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Hunting in Europe: A Rich Man’s Sport

October 20, 2017

This year I’ve decided to take up hunting. My goals in this endeavor are two-fold.

First, I for the longest time have wanted to take ownership of the overall process of taking the life of an animal. For years now, I, like much of our society has been guilty of just going to one of the many large grocery stores and purchasing our meat pre-packaged because it’s convenient and easy. Additionally, when we do this, we don’t think about the animals that are often force-fed who knows what to fatten up quickly for the consumer.

Secondly, I’m frankly bored of eating the same cuts of meat I’ve always eaten. Beef, pork, and chicken rarely excite me, even when they are prepared in ways near and dear to my heart. I’ve seen all these amazing looking recipes that call for wild game yet I have limited access to these cuts, and I’d rather hunt and process the animal myself (see the first point) than rely on a butcher to jack the prices up for the seasonal cuts of meat.

So, with these two points of “why I have decided to pursue hunting” established, let me tell you something I found fascinating. In doing research, I found that approximately 6% of the U.S. population, or 13.7 million Americans hunt. I, being a curious EURO graduate student, wondered how many hunters there are in Europe. After doing some additional research, I discovered that approximately 8 million of the 740 million Europeans hunt, meaning only 1% of all Europeans hunt. This was shocking to me as I figured the European figure would be closer to the American figure.

After thinking of possible reasons why very few Europeans hunt, I first looked at the overall access to hunting grounds Americans have versus Europeans. I hoped to show a figure or graph comparing the public land acreage in the U.S. to that in Europe, but I was unable to find such a figure, as Europeans generally are restricted to hunting on private land, typically with a professional guide – which is expensive. How expensive? On average the 1% of Europeans who hunt spend between $27,000 and $32,000, every year, on hunting, whereas the average hunter in the United States spends $2,484 every year on hunting. This is truly baffling to me as this makes hunting in Europe an activity for the wealthy and privileged, or “the top 1%”.

If you think about it though, hunting in Europe has for centuries been an activity for the wealthy- and this does go back to the access to hunting grounds Europeans have versus Americans. For example, in 1079, William of Normandy established Forest Laws, which prohibited the peasants from hunting deer or pigs from the woods, felling lumber, or any activities that would disturb the wild game. Essentially, William of Normandy kept the woods for his enjoyment and use. The punishment if caught poaching wild game from the King’s Wood ranged between a hefty fine and in severe cases even death. Today, law enforcement uses drones to catch poachers in the UK who illegally kill deer and other wild animals. (For more information on this click here.)


Thanks to the efforts of numerous conservationists including Teddy Roosevelt, the U.S. created the National Park system, which gives hunters access to over 640 million acres of public land to hunt, fish, and explore.


At the end of my research I realized two things, first, European hunting is and always has been, a rich man’s sport. Secondly, the American Dream is still alive and well when it comes to hunting as just about anyone, no matter their stage in life or socioeconomic status can take up this sport, thanks to the efforts of a few conservationists.



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