Steve Rinella makes no bones about what he is or what he does. He’s a hunter and a meat eater, and he has no problem defending the lifestyle that we embrace.
Rinella hosts the TV series MeatEater on the Sportsman’s Channel, and just released his book, Meat Eater: Adventures Of The Life Of An American Hunter. At a recent book signing event in Brooklyn, Rinella fielded a question from a vegan audience member who asked, “Don’t you think these animals you killed want to live as much as you or I do? In fact, isn’t this just a rationalization for murdering innocent creatures?”
If you’ve been on a different planet of late, you may have missed the rising tension in America over hunting in the mainstream culture. In the last week alone, we’ve seen the takedown of Melissa Bachman, a hunter who was so thoroughly opposed by death threats and vulgarity online that National Geographic TV eventually pulled her from an upcoming adventure series. Anti-hunters petitioned, slammed and bullied her off the show, labeling her with all the pejoratives so common in the war against hunting.
And then there’s Jim Shockey, host of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures, who apparently had to pull a Facebook post down over the weekend that featured a legal wolf hunt he participated in. The language was so vulgar that Shockey removed the post altogether, just one more hunter silenced by the hostility of the animal terrorists.
It’s in that environment that Rinella posits his message with courage and calm. Maybe one of the most impressive things about his response to the vegan is that he doesn’t berate or return incendiary remarks, he simply gives reasons and continues to treat the man with firmness and respect.
He points out, first, that the guy didn’t really want an answer—he simply wanted to make a statement. So many times the people who berate others on Facebook or on any other forum aren’t there because they have a genuine interest in the subject matter or in engaging in open-minded debate with others. They’re there to make their point at all costs. Not Rinella. He refused to return hostilities and, in the end, came out with credibility after making his point.
Here’s what impresses me most about Rinella’s response: he’s clear thinking, well spoken, and winsomely kind toward his opposition. He obviously didn’t agree with the guy, but he still treated him with respect while he responded. He forced him, at the same time, to face the facts—if you want to avoid eating meat, you’ve got to at least recognize that you stand almost directly opposed to all of human history and the course of the natural world. Tell the wolf he can’t hunt and you’ve done worse than the hunter ever could have imagined. The world out there? It’s a predator-prey environment. Beyond should be. Just is.
And if you’re going to take that side, then be consistent. You can’t chide a hunter for being a “brutal killer” when you buy food for your pet that’s made from beef, or blast hunters in their pursuit of sizable antlers when you’re wearing a $100 pair of Birkenstocks, or driving around in your all-leather interior Audi.
It’s time that the majority of Americans stand up to the hostile bullying of a small minority who boasts of tolerance but practices the harshest kind of hatred toward others. It’s time for hunters and meat eaters like Rinella to stand up and courageously point out the loopholes in logic that characterize the anti-hunting, anti-meat positions, while at the same time championing the majority position of nearly all of human history. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be terrorized by the loud-mouthed hate mongers who won’t stop until the only permissible view in this country is their own.