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.
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.
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.
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.