Lefties take aim: How locavores are the new gun nuts

By Andrew Potter

We all know the typical face of right-wing gun nuttery, from the local camo-clad yahoos in a pickup with a gun rack and jacklights all the way to Wayne LaPierre of the NRA, who blamed the Sandy Hook school massacre on violent films and video games and called for armed officers in every school.

But there's a new gun nut in town. Once upon a time you could find him wandering gentrifying neighborhoods in skinny jeans and a retro T-shirt carrying an armload of vinyl in one arm and pushing a fixed-gear bike with the other. But lately he's traded his turntable for a firearm, and slung over his shoulder is a 12-gauge birdgun or a scoped 30-06 hunting rifle, with loose shells spilling out of his coat pockets.

Hunting is suddenly fashionable. But what is remarkable is that this increased interest is coming not from people on the political right, but from those who usually identify with the progressive left. And it is threatening to undermine the gun control lobby from within at a time when the U.S. is having the most serious conversation about the issue in decades.

The hipster hunter trend has been quietly building for a few years. In 2011, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he would only eat meat from animals he had personally slaughtered. He said his motivation was both ethical and environmental– to understand where his food came from, and to consume as much of the animals that he kills as possible.

Similarly, in a column for Slate published last December, a writer named Emma Morris extolled what she sees as the progressive virtues of hunting. She argued that shooting wild animals for food is more ecologically sound than buying industrially raised meat, and more ethically 'honest' than outsourcing the killing of the animal to a slaughterhouse employee.

Finally, the Vancouver Sun recently carried a feature about the phenomenon. Again, the story's hip young subjects talked about the twin benefits of ethical honesty and environmental sustainability.

It is important to realize that this is not one of those random countercultural hiccups that arise from time to time, like planking or the raw coconut craze of 2011. Instead, it is the deep internal logic of contemporary foodie culture working itself out. There is a self-radicalizing dynamic built into the values of the burgeoning locavore movement, and over the past decade, food-focused moral one-upmanship has shifted from the virtues of organic to local then to artisanal food, while the DIY imperative quickly evolved from casually making your own charcuterie to taking pig butchering classes to raising your own urban chickens.

And once you've bought in, it is a short and entirely logical step to the conclusion that both ethics and environmentalism demand that you hunt, kill, and dress any meat you choose to eat. Which means if you're a sincere and consistent locavore, and you want to eat meat, you need to learn to shoot a gun.

The problem is, neither of the main arguments in favor of shooting what you eat have been carefully thought out.

Emma Morris argues killing an animal yourself is more ethically honest. But why is that the case? After all, every one of us benefits from people being willing to do, for money, things we can't or won't do ourselves, either out of lack of ability, principled objections, or simple squeamishness. There is no obvious moral objection to outsourcing things we want done to those willing to do it, from housework to coal mining to national defense. Why should food production be any different?

As for the argument that hunting is more environmentally sustainable, the claim does have superficial plausibility. Surely it is better, after all, to kill and eat a deer after it has spent its life roaming free and eating clover than to chow down on a steak cut from an industrially fed and slaughtered cow.

The problem is there are simply not enough wild animals to go around. Hunters killed about six million deer in North America last year. Meanwhile, 38 million cattle were slaughtered. Since you get five times as much meat from a cow as you do from a deer, to substitute industrially raised beef for wild venison would require a deer harvest in the range of 190 million deer.

That can't happen of course, since there are only about 32 million deer in all of North America. But what is so strange about the locavore movement is how much it aims to reverse the single most important factor in the development of civilization, namely, the specialization of skills and the division of labor. The new mantra is to do everything yourself, regardless of time, talent, skill, or inclination.

A handy tip for determining the validity of a moral injunction is to ask yourself, "what if everybody did that?" And it is surely problematic that fully implementing the "sustainable" locavore agenda would result in the extermination of the wild deer population at the hands of a foodie horde.

There's nothing wrong with the DIY ethos when it is pursued casually or recreationally, and in many ways, doing something for yourself that could be done cheaper and better through outsourcing or automation is the very definition of a hobby.

But locavores don't see themselves in those terms. Rather, the movement presents itself as a morally progressive and ecologically sustainable way of life that, properly implemented, will reform capitalism, agriculture, and the environment.

If anything, the locavore culture ties into an utterly reactionary world view, seeking to drag society back to the 19th century. But more critically, it is – to put it mildly – a bit of a problem for the gun control lobby that a significant percentage of self-styled progressives are pushing a moral program that requires a massive increase in gun ownership among the very people it ought to be able to count on as its core constituency.

