The tradition of hunting – what purpose does hunting serve in developed countries?
It seems that in our time, when animals are kept for meat and other products derived from them in almost every corner of the world, hunting should disappear. However, this is not the case. The reasons for this vary. The most common argument is that it is necessary to catch an excessive number of herbivores, but this is not the only reason why hunting is doing well.
Purpose of the hunt
For thousands of years, hunting has been used primarily to obtain food and skins. This activity was considered dangerous and required the highest skill of the hunter, therefore a rich tradition began to form around it.
Hunting became a way to increase the efficiency of a warrior, as well as a form of initiation – the man who killed his first animal was considered a full member of the community. In addition, this was the way to get used to death – both the victim and the hunter in the event of an unfortunate accident.
Today, in the most developed countries, hunting for food is not needed, but other hunting functions are still relevant – at least in some areas.
How did former Europeans hunt?
In the past, hunting was carried out on a regular basis if it was intended to obtain more meat, skins or for sport. Sometimes, e.g. before a military expedition, they took the form of an organized expedition. As predators or “big game” animals were also hunted, hunting was also a kind of test of courage.
Later, especially in the colonial era, the sporting role of hunting began to increase – trophies brought from exotic countries, such as skins, skulls, horns, elephant tusks and even body fragments, were very popular.
The most effective and courageous hunters were considered heroes and models of courage, as evidenced by their trophies. No wonder they tried to get as many of them as possible to maintain their reputation. At that time, people hunted irresponsibly, often only to cut off a part of the animal’s body that served as a trophy.
On the brink of extinction
This state of affairs has led to a situation where many once very numerous species have ended up on the brink of extinction. This, as well as the growing importance of animal husbandry, made hunting a decline in popularity. However, it soon became apparent that it was essential in some parts of the world.
The shooting of animals
Before the relationships in nature were better understood, predators were considered pests or rivals to humans. Therefore, they were ruthlessly exterminated while trying to increase the population of herbivores. This, as well as changes in the environment (especially deforestation), made the animals too many – it turned out that nature is not able to feed all the animals living in the area. Therefore, a culling was necessary. This is today the main function of hunting in developed countries.
Hunting as familiarization with weapons
Hunting plays a special role in the central states of the USA. These are areas where today you can encounter vast forests or undeveloped meadows. These areas are characterized by a specific way of population distribution and lifestyle. There are still many small towns and farms where livestock are grazed on pastures.
Owners of such farms need to be largely self-sufficient in, for example, the protection of animals or their property. Under American law, a person has the right to shoot an attacker when he enters his land. It can also kill a predator that attacks its animals. This, in turn, means that he must be skilled in handling weapons.
Hunting is therefore considered not so much a sport, but a way to get used to firearms. While hunting, humans get used to the emotions of shooting, including the bang and recoil of a weapon. In addition, the hunter sees his victim’s blood and death, which is to teach him that the use of weapons is the last resort.
Such actions have nothing to do with cruelty, quite the contrary. Lovers of the movie “The Deer Hunter” may remember the speech of one of the characters, who explains what he thinks hunting should look like. According to him, the most important thing is a “clean” shot – that is, one that kills the animal quickly and without unnecessary suffering. To this day, experienced hunters pass this knowledge on to young people – if you are not sure to shoot a “clean” shot, it is better not to shoot at all. A similar scene can be observed in the record-breaking series “Chernobyl”, in which a group of people is forced to kill animals.
In “The Deer Hunter”, the protagonist does not want to lend his gun to a friend who has forgotten his shotgun. It is also an important lesson in modern hunting. During the hunt, the hunter learns that each weapon is different (e.g. it is differently balanced, the aiming line is not fully aligned with the barrel, etc.). So before he starts using it, he has to get to know it first.
All the rules described above may seem strange to us. However, life in these regions is different than in Europe. There, a person who does not learn the principles described above is considered not fully prepared for an independent life. Moreover, this often turns out to be true.
Hunting as a symbol of entering adulthood
Even in highly developed countries, there are places where – as hundreds of years ago – there are various forms of initiation, especially in men. In the central states of the USA, such a form of entering the male age is shooting the first animal yourself.
Inhabitants of those areas have been accustomed to firearms since childhood. Literally! It happens that even a few-year-old children are taught to properly hold a light weapon, e.g. a pistol, and teenagers are usually able to shoot well, and also know how to use a shotgun. However, this is not enough – a person must not only be able to use a weapon, but also be able to use it at the right moment. This is precisely the goal of hunting.
In many families in those areas, there is at some point a ceremony in the lives of teenage boys: an invitation to the first hunting in their lives. It is a recognition that the young person is already male and ready to take up “adult” activities. The boy’s task is to hunt the animal on his own – with a little help from experienced hunters, e.g. his father or another family member – which also means killing the animal.
This can be a traumatic experience for many young people, but the general consensus is that it is necessary. For it is possible that the same man will have to use a weapon someday in the event of a greater necessity and will then not be able to hesitate.
Hunting and nature protection
Many people think that hunting and nature conservation are mutually exclusive. We know, for example, the history of bison that were almost exterminated by hunting – even when the hunters knew well that they were hunting perhaps the last animals living in the wild. However, sometimes a passion for hunting may result in the hunting community taking action to protect endangered species or areas.
A prime example of this is the white-tailed deer. In its time, this animal was on the verge of extinction – due to, among other things, mass hunting. The hunters saw this and began demanding real action from the government to increase the population of the species. Not only that – they themselves began to provide government specialists with invaluable information on the lifestyle and requirements of this deer, and also proposed a viable hunting system, excluding large-scale commercial hunting. This resulted in one of the most successful population restoration in history.
Hunting in developed countries is therefore a custom that still performs many important functions. In some cases, they may seem unnecessary or cruel to us, but remember that in many places in the world people live differently. Therefore, hunting – like most known traditions – will probably never disappear.
Your opinion on hunting
Today we are signaling the topic of hunting. In the following articles, we will also try to present the negative aspects of hunting – hunting for trophies or farms breeding animals for hunting. Such farms are found in many countries (not only in Africa, as is commonly believed). Unfortunately, Europe also appears on this map. We know the famous hunts where farmed pheasants were shot. Farmed pheasants were released from the cages directly under the hunters’ barrels. This, however, has little to do with the traditional understanding of hunting.
- What is your opinion on hunting and hunters?
- What do you think about hunting and hunters?
- Is hunting necessary or should it be banned?
- What do you think about hunting for trophies?
- Will the hunting tradition survive?
We invite you to discuss hunting in the comments below the article.