Hunting and Cultural Acceptance: Parallels between the American and European Experience

Hunting and Cultural Acceptance: Parallels between the American and European Experience

As the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum reported last year, European Federation for Hunting and Conservation, or FACE, is taking an approach to saving hunting’s future that the NRA and its Hunters’ Leadership Forum have embraced for some time now: promoting the cultural acceptance of hunting. As the NRA demonstrates through its own efforts across America, this promotion in Europe includes educating the larger European public about the conservation benefits hunting provides for wildlife species, wildlife habitats and the environment as a whole.

As our original article shared, “As has occurred in the United States, hunting in Europe is increasingly under attack as extremists push emotional and non-scientific arguments, accusations and misinformation about hunters and hunting. Although unfounded, these attacks have had a negative effect on public perception of hunting and present barriers to its cultural acceptance—despite its role in feeding those less fortunate, serving as a vital wildlife management tool and generating funds that aid game and non-game species alike.”

Last year, FACE launched a campaign in Austria to begin educating the public that scientifically based hunting has a very important role in maintaining and boosting wildlife populations, improving habitats and helping all wildlife species to thrive. Now FACE is working in both Belgium and Spain to further enhance its mission. Through partnerships with hunting organizations in both nations, FACE recently surveyed attitudes toward hunting by the citizens of those respective countries. The results were encouraging—yet they also revealed that there is much work that needs to be accomplished.

In Belgium, an impressive 77 percent of respondents to the FACE-cooperative survey were supportive or neutral toward those engaging in hunting “as long as it is performed legally and within the regulatory framework. This sentiment reinforces the notion that hunting, when done in compliance with the law, is widely accepted across the Belgian population,” according to a FACE press release.

European Federation for Hunting and Conservation survey showing positive public attitude toward hunting in Belgium.

At the same time, the survey revealed that 90 percent of survey participants acknowledged a “limited understanding” of hunting. “This presents a vital opportunity…to collaborate on educational initiatives to enhance awareness about the broader implications of hunting, including its contributions to biodiversity and conservation efforts,” FACE noted.

When it came to the issue of hunters keeping what many people refer to as trophies, 68 percent of participants expressed neutrality or agreement with this practice “under the condition that such acts contribute to conservation.”

FACE collaborated with the Royal Spanish Hunting Federation (RFEC) to survey Spanish attitudes on these issues and discovered that 70 percent of Spaniards accept legal, regulated hunting practices. “The comprehensive survey, involving over 1,000 individuals from varied backgrounds across Spain, was conducted in November 2023,” according to FACE. “The participants encompassed a diverse range of geographical origins, ages, genders and educational levels…”

There was a noticeable difference in acceptance rates across genders, with 78 percent of men showing acceptance of hunting compared to 61 percent of women. About 47 percent of respondents viewed the participation of Spanish citizens in hunting abroad positively, particularly when it benefitted host countries economically, ecologically and socially. Approximately half of those surveyed viewed the use of hunted animals, whether for meat or as so-called trophies, positively.

Public Education
Established in 1977, FACE represents the interests of Europe’s seven million hunters, from 37 European countries, as an international non-profit, non-governmental organization (INGO). This makes FACE the largest democratically representative body for hunters in the world and probably one of the largest European civil society organizations.

FACE adheres to the principle of sustainable use and has been a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1987. It works with its partners on a range of hunting-related matters, from international conservation agreements to local implementation issues with the aim of sustaining hunting across Europe.

With these new survey results, FACE will continue its work of creating an informed dialogue between hunters and their larger societies to encourage a positive perception of hunting.

If hunting is to grow and remain vital, efforts like those of FACE, the NRA and the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum are of prime importance. Non-hunters, after all, outnumber hunters by many times, and their acceptance or rejection of hunting will have important implications for the future of hunting worldwide.

Editor’s Note: While legal, regulated hunting is the foundation of America’s world-renown wildlife conservation success story—the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation—today its future hinges on increasing cultural acceptance. Hunting will endure only if we hunters succeed in effectively and persuasively telling non-hunters our story.

Thanks to the NRA’s ongoing investment in hunting’s future, the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) book, “How to Talk about Hunting: Research-Based Communications Strategies,” delivers a blueprint for communicating and debating about hunting, teaching us to be tactical, practical thinkers and communicators. Written for hunters and hunting and wildlife conservation professionals, it outlines the messages that NRA HLF-funded research shows resonate with non-hunters. It teaches us to consider the impact of the words we choose so the American public is more likely to be an ally of hunting—or at least not be against it. For more information, click here.
—Karen Mehall Phillips, Director of Communications, NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum

About the Author
Brian McCombie is a field editor for the NRA’s American Hunter and writes about firearms and gear for the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated. A member of the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Brian enjoys hunting hogs, shooting 1911s, watching the Chicago Bears and relaxing with his two cats.