Hunting at the time of Covid

Across Europe hunting and shooting lobbies have been working hard to make sure that these activities are allowed to carry on as usual without being affected by Covid related restrictions.

FACE (European federation for hunting and conservation) handily published on their website a list of countries who have passed special legislations to make hunters exempt from Covid limitations on social gatherings and travel bans between regions. In fact, it is harder to find countries who have placed any limits on hunters and shooters, than those who haven't!

I have been keeping a record of such news from my living room, while the pandemic was raging outside, taking note of the many Governments which hurried to pass special exemptions for those who practice bloodsports. First, I remember the UK moving fast in September 2020 to make hunters exempt from the rule of 6. I was not too surprised there - in the middle of the grouse shooting season I had no doubt shooting estates would have found a way to twist the Government's arm and override the law to allow business to carry on as usual.

Then there was Cyprus, where hunters were soon exempt from the curfew imposed on all other citizens.

Then Italy, the central Government imposed tough restrictions on movement across regions, to try and curb the spread of the virus. However, in 11 out of the 20 regions, councils voted to override the national law decree and allow hunters and shooters the right to travel and sometimes congregate to pursue their activity. The autonomous region of Alto Adige was one of the first, followed in just a few months by Molise, Trentino, Toscana, Piemonte, Abruzzo, Liguria, Puglia, Umbria, Lombardia and Sardegna.

What is the rationale behind not allowing hikers to hike, mushroom pickers to pick and bird watchers to watch, but allowing men with guns to run after wildlife, basically affording them key workers privileges? Well, in each of these press releases linked above we see the same motivations: hunting cannot be deferred, as it is fundamental for the preservation of a healthy ecosystem.

I could write a book on why this sentence is flawed. I'll limit myself to linking here a small part of a rich scientific literature on why the driven pursuit of boar by teams of hunters, rather than carefully managed selection, actually increases the overall population of wild boar by breaking up the packs and making them more prolific. Sounds familiar? Badgers and wolves do it too, yet hunters and farmers insist that the best way of controlling their population is by randomly shooting them. As for wild birds, I can not fathom how killing them may help their already crippled populations, but let's get back to our tour of Europe for now.

Asturias, in Spain, another place where hunting is given special status and can therefore circumvent the regulations put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Then we're in France, one of the countries with the worst infection rates in Europe, but hunters can congregate in groups of maximum 30.

Austria, Belgium, Germany, the list goes on.

Of course the virus doesn't make exceptions or gives special status to anyone, so just as you would expect these assemblies of people inevitably lead to further outbreaks. As this article reported in Italy, 30 new cases emerged following a boar hunt and the party's evening meal.

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