While the number of hunters has plummeted in the United States and Canada, Germany has seen a 25 percent increase in hunting participation in the last 30 years. Much of that growth, according to a recent report by the AFP, is due to a movement of people seeking ethically sourced food.
“It’s important to me to know where the meat I eat comes from,” 28-year-old German woman Shanna Reis told the outlet.
Reis was a vegetarian for ten years before obtaining her hunting license and returning to the meat-eating world. She now operates an Instagram account boasting 20,000 followers dedicated to the hunting and outdoor lifestyle.
“It’s about conserving biotopes, talking to farmers and preserving the forest economy,” she said.
This new generation of hunters are interested in “understanding the relationship between the forest, the fields and animals,” said Alexander Polfers, the director of a hunting school in Germany.
There were about 390,000 hunters in Germany at the end of 2020, according to the National Hunting Federation. That’s about a quarter more than 30 years ago, its spokeswoman Anna Martinsohn told AFP.
In Germany, 19,000 people secured a hunting permit last year and four in five of them were successful — “twice as many as 10 years ago,” Martinsohn said.
Like initial reports in the U.S., some of this growth appears to be driven by events related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Germany boasts a massive pork and beef processing industry, but several high-profile COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in these facilities. Media coverage of these outbreaks has highlighted the poor conditions of the workers and animals alike, and some German residents have decided to forgo processed meat altogether.
“People are saying that in the long run they don’t want to eat that kind of meat,” said 47-year-old Nicole Romig, a high school teacher who has also taken up hunting.
Of course, German animal rights groups reject the notion that hunting might have any redeeming value.
“Killing an animal has nothing to do with respecting its life,” said Sandra Franz, spokeswoman of NGO Animal Rights Watch. “There is no rational argument for hunting apart from the desire to kill and collect trophies to be displayed.”
Reis hopes her Instagram account can help change the image of hunters as cruel or just trophy seeking.
In one post from last year, she recounts a boar hunt with her grandfather.
“The first driven hunt in 2020 was together with my grandpa. I’m am soo happy and lucky to share these adventures with him,” she says. “It was a nice hunting day, with good friends and a lot of wild boars to spot. What about you? Do you go hunting with family members?”