The economic (non)sense of hunting in Victoria

hunting fool

98 per cent of hunters in Victoria are blokes

This week, among the many silly press releases that arrived in my inbox, was one from the Victorian government, titled: “Hunting’s $439 million boost to Victoria”

It proceeded to explain how much recreational hunting is worth every year to the Victorian economy, how it supports the equivalent of 3,500 full-time jobs and that those who hunt (the 46,000 game licence holders in Victoria) contribute to local economies across the state as they buy “hunting and camping equipment, food, fuel,and other supplies related to their pursuits”.

Reading through the government’s PR spin, it became apparent that this was  really nothing more than a thinly disguised election year publicity stunt, designed to garner a few more votes from would-be rambos running around bushland shooting at things.

“The Victorian Government will invest $17.6 into game management over the next four years and the new Game Management Authority, an election commitment from the Coalition, comes into effect on July 1,” said Agriculture minister Peter Walsh in a pledge to the trigger-happy rifle brigade.

The economic benefits highlighted in the press release were based on a detailed 116 page report commissioned by the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) and undertaken by three private consulting firms. RMCG, EconSearch and DBM Consultants.

The report followed some very bad press for the hunting fraternity and the government after the Box Flat duck massacre at the start of Duck hunting season. This was the illegal slaughter of 800 ducks by hunting louts in the state’s north west, their carcasses left to rot in the water. The victims included 104 freckled ducks, one of the world’s rarest duck species.

What’s really silly about the press release is the implied logic: that hunting is good because it makes economic sense:.

Such reasoning could be used to justify any number of socially abhorrent activities that make money but have virtually no societal benefits such as plundering wildernesss areas for mineral deposits or manufacturing illegal drugs like heroin or ice and selling them to addicts.

That hunting is an absurd blood sport offering little benefit to wider Victorian society (except allow the 46,000 licensed hunters to ruin the natural calm of he bush with gunshot and blood) is abundantly clear in the findings of the survey by the consultants in the same government report.

More than 90 per cent of the 1000 hunters surveyed said they “strongly agreed” with the statements that hunting “let them enjoy nature” and helped them “connect with nature”.

Perhaps they interpreted “connect” to mean the moment a bullet connects with deer or duck brain matter?

Even the economic benefits of hunting are minimal.

Hunting is in fact a tiny part of the Victorian economy and represents well under 5% of the $9 billion of revenue derived from tourism activities every year.

The $17.6 million set aside for game management could easily be directed to encourage economic and socially beneficial outdoor programs that support nature conservation and eco-tourism.

And hunting is not popular among the wider electorate: In a 2012 survey, more than three-quarters of Victorians opposed the shooting of native water birds, an activity which is being banned in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.

In the UK, the cruel but traditional sport of fox hunting with hounds – favoured by rich landowners and Tories – has been banned since 2004. A survey this year found that more than 8 out 10 Britons supported the ban, after British prime minister David Cameron considered removing it.

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