I would like to contribute a bit of my experience to the hunting debate.
Because I have been a passionate mountaineer since I was 4 years old
(honestly, this was when I did my first two-day mountain tour with my
family), I was often confronted with hunters, especially since I often
walked with my dog friend, who invariably attracted the attention of
hunters who threatened to kill him on many occasions. For 6 years I have
been regularly hunt-sabbing, not just hunting with hounds but also
shooting, stalking and snaring.
Thoughts on Hunting and Fishing
by Martin Balluch
Hunting destroys the social structure and culture of its victims
I don't want to belittle hunters' emotions, but my impression is that
for a start there is definitely exists a deep joy in killing a creature.
It seems that many of them really enjoy seeing a creature fighting for its
Then there is the element of "wrestling with nature" and showing their
superiority by actually winning the fight. It never stops to amaze me
though that this feeling of being such a good "nature wrestler" is not
completely spoilt by the fact that many of them use totally superior
technology and often pay for the hunt to be arranged such that the
"success" is absolutely inevitable. Often their victims aren't wild (and
in that sense part of "nature") anyway. Aside from the hunting of zoo
animals and livestock, I'm sure you all know that many hunted animals (in
huge numbers) are actually reared in factory farms and similar more open
holdings. The pheasants, for example, have all been reared in broiler
units like chickens, including debeaking and having plastic blinders
drilled in their beaks to curb their aggression, and are released a short
time before the hunt. You should see it yourself when the hunters arrive:
those poor birds don't want to fly away and often have to be thrown into
the air to be shootable!
The hunters' view of humans is normally as the "superior carnivore" at
the top of the food chain, somewhere close to lions and such, but even
superior to them. Their view of "living in nature" often involves the need
to kill anything that moves.
This certainly has lots in common with macho-ism. However, having said
that, my experience is that this macho-ism is not restricted to men. I
often encounter women hunting, with no different attitude and as little
compassion as hunting men. Last August in Leeds I saw a very serious
assault on a group of circus protesters by circus staff (Harlequins),
which was started by three macho women with baseball bats before many more
attackers joined in. All 11 protesters ended up in hospital, one had 12
stitches across his face. Anyway, it appears that this macho attitude has
long since crossed the gender barrier.
Hunting for food and for population control is questionable as well.
The former certainly raises doubts when done by members of a highly
technologically developed civilization with its means. A hunter-hunted
relationship is only in balance if the former depends on the latter to
survive. If you survive somewhere else, i.e., in a civilization, then you
lose the "emergency" and "natural balance" argument and it's back to
Hunting for population control is doubtful, because for almost all game
animals I know of, the population control is mainly achieved by other
means than a predator. The only game animal of European hunting I'm not
sure about in this respect is red deer, since there have been
contradictory studies on their population control. One says they control
their predator numbers, the other says predators control them. Anyway,
huntspeople normally ensure artificially high numbers of game animals by
feeding, so that the argument of population control is really a
Beside thousands of anti-hunt arguments, let me mention one which is
often forgotten. Hunting destroys the social structure of their victims'
society. Let me explain this with the example of wild boars in Central
Europe. I take this example because it has been well-documented in the
Wild boars can attain 30 or more years of age, if you let them. The
females form tight social groups with a leading matriarch and offspring.
The males have to leave the groups in adolescence, then form batchelor
gangs and eventually become solitary. The solitary males are the ones who
have the primary access to females for mating. The male wild boar develops
big tusks, a heavily protected neck and generally a huge size. The social
situation is very similar to the one of elephants in Africa. Normally, no
male will be able to father offspring before he is 10 or even 15 years
old. In turn, the matriarchs are old and wise females, who know their
territory well and who have the experience to safeguard their group
through climatic problems, droughts, long winters or even difficult
births. This is, in short, the social structure, or culture if you want,
of wild boars.
The influence of hunting is as follows. Firstly, a large percentage of
members of the wild boar society is killed every year. This is compensated
by feeding throughout the year and especially during winter. Often,
primary targets for trophy hunters are the lonely males, and if not
available than the older and bigger females. The only protected ones are
the females with young.
As a consequence no wild boar is older than 6 years anymore! Most are
between one and two years old! That means the structure of the society is
totally destroyed. What remains is a group of youngsters, disoriented and
unable to survive independently so that they become totally dependent on
feeding by humans. The have not been given the chance to learn anything
from their elders, because they are dead. And they have not the chance to
get enough experience to forward to next generation, because they will
likely die before they have matured. On average a wild boar in central
Europe lives only about 2 years. And furthermore, they have become
nocturnal animals. Being originally daytime active, they had to switch to
the night to escape the attention of human hunters.
The population also feels the reproduction pressure put upon them by
the high death toll due to hunting. Therefore the age of sexual maturation
has decreased to almost one year of age in some cases. And the
reproduction rate is much higher than is usual without hunting.
What we are left with is a bunch of immature youngsters, males and
females of one to two years producing vast numbers of offspring, being
totally unguided and incapable of independent survival. There is no social
structure anymore. And in sheer numbers, the wild boar population is much
larger than it would be were they undisturbed by hunters. Every
conservationist appears happy: large number = healthy population. But the
truth of the matter is totally different.
This analysis applies to many different animal species, which are
hunted by humans, including foxes and deer for example. Beside the
argument of unnecessary individual suffering caused for the joy and
entertainment of a few bored humans, this argument against hunting, i.e.,
that it destroys the social structure, is a very strong one, in my
opinion, especially in areas where the hunting pressure is high.
Let me finish on a brief personal note on fishing. When I was less than
8 years old my parents gave me a fishing tackle on my birthday. So I went
fishing, but I didn't put anything onto the hook. I just put the line into
the water and sat there content. I actually didn't want to catch anything.
But suddenly something got caught on the hook and pulled slightly on the
line. I pulled it out of the water -- it was a little fish, who was
hanging on the hook. The hook was stuck in the face of the fish underneath
I was totally shocked and felt horrified at what I had done to this
poor creature. First I thought he would suffocate quickly, so I left him
outside feeling that would be the most merciful thing to do, but when he
didn't want to die I put him back into the water (still on the hook) and
screamed for help.
My granny came running and she freed the fish. He was floating half on
his belly in the shallows, but he was still alive. I stayed with him for
nearly two hours, sitting in the water and sheltering him from the waves
who might have pushed him on shore. After two hours he turned more and
more belly downwards and started to swim in circles. Shortly after, he
left his little shelter and swam out into the lake again. I like to
believe that he made it and survived my onslaught. After this experience I
tore my angling stuff to bits and threw it away -- without telling my
This was my only brief experience of bloodsports from the perpetrator's
side. Ever since then I have sided with the victims.