talk that Steven Rinella gave at the University of Wisconsin Madison.
If you’re curious, give it a watch here…
What did I get out of this? Hunting is something spiritual.
In this talk Rinella says, “I’m not going to lie to you and say that if I couldn’t hunt I couldn’t eat. I’d eat just fine. But spiritually I’d be starved to death.” It got me to thinking… People look for their spiritual kick, so to speak, in a multitude of different ways. A lot of us choose yoga, mediation, journaling, etc. and when you become involved enough in these things you take them on as part of your lifestyle. For example, most people find themselves modifying their daily life and dietary choices to compliment their yoga practice. Perhaps it’s time that hunters and non hunters alike learn to freaking respect each other.
I also thought of the men and women who I know in my life that are serious about hunting. They take to the woods unsure of whether or not they will even see the animal they are after but they enjoy the whole process and soak up the feelings of a universe and forces larger than themselves. The same way yogis get on their mats every day not sure if they’ll be able to accomplish that difficult inversion. In both instances spirituality is key and there are plenty of internal as well as external forces at work for and against the spiritual seeker (weather, gravity, whatever it may be).
Similarly, hunters and yogis are met with their own unique set of disappointments and life altering moments. I fell out of a headstand the other day (just when I thought I’d finally mastered those) and immediately felt angry… then I had to laugh. That’s life. Things don’t always go as planned and as soon as we think we’ve got it all figured out we are promptly reminded that that is not the case. I think hunters regularly experience and grow from similar disappointments and detours to their ultimate goals as well.
So the importance of what we eat and where we can begin to answer the question is found in the journey. We may become vegan because we love yoga and the non violent tradition so much. We may become hunters because we love nature and a connection with our meat hunting and eating ancestors.
I have experienced the spirituality of being packed in a studio with 25 other sweaty yogis and it felt similar to the spiritual experiences I’ve had in nature and in eating meat. I know, for me, that eating meat is different than the norm. The meat I eat, nowadays, is either wild game or certified humanely raised and handled meat from our ranch or bought at my local Natural Grocers. So this means I package the meat in ziplock bags in meal sized portions and label it as “Lexi Kosher”(a term my family has come up with that has come to mean one of severe things: “humanely certified by a non government affiliated entity, raised on our family ranch, shot and field dressed by someone she knows, or basically she just knows generally where the meat came from and how the animals life was pre lets fry it and eat it”). Knowing I have enough to feed me and that I handpicked it myself after doing the necessary research gives me a new appreciation for what I am putting in my body.
I have seen this kind of spiritual relationship with meat come from hunters I know as well. But I would argue that they are even more spiritually in tuned with their food than I am after a Whole Foods shopping spree. The truth is, hunters know everything about their food and they take my idea of knowing where our food came from to a whole knew level. My younger brother, Brody, is a great example of this. The deer he hunted, shot, and field dressed himself this fall has fed the two of us for more nights than I can count so far. If you know Brody, he’s not generally a sharer by any stretch of the word. But when it comes to his wild game, not only does he like to be a part of the whole process from a deer track in the dirt to the burger on your plate but he loves to share that experience with whomever he can. And he makes some killer jalapeno deer burgers (I’ll be taking dinner reservations starting now). So when I sat down to ponder this question why do we eat what we eat I had to ask Brody, a pivotal question, why do you hunt? His answer was “In a modern world it’s nice to get back to our roots sometimes. Its nice to know where food comes from and knowing you’re part of the process makes your food more enjoyable. Also, you get a more intimate connection and understanding of the natural world and animals than you would get from simply hiking or bird watching.” Simple enough. Even someone who doesn’t hunt can probably agree that getting back to nature and knowing where our food comes from is important.
So why the nervousness about the yogi approved article? …
The best way to explain my general hesitation surrounding the attempt to post an article about hunting in a yoga publication can be illustrated in a recent conversation I had with a fellow meat eating yogi. I messaged a wonderful instagram follower of mine about my “how to eat meat with integrity” article, because I saw she had liked my post about it and I was so excited about being published that for the moment I had no qualms in regards to promoting myself and what I thought was a pretty good article. She replied by expressing an intent to print my article and share it with her acupuncture clients. The most striking part of her message however said “it’s nice to meat a yogi that doesn’t want to burn non-vegans at the stake” followed by some of those emojis that look like their laughing so hard they’re crying. I realized in that moment, that although she was making a joke that her statement held an uncomfortable amount of truth in it. And here it is… yogis can be judgy too.
One of my favorite groups of people I have ever met has been through yoga but there are a few yogis here and there that don’t act so yogic if ya know what I mean. I’m talking about the “look at my backbend in my overpriced lulu lemon bra drinking my vegan protein shake and let me give you alignment pointers before I have to rush off to whole foods and to get some incense and essential oils people”. Now I’m not dogging on lulu lemon because I have one of their bras and it’s amazing, and I love a good shopping spree at Whole Foods, and the Indian Temple incense as much as the next yogi but when did it become okay for yogis to think that they’re better than other yogis. Isn’t this exactly what we go to yoga to escape?
Now don’t get me wrong, vegans take their share of crap too. I notice this whenever I jump on periscope to talk about diet. I often get questions like, “you’re not a vegan are you?” and I immediately get offended for all the vegans out there. Maybe I am! If I was vegan I’d sure as heck be proud of it! Just in the simple phrasing of that question leaves me, not a vegan, slightly offended. What if we just started to approach things with respect and asked questions really wanting to know the answer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard things like “I can’t read your article/blog because I’m a vegan and you write about eating meat.” You are correct. I do write about eating meat but why on earth should that mean that you can’t read it? Refusing to listen to other ideas is akin to believing that your way of doing things is the only right way. I’d hope by now that none of us think that way.
Maybe people don’t want to have a real conversation because they know we’ll never agree…
My answer to this response would be that as a society we still talk about politics and religion, both things there’s a slim chance we’ll ever agree on. Educated people have an interest in opposing beliefs and nothing bad can come out of a conversation in which we can talk about our different lifestyles and cultivate the ability to explain why we do what we do or act how we act or eat what we eat.