BY : EMILY BROWN ON : 23 JAN 2020 10:58The Vegan Cowboy/Instagram
If you’re a hardcore carnivore or a dedicated hunter it might be hard to imagine your life without meat, but vegan ‘hunters’ have taken to social media to show just how much fun you can have while living the plant-based lifestyle.
There are thousands of people who have decided to ditch animal products this Veganuary, and while resisting bacon and eggs in the morning or ordering a sharebox of chicken nuggets after a night out might be proving difficult, everyone’s attempts should be commended.
For some though, the thought of having a dinner not involving meat just isn’t one they want to comprehend. It’s far from unusual; some people are raised on roast chicken, lamb hot pots and steak pies, and it’s no secret that old habits die hard.
Changing your diet isn’t impossible, though, as 32-year-old Dusty, the ‘Vegan Cowboy’, has proved. Check out how he incorporated ‘hunting’ into his vegan lifestyle below:
As his nickname suggests, Dusty was born and raised around animals, having grown up in country farmland north of Portland, Oregon.
Dusty’s grandfather was a butcher, and his neighbors were ‘quintessential farmers’. The cowboy and entrepreneur told UNILAD that until a couple of years ago, he was the ‘rootinest tootinest pollutinist carnivore that ever walked the earth’ – someone for who veganism ‘didn’t even come up in the realm of possibility’.
All of that changed when Dusty decided to alter his eating habits to improve his personal wellness and combat the chronic depression and anxiety he experienced during a ‘dark time’ in his life.
Speaking of his move to veganism, the 32-year-old said:
Switching to a plant-based diet was one thing that helped me out significantly.
I’m happy to say it has helped me on all fronts and that I won’t be going back anytime soon. Also, I know that if I can do it, anyone can!ADVERTISING
I’ve been plant-based and blessed for two years now. No greenhorn, but still a young fledgling and going strong.
Now an advocate for veganism, Dusty decided to challenge stereotypes associated with veganism by nicknaming himself ‘The Vegan Cowboy’ and sharing pictures and videos from his life as a vegan ‘hunter’, which show him standing proudly over pumpkins and wielding bananas as weapons.The Vegan Cowboy/Instagram
The 32-year-old believes vegans are often portrayed as ‘judgemental, angry activists’; stigmas that can be fuelled by people posting images of suffering or dead animals on social media in an attempt to gain compassion or shame people into giving up meat.
At the same time, he believes the idea of masculinity is excluded from veganism as stereotypes paint ‘masculine’ people as apathetic; people who perhaps couldn’t care less about seeing a dead animal, or are even proud of it, as hunters often are with their kills.The Vegan Cowboy/Instagram
Therefore, in an attempt to tackle stereotypes without ‘demonising’ or judging anyone, Dusty posts his wholesome vegan ‘hunter’ photos to present himself as ‘a tough guy with empathy and kindness’.
My goal with the vegan hunting pictures is to avoid making you feel bad about yourself for not being vegan, but to find some common ground and poke fun at wherever masculinity and empathy may collide.
Then, when the time does come and you might want to try a plant burger or ditch some dairy, it won’t seem like such a grave decision, because in reality it’s easy and not such a big deal.
Dusty isn’t the only vegan ‘hunter’ out there, and the cowboy hopes the images will work to make the lifestyle more accessible, as he admitted he hesitated in referring to himself as a vegan during his first year of plant-based eating out of fear of being judged.
Explaining how he promotes the lifestyle, Dusty told UNILAD:
I support the vegan causes, but I find humour to be a much better medium for communication than the horrific visuals of suffering animals that are bound to find their way into your feeds.
You catch more flies with vegan honey than with vinegar.
The United States Department of Agriculture reports 9.59 billion land animals were slaughtered for food in 2018 in the US alone. Hunters are a big contributor to this number, with more than 100 million animals reported killed in the US each year.
According to the BBC, the number of people taking up hunting in the US is decreasing, though last year there were still 15 million American hunters roaming the wild, looking for a target. The pastime isn’t one that’s necessary for living; it’s simply a hobby certain people enjoy, whether they see it as a challenge or as a way to contribute to conservation.
However, Dusty pointed out being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean giving up shooting practise – he’s openly been pictured with guns himself – he just emphasised he ‘doesn’t want to kill anything more than some fruit’.
Dusty admitted hunting allows people to be more conscious of what it means to take a life and eat meat, though he said it ‘sucks’ some people have the desire to kill animals.
Personally I’ll keep my hunting in the garden. I’m just here to point out y’all can love guns and blowing stuff up without hurting anything.
After successfully giving his eating habits an overhaul a couple of years ago, the entrepreneur is confident everyone could do the same if they put their mind to it.
Vegan options are becoming increasingly more accessible, with supermarkets stocking a wide range of plant-based options and fast food chains adding more meat-free items to their menus. More than half a million people have attempted Veganuary since its official inception in 2014, and 98% of those said they would recommend the challenge to a friend.
Dusty commended challenges like Veganuary and encouraged people to start with little changes, pointing out that once you get a taste of the vegan lifestyle it can be easier to stick to it.
The 32-year-old said:
I would encourage anyone to at least try. Even if you’re just giving up red meat for starters it makes a huge difference. I’ll encourage anyone to make as big or little of a change as they want, and to not get overwhelmed by the whole thing.
Most people discover that if they can hang in there and be plant-based for even just one month, their body and mind feel amazing.
And maybe if you can do it for a month, then maybe you can try it for another month? Then maybe a year and see how it goes!
As well as having a positive effect on your body and mind, experts have said the plant-based lifestyle is the single best way to help the planet.
Farming animals for meat and dairy means losing land to agriculture and producing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as often subjecting animals to cramped, stressful living situations.
Dusty backed his push for veganism by citing the wasting of natural resources on food products, for example the fact it takes almost 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of hamburger meat. Think about that the next time you’re craving a quarter-pounder.
The cowboy argued the world would be a ‘lot more plentiful’ if more people opted for plant-based alternatives, and pointed out that as consumers we ‘have the power to make the world a better place’. He added that changes in diet, even small ones, could have big impacts in the future, for example preventing the world from ‘being on fire all the time‘.
In a last-ditch effort to entice carnivores to change their ways, Dusty added:
Did I mention Oreos are vegan?
The concept of the vegan ‘hunter’ may seem a contradictory one, but the photos prove the hobby can be just as entertaining as regular hunting, with the added benefit of knowing nothing lost its life as a result of your actions.
Plus, it’s likely successfully growing vegetables and pulling them out of the ground in one piece would prove more of a challenge than pulling a trigger on an unsuspecting creature.
Hopefully more people will get on board with the idea of vegan ‘hunting’!
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