Nordic region visits FACE MED in France
Since 2010 the Nordic region (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland) and FACE MED (Mediterranean countries) have visited each other three times - in Italy, Sweden.
Martin Hoejsgaard of the Nordic Hunters’ Cooperation gives his take on the most recent gathering took place from 22-24 June 2012 in Avignon, France:
The aim of these regional exchange visits is simple: in order to have meaningful discussions amongst some 38 countries represented in FACE, we need to know more about each other. Otherwise, there is a big risk that we will be talking past each other. In the Northern countries for instance, the hunting right is closely connected to land ownership. In Greece and other southern countries however, this is not the case, making a huge difference when we are talking about land and species management. Another example is the fact that hunting for meat (eg. moose) is an integral part of local societies in the North whilst hunting in southern Europe is often seen as a social activity. There are also differences concerning compulsory hunting tests, reliable bag statistics and the percentage of hunters being organised in clubs and associations.
In Avignon the Nordic Delegation first visited the Hunters’ Federation of Vaucluse for a very friendly reception. The next day a formal meeting was held at the “House of Hunting and Environment” where the Regional President, Bernard Mathieu, gave a presentation on hunting in the Mediterranean part of France and its characteristics. Damage to trees and crops by wildlife is common in all areas of Europe but the French system where hunters have to pay for the damages if they do not control the numbers of eg. wild boars is practically unknown in the Nordic countries where hunters do not have such liabilities.
From time to time the capture of song birds in Southern Europe with the use of traps, snares, nets and lime sticks has caused concern among hunters in other parts of Europe. - For unjust reasons, Mediterranean hunters have often claimed, referring to the traditional hunting practices as sustainable and of immense cultural and local importance. In other regions of Europe, hunters have feared that the public image of hunting could potentially be harmed.
Public surveys show that around 85% of the Nordic population is either positive or neutral towards hunting. This strong backing is based on hunters adapting to the surrounding society and their belief in us as competent managers of nature and wildlife. Nevertheless we are very sensitive to critics and strive to build trust and confidence in everything we are doing, said FACE Vice President Torstein Moland (Head of the Nordic Delegation) in his presentation on the public perception of hunting in Norway.
But the Nordic visitors were indeed impressed to learn how much time, energy and love for nature is put into for instance the French and Spanish “parany” where trees and hedges are sculpted to perfect the capture of a few birds, and where even the glue making seems to be an art.
A number of excellent presentations on traditional hunting in the Mediterranean area stressed the fact that the selective catching of small quantities of birds is adapted to European legislation and there is even a newly established organisation working to promote traditional practices as a UNESCO intangible culture heritage, like falconry.
After the meeting the party went – by minibus - up the Tour de France legendary Mount Ventoux, where hundreds of amateur bike riders made their pilgrimage to The Bald Mountain and shared with the hunting representatives their passion under the burning sun.
As a final event the participants were invited to attend the regional championship of imitation of birds’ song in the village of Lascours. Again, striking passion mixed with friendship made up the same cocktail as hunters in all parts of Europe love. Six judges scored the results of the hidden contestants and the imitations were so good that even a couple of local song thrushes joined in. (You wonder how they would have done in the contest).
The Nordic delegation warmly thanks Giovanni Bana, Bernard Mathieu and all the other hosts for a highly interesting program and your great company – as well as Marilise Saghbini, FACE Communications Manager, for interpreting for us. And - I have to also mention - the local chefs for their divine contribution to our well-being…