This project was born out of a sense of frustration, that hunters in the UK are so often misunderstood and misrepresented. Hunting is not a 'hobby', nor is it 'killing for fun'. It is a way of life, with its own set of beliefs and ethics rooted deep in human nature and tracing its origins back to the dawn of mankind.

It is worth clarifying here that we are talking about hunting in its broadest sense, of catching and killing wild animals and birds (usually for food), and not the narrow definition of hunting foxes with packs of hounds.

I hope that through these pages we can begin to define what makes an 'Ethical Hunter', help to promote the highest standards of ethics among hunters in the UK, and perhaps explain to non-hunters something of what Ethical Hunting is all about.

This is not a membership organisation. Nor is it a scheme of testing or certification. We will not be issuing certificates to say that Mr or Ms X is an Ethical Hunter.

This is a forum for discussion about hunting ethics and related topics. We hope to develop and agree a written code of ethics that we can all subscribe to, at which point anyone who chooses may declare their support, pledge to uphold the code, etc.

After that, who knows? It's a work in progress. If the idea interests and excites you, then please join in the discussion and help us define what 'Ethical Hunting' means to us.


Monday, 2 August 2010

'Blood thirsty' trophy hunters


From the Sun newspaper - a scathing article about two teenage girls whose father runs a gun shop and has taken them trophy hunting in the US, Canada and Africa.

In language similar to what the same paper regularly uses to describe mass-murderers and paedophiles, the article talks of "sick photos" and the family's "grisly trophy room", dubbing the girls "blood thirsty" and "angels of death".

It's easy to see what the paper and its readers find offensive about this one-sided view of trophy hunting, and when the protagonists are two teenage sisters, it's an absolute gift to the tabloids.

Naturally enough, there's no attempt to understand the circumstances of each kill, how the hunting fits (or doesn't) into any conservation programmes in the area, why the girls love hunting so, and what they get out of it. Much easier to write them off as sick perverts.

Trophy hunting is, for me, a tricky one to justify morally. It can cross the invisible line and become simply "killing for fun" - something that, like the general public, I instinctively feel is wrong.

It's not the sort of hunting I would choose to do (even if I could afford it - gunshops in the States must be a lot more profitable than in the UK!). But do I have any right to criticise? I'd want a lot more information before passing judgement on these two girls and their father.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Book: Hunting Philosophy for Everyone


This isn't a book review as such, as I haven't read it yet, but I'm intrigued to dig deeper into the pages of Hunting: Philosophy for Everyone, edited by Nathan Kowalsky.

It promises a "thought provoking collection of new essays from across the academic and non-academic spectrum that move far beyond familiar arguments and debates about hunting".

The foreword, by David Petersen (the outdoor writer, not the cartoonist) is a masterpiece in itself. Here's a taster:

As hunters, much is revealed about us by the tools we choose to carry afield, the strategies we employ to bring game to bag, the ethics we embrace or ignore in seeking success, how we define hunting "success", and how we talk about it.

Once he gets into his stride, Petersen takes a powerful swipe at those who use modern technology as a substitute for patience and fieldcraft:

Finding such traditional values as woodmanship too slow and unreliable, too many of today's dilettante sportsmen are eagerly co-opted by advertising to take such ethically bankrupt shortcuts as motorized decoys, electronic game calls, map-friendly GPS units, cell and satellite telephones, night vision optics... To true hunters and the concerned non-hunting public, this stinky garbage - as grotesquely acted out on TV's "outdoor" channels - is embarrassingly pathetic, leaving us to ask: "What's the point? Why even bother to do a thing when there's so much cheating and self-delusion..."

Strong stuff, but a point that increasingly worries some of the people I most respect and look up to. I look forward to delving into the body of the book, in the hope of understanding better.

And as I prepare to set off for the CLA Game Fair, where Gunmakers Row will be alive with "motorized decoys, electronic game calls and night vision optics," it's a timely wake-up call. I shall view the stands and their wares in a different light.

And I shall certainly be looking for more writing by David Petersen.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Diana the huntress

Here's an interesting perspective on women hunters, at the fascinating Ana the Imp's blog:

Daughters of Diana

I love hunting, I have since I rode to hounds for the fist time when I was twelve years old. I’ve also enjoyed a spot of rough shooting now and then, small game. It’s just a thrill; I offer no excuse or justification beyond that; I have absolutely no guilt or regrets. I like to think of myself as one of the daughters of Artemis, Diana, if you prefer, one of strigae, the wild women who followed the goddess in the hunt... [read more]

Also worth checking out is Ana's post The Devil Wears Fur.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Hunters in their own words

That woodcock debate sparked off some discussion of hunting ethics on the Sporting Shooter forums. And I was pleased to see some readers explaining their own ethical code in their own words. These are down-to-earth country people, rather than professional word-manglers like myself, and their comments are all the stronger for it.