The upshot is, you can believe in local food, or you can believe in gun control. But you almost certainly cannot believe in both.

Andrew Potter is the author of The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves, out now in paperback from McLelland & Stewart.
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What is this hippy garbage? Slamming people who are getting into hunting because it might derail your precious gun control agenda? Seems kinda slimy.....

Likely one of the dumbest articles I've read from The Hook. Frankly, I don't know where to begin.

"Hunting is suddenly fashionable"? "Hipster Hunter"? What the...?

Mr. Potter could benefit from learning a new trade.

The Hook should make its last page out of much softer paper, since most of the essays printed thereon are only suitable for use as TP.

Dear Mr. Potter your article is pure garbage. Your premise false and misleading, your summary is based off of lose facts and information that you obviously know little about through any personal experience. Your flagrant assumptions are insulting and your understanding of the issue at hand leads me to believe that you are nothing more than an instigator looking for attention, like the two young terrorists who bombed Boston, but sadly not even as smart. Your desire to come across as some kind of intellect here to save all of us from our stupidity and confusion is so conceded and lacks of any humility or reserve. I believe you are nothing more than someone looking to polarize the gun debate, insult people who actually are showing a progressive attitude towards our endless consumption. You sir are the one who is lost finding yourself. Lose your jealousy and maybe you make it, maybe.

BTW - I voted for our current president twice, support gay rights, and may as well be considered a male feminist. That makes me a "lefty" as you put it. I also own more guns than you would know what to do with, support new gun control legislation, and love to eat venison. Let me know when you want to go shoot an assault rifle or eat some of my Venison Jerky.

I agree with Zack that this article is pointless and self absorbed like the very hipsters you look to mock. If it is another trend like the author points out then why worry at all? Are there still be coconuts even after the raw coconut fad-yep. If it's a fad will there still be 32 million deer after it's over? -probably more. You can still raise chickens or beef and get your protein in the same spirit of local food you talk about here.The least thought out ideas you explore are your own.

Wow! i can only imagine this article was intentionally crafted to anger thinking people. i mean, you can't really be serious right? lets just look at a few of the more gaping holes in this sub-sophomoric rant of an essay
You opened with a ridiculous characterization of every proud redneck i've ever known (camo clad yahoos) many of whom are hunters and really good people who give tons of venison away to friends and charity; while the real right wing nuts are wearing suits and driving BMWs. This is followed up by a description of some hipster kid with a shotgun over his shoulder...a person i've never seen.
The meat of the argument is in the next couple of paragraphs, but it has already been hopelessly diluted with careless and inaccurate generalizations, in fact, as far as i can tell this whole article is one giant careless generalization.
There are some valid points to be made toward keeping our changing attitudes about food (an important thing given the outrageous behavior of big agriculture e.g. monsanto et al) within the bounds of reason, it is another thing entirely to risk demonizing all foodies by lumping them (me) in with a few fringe types who don't understand the realistic limits of hunting wild game. That said, I'm not so sure a couple of years of over hunting would be such a bad thing on a couple of fronts. The deer population is in need of thinning in many areas and i think there is some intrinsic value in encouraging everyone who eats meat to engage in the whole process of bringing that food to the table. I don't think of this as some 'John Bly gone wrong' male orgy, but rather as a way to engage in reality. Plus, honestly, the first time Mr. vinyl miner discharges his 12 gauge, he's probably going to become a vegan anyway.
Oh boy! i haven't even started on guns yet. I will defer to Zack on that one and add only that the guns, if any, that are in need of control don't have anything to do with hunting animals but are more suited to killing rooms full of innocent children. To confuse pappy's rifle with an assault rifle is an error of fact and shows a limited understanding of both issues.

Leaving aside all the passions this rather trite article has stirred up, I'd chime in with observations about anything that might renew meat hunting. If someone would just get on the stick and start killing these rats with antlers called deer, I would be a happy camper. As for me, I think Venison is gross. It's dry and what taste it has must be disguised by various culinary magic acts. When it crosses my path, I feed it to my dogs, but if someone thinks it's "Locavore approved" and wants to eat it: bring it on. Get rid of enough of them and I could rediscover the joys of gardening and motorcycle riding on a warm summer night with a pint of Whiskey in my pocket....

Really? I don't know what was the bigger waste of time! Reading the article or writing this!!!