Hunting dates and locations are not properly communicated in the Grand Duchy, which leads to unnecessary risk.
I am fairly (very) confident that this will not be a popular opinion, as I know that hunting is a topic close to many people's heart (on both sides of the issue). For that reason there are a few things that I would like to make very clear indeed.
First, I know that hunting is of both financial and ecological value, and is necessary to ensure the health and sustainability of many species. I wouldn't dream of arguing with this point, nor would it be in my interest. I also hold the opinion (remember, this is an opinion piece and you won't be able to escape my subjectivity) that hunting is arguably the most honest form of meat consumption. There's no hiding behind sleek packaging, marinades, calling pig 'pork' and cow 'beef' - you get the point. It's man, animal, death, butchery, and consumption. If that's something you can't handle, then maybe meat isn't for you. But that's a different opinion altogether.
The point is, I respect hunting and hunters. But, the way it's done inherently leads to risks that are if not avoidable, then at least possible to mitigate further.
Before we get into the meat of my opinion, I've put together a quick quiz (it's just 5 questions). You don't have to do it, but I recommend that you do. Don't read on and come back, as many of the answers can be found below.
You may recall the case of a young British mountain biker who was accidentally (presumably) shot by a hunter in the French Alps back in October. The victim, Marc Sutton, was reportedly wearing bright clothes and visibility was good, yet he ended up being shot by a hunter and subsequently passing away.
That's the most recent case that comes to mind, but it's far from an anomaly. Indeed, even Luxembourg hasn't been spared from hunting accidents. As recently as 2016, a woman was shot in the head in Fentange (she survived) - and she wasn't even out cycling or walking, just sitting on her terrace. Granted, it initially was not entirely clear whether the shot came from a nearby group of hunters or a shooting range 1.5km away. Where the shot came from is largely irrelevant though, as at the end of the day the fact remains that shots were fired within range of not just a single house, but a town. Worse yet, that's par for course.
More broadly, according to data compiled by EuroSafe, agriculture, hunting and forestry accounted for 12% of all workplace fatalities between 2002-2004.
So what am I getting at, exactly? Well, there are...
Questions to be raised
Unfortunately I don't have solutions to the issues I see with how hunting unfolds in the Grand Duchy (and indeed many other countries), but the most obvious first step would seem to be better communication.
Hunting season started on the 13th of October this year and will keep going until the 9th of January - that much has been communicated, and indeed we published an article which included a (10 page) PDF with dates and locations for various hunts around the country from the ministry of development and infrastructure.
The problem is, it's rather difficult to keep track of exactly when and where hunts will be happening unless you (a) routinely check the PDF before taking a stroll through the forest (or decide to grab a coffee on the terrace), or (b) check on Geoportail (which isn't particularly user-friendly for this specific purpose).
As someone who lives close to both fields and forests where hunts regularly take place, this has been a source of annoyance. I regularly take my dog for a walk only to realise (usually far too late) that I haven't checked if there's a hunt that day - and doing so on your phone is a nightmare.
So I guess I do have a bit of a solution to offer after all: there should be a website where you can enter your location and immediately see hunt dates. This would at least make it easier to know when they are happening.
A second issue - and this may be a reflection of my ignorance as much as anything else - seems to be the locations where hunts take place. I've seen countless blinds located just a hundred metres (sometimes less) or so from roads, walkways, fields, and houses. This seems to be the opposite of 'health and safety gone mad', as it increases the odds of a stray bullet hitting a walker, or a stray walker accidentally entering the line of fire due to under-communication of hunting locations and times.
A sign or two placed nearby when hunts are underway wouldn't go amiss either, even if you naturally can't place one at every possible entry point to the hunt area.
It seems to me that information on when and where hunting is scheduled to take place is needed, and specific shooting locations and blinds should perhaps be better marked. Despite my own paranoia as regards potential hunts when I am out with the dog, I am rarely sure whether one is actually taking place - and it's certainly not easy to check. The placement of blinds also seems, to a non-hunter, utterly butterly mad.
I'm open to being proven wrong, however, and look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions in relation to this issue.
Martin Jonsson is a freelance journalist and produces Lëtzcast, a podcast about Luxembourg.