Here's 'Ian':

To me ethical shooting means eating what i shoot, or shooting other species that are harmful to the local biodiversity of the area , i eat all that i shoot and never shoot more than i need with one exception wood pigeons i eat and freeze what i can the rest goes into the food chain via the game dealer as to waste them to me would be unethical. shoot fox at times when theres too many and rabbits all year round to keep the numdber managable, i shoot alone and just being in the countryside in places others never see is a big plus i don't brag about bag sizes i never think of big bags even pigeons when i have have good days it's about crop protection and my ability too help the local farmers keep them under control. you can check all my posts on this forum and you will see i never once tell of big bags. i like to think myself a bit of a conservationist only shooting when the need arrises either for food or for the good of the other species of wildlife.others might have a differenet way of seeing the ethics of shooting for me this is what it means.

...and 'Verminater':

I'm not sure what you mean but as Ian states i too shoot pigeons rabbits crows fox as pest control and crop protection and if shooting game that's because it will be in season and it is good too eat and if i have shot it i then now were this has come from but like Ian don't ever brag about large bag's i will only shoot a large bag of pigeons if they are doing that much damage and will go shooting as much as i can but will only shoot what i need or want like shooting or ferreting rabbits i will do a hole warren if the farmer wants them thinned right out and i eat them i have two large freezers that are used so is nothing waisted game shooting is different most of the game we shoot is reared to be shot and 90% goes into the food chain and the rest eating by those who take part in the shooting as for the woodcock this is different in different parts of the country most of us only see them inn the winter as most of only come here too over winter here and you have too give them respect for that. The little bird has flown thousands of miles and should not be massacred when we have hard frost's or when you first start too see them especially near the east coast they are a mythical bird that will carry it's young between it legs too get away from danger so i think that deserves a lot of respect.

Respect to those guys, too.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Book review: Hunting in Britain, Barry Lewis

I ordered a copy of this book from Amazon some time back, but it seems publication was delayed and it only arrived today.

Hunting in Britain, From the Ice Age to the Present, by Barry Lewis, is a refreshingly objective, historical look at the nature and role of hunting (in its broadest sense, ie all types of catching animals and birds for food) throughout the past 700,000 years and more - an unbroken tradition that we continue today.

Lewis, a professional archaeologist at the University of Nottingham, takes a dispassionate, scholarly view of the subject, gently chiding the academic establishment for overlooking this vital and central theme in human development: "There are whole areas, even in prehistoric archaeology, which have been affected by a reluctance to research the topic of hunting, possibly because there is simply a general distaste by researchers, and more significantly within academia generally, for the topic of hunting, its attendant symbolism and the socio-political issues it gives rise to," he writes.

The book examines topics such as the relationships between humans and horses and dogs, the evolution of hunting weapons and techniques, and goes on to look at the Hunting Act 2004 and ask "Where to Now?"

So far I have only skimmed the book, but already I have marked many sections that I want to go back and read in detail.

I was particularly inspired by Lewis's closing remarks: "...hunting has been a crucial and inescapable thread running throughout the full length of human occupation of the British Isles, it is our longest continuous tradition, it has shaped land tenure as we understand it today and it has been hugely influential in shaping the British countryside and its landscapes. It has shaped rural traditions, and links us insescapably to the very food we eat in ways that we are scarcely aware of."

In my view, understanding that background is vital to understanding our place as hunters in modern Britain, and taking that tradition forward into the future.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Respect for the quarry

In my view, respect for the quarry doesn't end when it dies. This sort of photograph, or events like the New Zealand bunny throwing contest

are just plain wrong. Clearly organisations like the League Against Cruel Sports believe that pictures of people messing with dead animals helps their cause, too.

There is no logic in this; the animal is long past caring what's done with its redundant body. And natural decomposition is equally repulsive to view. But as hunters we feel a natural revulsion at people toying with dead animals. Hard to put into words, we just know what's right and what's wrong.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Creswell Crags - 'home of the ice age hunter'

Creswell Crags in Nottinghamshire is 'a limestone gorge honeycombed with caves and smaller fissures. Stone tools and remains of animals found in the caves by archaeologists provide evidence for a fascinating story of life during the last Ice Age between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago'. The Creswell Crags museum and visitor centre looks well worth a visit. More info here.