Opposition to hunting

Opposition to hunting is espoused by people or groups who object to the practice of hunting, often seeking anti-hunting legislation and sometimes taking on acts of civil disobedience, such as hunt sabotage. Anti-hunting laws, such as the English Hunting Act 2004, are generally distinguishable from conservation legislation like the American Marine Mammal Protection Act by whether they seek to reduce or prevent hunting for perceived cruelty-related reasons or to regulate hunting for conservation, although the boundaries of distinction are sometimes blurred in specific laws, for example when endangered animals are hunted.

The term anti-hunting is used to describe opponents of hunting; while it does not appear to be pejorative, it is widely used as such by pro-hunting people. Supporters of hunting contend that opposition is based on emotional reactions to the individual kill which may be eaten by the hunters, and that opponents ignore that modern hunting activities are regulated by scientifically guided legislation resulting thus in improved and increased habitat and growth in the number of individuals of each species that is legally hunted.

Geographic differences

It is difficult to compare strength of anti-hunting sentiment in different countries, for example because the word hunting carries different meanings in the UK and United States. Nonetheless, it is more possible to compare the strength of the anti-hunting movement in different countries, with some having stronger organization, such as in the UK, and some being nearly without it, such as New Zealand. However, as can be seen in the results table, opinions can vary widely on different surveys even within the same country, and as in all market research, consideration must be given to the wording of the questions, which can influence results.[1]

Roots of the movement

The Burns Inquiry analysis of the opposition to hunting in the UK included social class, sometimes proposed as a differentiating factor between hunting in the UK and hunting in the United States,[2] as one among many anti-hunting concerns. Furthermore, they showed the UK's anti-hunting movement was itself only part of a wider, grassroots opposition to hunting in the UK. The Burns Inquiry reported that:

"There are those who have a moral objection to hunting and who are fundamentally opposed to the idea of people gaining pleasure from what they regard as the causing of unnecessary suffering. There are also those who perceive hunting as representing a divisive social class system. Others, as we note below, resent the hunt trespassing on their land, especially when they have been told they are not welcome. They worry about the welfare of the pets and animals and the difficulty of moving around the roads where they live on hunt days. Finally there are those who are concerned about damage to the countryside and other animals, particularly badgers and otters."[3]

Opposition to hunting is not new. Victorian era dramatist W. S. Gilbert remarked, "Deer-stalking would be a very fine sport if only the deer had guns."[4]

The UK government's response to the call for bans on hunting, notably rabbit and hare coursing, has historically been to show its support for the interests of farmers, according to political historian Michael Tichelar.[5] As recently as 2005, one anti-hare coursing organisation referred to coursing supporters as being made up of "10% Nobs and 90% Yobs".[6]

An element of class is absent from the hunting debate in the United States where there are not many obvious class differences in hunting habits. Instead the differences in anti-hunting sentiment relates to urban sprawl and increasing population density.[7] Because of the abundance of public land in the United States, as high as 75% of the land in some states, one need not be wealthy to have access to huntable land in less densely populated areas.

The democratic perspective on hunting in the United States started as a result of the reaction against English laws restricting game to the crown.[8] This is one of the aspects of American culture which formed as a result of that nation's original high number of enclosure refugees from the UK and Ireland. A further distinction between the context of debate on hunting in the UK and US is that US hunting is generally licensed by government agencies, providing licence fee revenue. In contrast to this, hunting in the UK has broadly required only the permission of the landowner or the owner of sporting rights over the land.

Opinion polls

Country Polling Firm Question Date of polling Source Pro hunting Anti hunting Don't know/ no opinion
United KingdomMORI for League Against Cruel Sports (n=2,032)Do you think fox hunting should be made legal again?5–11 September 200816759
United KingdomMORI for BBC (n=2,234)To what extent do you support or oppose a ban on hunting with dogs?Feb 200526%47%27%
United KingdomMORI for RSPCA / IFAW (n=1,983)Do you support the ban [on hunting with dogs] staying in place / being scrapped?2–8 February 2007175824
United StatesResponsive ManagementDo you approve or disapprove of legal hunting?September 200678166
Northern IrelandMillward BrownIs fox hunting cruel?20–27 March 2006117910
United StatesResponsive ManagementDo you approve or disapprove of legal hunting?199573225

See also


  1. Moon, N. (1999). Opinion polls: History, theory and practice. Manchester University Press.
  2. Could Deer Hunting Be Banned In England?, Jan 2005, The Hunting Report
  3. Burns Inquiry report, para 4.12
  4. Grossmith, George in The Daily Telegraph, 7 June 1911
  5. Tichelar, M. (2006) ‘Putting Animals into Politics’: The Labour Party and Hunting in the First Half of the Twentieth Century, Rural History, 17: 213-234 (the reason) "...private members bills introduced in 1949 designed to prohibit hunting and coursing...were defeated was the strong desire of the Government to preserve its relationship with the farmers and the wider rural community
  6. FAACE comment on hare coursing
  7. "The Elusive Hunter". Newsweek. 2006-12-04. Archived from the original on 2006-11-27. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
  8. "The Elusive Hunter". Newsweek. 2006-12-04. p. 3. Archived from the original on 2007-05-24. Retrieved January 10, 2007.
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