The Royal Saint-Hubert Club of Belgium (RSHCB) and the Belgian Delegation of the CIC have condemned RTBF, a Belgian public service broadcaster, for a television show investigating hunting (Investigation: La Chasse, le poids du fusil) which recently aired on the network. RSHCB, a member of the CIC, criticised the show for its portrayal of hunters.
Despite some of the criticisms of hunting in the program, it should be noted that it did recognise that hunting and sustainable use can be beneficial, both ecologically and socio-economically. Several positive examples were presented, especially towards the end of the show. One hunter did recognise that hunting, like every other activity in life, does have a few individuals whose actions can give the overall activity a bad name.
The show also acknowledged the need to consider these issues holistically with a consideration for all of the facts. This was perhaps best epitomised by a local mayor who made a brief appearance in the show. She stated that we should not look to pit one side against the other, and thereby create polarisation.
Unfortunately, the main issue with the show was that it focused on those hunters not willing to talk to the interviewer. They were singled out as either failing to respond or not wanting to answer questions.
Perhaps more concerning was the way in which hunters were portrayed by certain interviewees in the program. One scene in particular showed a masked individual from Belgium’s Department of Nature and Forests, who described the power of the “hunting lobby” and spoke of a kind of “mafia”.
Scenes such as this, where hunters are shown as criminals, discourages hunters from speaking publically, while also creating a negative image around hunting. Many hunters have, perhaps naively at times, agreed to be interviewed or questioned, only for their words to be subsequently twisted and used to fit the narrative of the interviewers and the media outlets in question.
In fact, the portrayal of hunters as criminals is quite far-fetched. Especially when looking at the lengths a hunter needs to go to in getting a hunting licence, in addition to the regulations and precautions they need to follow. Instead, when looking at the broader picture, hunters are often subjected to significant abuse and even criminal actions both online and in person; cyberbullying, the destruction of property and the destruction of hunting hides are just some examples of this.
It can be argued that images that depict hunters in a negative light, and especially the risk of words being twisted, is what ultimately leads to this lack of representation of hunters in the media. This in turn creates a further risk that the public is not presented with the full picture.
In order for us to continue supporting rural areas and wildlife, it is essential that we look to work together on these issues going forward. Finding solutions that integrate the needs and strengths of all parties will be much more productive than looking to attack one another. In this regard, a few good examples were presented towards the end of the show, where the actions of hunters appeared to be both welcomed and valued.
The joint statement by RSHCB, the Belgian Delegation of the CIC, the Federation of Big Game Hunters (FCGGB) and the Association of the Hunters of Wallonia (ACRW) can be accessed here (in French).