Respecting Animal Practices in Indigenous Cultures
Our mission is to protect and support animals across the world. Part of that includes respecting practices in indigenous cultures.
Last Monday was Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a day designed to replace Columbus Day that celebrates Native American culture and their resiliency in the face of brutal violence by colonial explorers like Christopher Columbus. As an animal welfare organization, our concerns lie primarily with the well-being of animals, but part of that includes human welfare, particularly when it comes to issues like food security and land ownership rights. As such, we recognize that there are practices in indigenous cultures around the world that may include animals, but that we do not actively aim to end.
Indigenous communities have long taken on roles as land and water protectors, protecting both the habitats themselves and the plants that grow and the animals that live there. They protect up to 80% of the planet’s biodiversity often using traditional techniques to hunt, fish, forage, and live alongside nature. Organizations like the Seventh Generation Fund financially support these efforts by native populations. You can support these indigenous-led movements to protect biodiversity by researching local efforts and donating your time or money to them. Water protectors and supporters are currently on the ground fighting to stop Canadian oil giant Enbridge Energy from building the massive Line 3 pipeline in Northern Minnesota, for example.
When it comes to our work, we strive to incorporate these biodiversity practices into our policies. Our stance on hunting is that we oppose all forms of hunting that are not required for sustenance needs. We recognize that many indigenous populations and others rely on hunting as a way of feeding themselves. While we strive for alternatives to hunting in these situations, we also recognize the cultural value of practices like the Inuit use of polar bears. For those of us who are not members of those communities, it is not our role to decry traditional practices that have important cultural, nutritional, and other necessary value, particularly when they are used respectfully and humanely.
Factory farming is one of the greatest causes of animal suffering in the world. We object to the industry of factory farming because of its horrible impact on animals, the environment, and communities across the planet. Factory farming is also, by and large, a creation of colonialism. It has relied on slave labor, the exploitation of the working class, and the destruction of indigenous lands to come as far as it has. Factory farming is no longer about feeding the world, and, in fact, contributes to food insecurity across the planet by using land and crops that could otherwise feed people to feed farmed animals. We make this distinction between use of animals in factory farms and the use of animals hunted by indigenous cultures to emphasize just how detrimental factory farming is, while traditional practices that involve hunting animals for nutrition does not have these same far-reaching effects.
We are also a meat reduction organization, meaning our focus is not on the complete elimination of animal products from people’s diets. We are not a vegan or vegetarian organization, and our aim is to meet people where they are by suggesting alternative solutions. We take this stance for a variety of reasons. Reduction is more approachable than elimination, and there are genuine medical and cultural needs for meat that we do not intend to interrupt. That is just one more reason why we respect animal practices in indigenous cultures: Our approach is not all-or-nothing and allows for nuance and context including the traditional and nutritional value of these practices.
To celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the US, start by learning whose land you are on. Make a donation to your local indigenous community, and remember to practice respect for traditions that you may not partake in.