Criminalising the right to hunt: European law perspectives on anti-hunting legislation


Nurse, A. 2017. Criminalising the right to hunt: European law perspectives on anti-hunting legislation. Crime, law, and social change. 67 (4), pp. 383-399.
TitleCriminalising the right to hunt: European law perspectives on anti-hunting legislation
AuthorsNurse, A.

The existence of large hunting/shooting communities across Europe is sufficiently widespread that hunters can be classed as a distinct social group or subculture. Hunters are nevertheless not legally recognized as a distinct protected group even where they are granted considerable recognition within legislative and policy discourse related to their interests. Widespread opposition to anti-hunting legislation across Europe suggests a shared resistance to legislation and public policy detrimental to their ‘sport’ among hunters and those engaged in animal harm linked to traditional fieldsports and hunting interests.
Socio-legal discourse, however, suggests that states have not only a right, but sometimes an actual obligation, to introduce laws that serve a utilitarian purpose; even where these marginalize certain interest groups, e.g. hunters This article examines these conflicts through analysis of the UK’s Hunting Act 2004 and challenges to its introduction via European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) action; particularly arguments that hunting falls within Article 8 (right to a private life) Article 11 (freedom of association/assembly) and Article 14 (freedom from discrimination). The ECtHR’s jurisprudence concludes that hunting is an activity that is only protected by human rights law in specific circumstances. Accordingly, employing a green criminological perspective, this article concludes that European states are entitled to regulate or criminalize hunting where they consider there are legitimate animal protection or moral reasons to do so, even in the face of significant opposition from hunting communities. Thus states may also legitimately criminalize and prosecute illegal hunting activity even where this might be socially constructed as resistance to anti-hunting legislation.

JournalCrime, law, and social change
Publication dates
Online29 Nov 2016
Print01 May 2017
Publication process dates
Deposited09 Mar 2018
Submitted01 Jun 2016
Accepted26 Aug 2016
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
Copyright Statement

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Crime Law and Social Change. The final authenticated version is available online at:

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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