Once in a while, someone hits on an idea that just makes sense.
Shane Mahoney has done that, and if he’s successful, perhaps the public at large will understand the benefits of recreational hunting.
Mahoney, an internationally respected biologist and conservationist from Newfoundland, Canada, is the driving force behind the Wild Harvest Initiative, an attempt to fully identify the nutritional and economic value of the animals hunters kill and consume throughout the United States and Canada.
It’s a novel approach. Modern society tends to focus on the animals being killed, and not on the broader picture that includes hunting’s benefits. Mahoney wants to turn that around.
If you haven’t heard of Mahoney, you should look him up. He’s an outspoken advocate for the sustainable use of Earth’s natural resources, and an articulate one at that. He’s one of the most impressive public speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear.
He says an estimated 14 million hunters and 30 million anglers participate in what he calls “wild protein harvest” every year.
“They know how their food was produced, and how it got into their freezer or frying pan,” he said in a presentation about the Wild Harvest Initiative. “Their activities obtain healthy, organic, protein-rich foods that are consumed not only by the hunters, but by their families, their friends, and by people who receive donations from hunters. What would it cost to replace that food using more industrialized systems?”
The initiative is an attempt to find out.
According to Mahoney, it will start with an attempt to analyze the biomass of wildlife protein consumed by Americans and Canadians.
From there, he said, researchers “will assess the nutritional and economic values, and determine the ecological and financial costs of replacing wild-harvested food through the expansion of existing agricultural models and domestic livestock production.”
The project, Mahoney added, “will demonstrate the actual magnitude of recreational harvest of fish and wildlife by U.S. and Canadian citizens.
“It will explore the nutritional value of the wildlife and fish that are harvested in terms of human health and basic nutritional requirements, while providing the first economic valuation of this harvest in real dollars and cents.
“It will showcase the sustainability and low ecological impact of recreational harvest of wild game and fish.
“The initiative will help broaden the general public’s knowledge of the continued relevance of hunting and angling, and it will simultaneously increase public awareness of the importance of wildlife and fish habitat, encouraging greater effort for its conservation.”
Finally, Mahoney said, “The Wild Harvest Initiative will increase public awareness of hunting and angling as effective conservation tools, as well as components of food security, while dispelling the myth that these activities have become irrelevant in modern society.”
To aid the effort, Mahoney has enlisted the support of some very heavy hitters — the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Global Rescue, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, to name only a few.
It’s an ambitious undertaking. The results, when they come out, could be eye-opening.
As a hunter and angler, I hope they are.