‘We will punish you,’ was the response from many huntsmen

Unfortunately, the majority of hunters who bothered to write in to the newspaper took a threatening stance. Claiming that our views «did not leave any room for dialogue and any attempt on our part to debate with Oiko would be beneath us» (a comment by the Fourth Hunting Association of central Greece), for the most part they threatened to boycott Kathimerini and its sponsor. Many letters contained the phrase «We will punish you.» Not «We disagree» or «We condemn,» but «We will punish you.» This apparently directed response (since many announcements by hunting associations were identical), even if not meant literally, smacks of a person carrying a weapon, the dangerous bully with a gun in his hand. It also reveals a sense of desperation, given the absence of arguments and the growing likelihood that the tide is turning against them. Fortunately, not all hunters adopted this aproach; there were also more measured protests. However, the letters of protest of similar content called the Oiko feature a «vulgar insult» against those whose way of life is characterized by a «love of and contact with nature through hunting.» They concluded by saying that «the public… punishes these efforts at disorientation and believe us, you have greatly disappointed them.» «We are determined to punish you morally and as publishers,» wrote the Almyro Hunting Association. The truth is that hunting associations, referring to the votes and the euros to be gained from their 300,000 members, have got used to firing away without any restriction, immune to criticism. They have two weekly supplements in the national press (in Ethnos and Eleftheros Typos) and several more magazines around the country, and are not accustomed to tolerating the opposite point of view. As they are one of the most active lobbies in Greece, they are sure of receiving favorable attention by legislators. The editorial in Ethnos’s magazine supplement «Hunting» described Oiko’s feature as «reducing the (argument) to one level, not to call it racist, more suited to fringe, militant magazines… those which serve totalitarian arguments… The age when Greek hunters had no voice has gone forever… In recent years, we have finally learned to function as an organized lobby… We have the raised the stakes, helped by our leadership’s rising to the challenge of the modern communication environment.» We have no cognizance of the abilities of the leadership so fulsomely praised in the editorial, but the same issue of Hunting contains an article that confirms Oiko’s survey. The hunter-author of the article, who attacks the decision to ban the hunting of partridges in the prefecture of Evrytania, writes: «How can they be sure, those who have banned (the hunting of partridges) that the bird will be thereby protected, since in the same region hunters will be going after other game birds, particularly hunters of hares who are particularly fond of hunting this «queen of the mountains» after they have done with hunting hares? It will be easy for some people to poach, since it is an enormous area that is difficult to monitor.» Many of the letters display an amazing arrogance vis-a-vis nature. «I will always fight to protect Nature from the cunning and the mindless (Ed. note: Most likely he means ‘ecologists’). And I believe that I am justified in claiming my reward of 10 woodcocks, five partridges and a wild boar every year from nature’s surplus (which I ensure exists).» This correspondent claims that «not all the individual animals born should live,» but only a «healthy population according to (an area’s) biocapacity.» «Hunting was and will be the first and main rule of survival. That the big fish eat the little fish is a law of nature. You see, hunting is in our veins, like genetic data, so it cannot be removed,» claims another hunter. «Nature is a perpetual cycle of life and death, evolution and survival of the fittest. We enter that cycle and become part of it every time we go hunting,» says another. The Palamas Hunting Association of Karditsa, which calls hunting «an act of love for Nature and not the unleashing of barbarous instincts,» nevertheless sets out the terms of battle. «We never let a wounded animal live, we do not mistreat lifeless game. Our behavior toward it should be honorable, as befits every worthy opponent,» it said. Other correspondents claim to be insulted. «You have insulted us in a fascist way. Why such fury and and evil psychological violence? I ask you to write a similar report on hunters and their associations to ascertain the quality and the quantity of the work that is done collectively,» said another letter. «My family is not a family of killers,» said a wife and mother of hunters. Dozens of hunting associations sent messages of protest, including groups from Sykourio, Farsala, Trikala, Kalambaka, Syros, Alonnisos, Nea Ionia-Volos, Kymi and elsewhere. A letter from Yiannitsa mentions the «economic benefits to the Greek State and the fact that many people earn a living from selling hunting goods.» Among the tumult of accusations, it is difficult to find arguments that attempt to draw a line between the legal exercise of hunting and poaching, or that refer to any efforts in that direction by hunting associations. «Where were all those people who are now attacking us when hunters were putting out food for ducks and swans on the Evros Delta in temperatures of below minus five degrees?» asked one angry hunter. Another correspondent called for a debate on «sustainable development, the enrichment of biotopes, the rational management of hunting, providing fodder and water for game, a clampdown on poaching and illegal possession of hunting rifles by non-hunters, the briefing of people in the countryside about the great damage caused by the uncontrolled use of pesticides, which is happening at the moment in Macedonia.» No one, least of all Oiko and Kathimerini, has any objection to hunters’ making their views known, as long as this is done by means of rational arguments, not angry threats.

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