Why do people think the hunt is inhuman?

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The hunting season is an annual highlight in the canton of Graubünden. Hunting is a bloody sport for outsiders. Still, there is little conflict between hunters and conservationists.

This content was published on September 5th, 2012 - 11:00 am
Terence MacNamee, swissinfo.ch

Rony Frank believes hunting is in his blood: "It's a disease, a passion, an addiction. It's been three weeks in the middle of nature," he told swissinfo.ch. Rony and his brother Röbi come from a family of hunters in Graubünden, more precisely from Domleschg.

"We all hunt," says Röbi. Even the grandfather went hunting. Röbi learned the trade from his father as a boy. Röbi is a floor layer. He has been hunting for 20 years. His brother Rony is a carpenter and has been hunting for 21 years.

Both go on the high hunt in September, that is, on the hunt for deer and chamois. There is no time to hunt down birds and other small animals in October and November.

Röbi goes "to relax, because of the hunt itself, but also because of the nature and the animals that I can see and observe" and "of course because of the meat that we then eat at home". Rony says he wants to pass the joy of hunting on to his ten-year-old son, whom he is taking with him.

Hunting has a long tradition in Graubünden. The right to hunt was introduced in 1526. Hunting is an ecological necessity for the authorities as the number of deer and ibex is constantly increasing. Without hunting - according to the official attitude - the ecological balance would be considerably disturbed.

Thousands of hunters have a hunting license in the canton of Graubünden. In order to obtain the patent, which has to be renewed annually, those interested attend courses and have to take an exam.

Hard and short

Herbert Schönhart is also a passionate hunter. The curative teacher originally comes from Styria (Austria). He has lived and worked in Switzerland for years.

"Today hunting is linked to many other interests. It is also about preserving nature and the forests. Hunting is more closely associated with other aspects of nature than it used to be. It is about the question of which animals you shoot or which not. A coordinated hunt also shoots young female animals. Back then, my father only shot males. "

Schönhart, who also hunts in Germany and the Czech Republic, says that hunting is particularly hard in the canton of Graubünden because the "season is short and the weather is sometimes very cold".

The feeling of payday

"Because the hunt is focused on a very short period of time, it is also associated with a lot of emotions. Killing an animal is a high point, comparable to scoring a goal in football or climbing a mountain peak. It kind of feels like payday." says Schönhart.

Röbi Frank agrees: "I can't sleep before the hunt, I'm so nervous. At the same time, there are around 6000 hunters. The pressure of competition is correspondingly high. You have to kill something, otherwise it doesn't make sense to take the rifle with you. There you can you're about to come with the camera. It's true, you kill a life, but that creates space for new life. "

Animal rights activists and their associations criticize hunting and demand that it be abolished. You cite moral reasons and describe the hunt as inhuman.

They also warn of the dangers that people could also be shot. They also doubt that hunting is necessary to keep the wild animal populations under control and point to the canton of Geneva, which abolished hunting in 1974.

Gamekeeper as an observer

Pragmatic Graubünden conservationists, on the other hand, do not fight the hunt. They work with the hunters and follow a common strategy. For example the ornithologists who work to preserve wild birds. "In Graubünden we have a special and, in my opinion, ideal situation," Christoph Meier, president of the ornithologists working group, told swissinfo.ch.

"Some of our members are also hunters. We also work well with the cantonal office for hunting and fishing. Numerous game rangers have attended our courses and have thus benefited from our knowledge. They inform us about the locations of birds of prey and owls. The game rangers are outside every day and they are very good observers, "says Meier.

Rony Frank is a member of the local hunting club. He is aware that this sport has a political dimension. He replies to the critics that they mostly live in the cities, but admits that there are also opponents of the hunt among the mountain people.

"In the past the main argument in favor of hunting was that people needed it for their livelihood. Today, the focus is on preserving nature. People only see the shooting. But we have to shoot young and old animals to control the populations."

Popular pastime

Around 6,000 to 7,000 people are active as hunters in the canton of Graubünden. 150 of them are women.

The high hunt (deer, roe deer, chamois) takes place every year for 21 days in September. The exact dates are set annually.

The lower hunt (marmots, hares, black grouse) lasts from October 1st to November 30th.

The ibex hunt is in October.

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