Guilt-Free Meat-Eating Strategy: Hunt Invasive Species

A new book describes how invasive species may provide vegetarians a welcome meat-eating freebie

Invasive nutria in the Southern U.S.
Invasive nutria in the Southern U.S. USFWS

For many vegetarians, the decision to give up animal flesh stems from environmental or ethical concerns. But some former vegetarians are calling for a win-win solution that skips the methane emissions and animal cruelty while bolstering environmental management: eating pesky invasive species.

Just think of the possibilities: iguanas and pythons in Florida, lionfish off the Atlantic Coast or rat-like nutria in the Deep South. While gaining a savory snack packed with protein, consumers of invasive species can take solace in the fact that they’re helping to remove an unwanted animal from the ecosystem.

Grist’s Enrique Gili conducted a Q&A with Jackson Landers, a former vegetarian and a hunter who just published the book, Eating Animals: One Man’s Adventures Hunting Invasive Animal Species. Here are some highlights from Landers’ responses:

There are so many people right now who have meat-eater’s remorse — people who eat meat and feel kind of bad about it, but they’re not actually going to stop. Or they’re vegetarians and their bodies actually crave meat.

The beautiful thing about hunting, especially invasive species, is it’s a way of dropping out of the mainstream meat paradigm, where so many of the ethical and health problems associated with eating meat arise.

Though Landers says none of the animals he ate while gathering material for his book tasted bad, he does admit that nine-banded armadillos “have a funk to them.”

“I have this scent memory of stinky armadillo belly that’s going to haunt me,” he told Grist. “But I don’t think that should prevent people from eating armadillos that other people have hunted.”

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