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Stop cruel hunting, say animal rights groups

Hunters are gearing up for the start of the hunting season

(Keystone Archive)

As the hunting season gets under way, animal rights groups are calling for tougher measures to protect wild animals.

Groups are also calling for a ban on the use of hounds to hunt down animals such as wild boar.

The rising number of wild boar - which are very destructive to crops - has led to the increased use of hounds, notably in canton Zurich.

Animal rights groups, such as Swiss Animal Protection, say the practice usually leads to the animals suffering unnecessary pain.

"It's often the case that hounds do injure their prey when they find them," Peter Schlup of Swiss Animal Protection told swissinfo.

"The animals run very fast to escape the hounds; too fast for hunters to shoot them properly."

Schlup said the group would lobby the government over the coming months to impose stricter regulations on the use of hounds, although it is not demanding a total ban on the practice.

"This practice is extremely stressful for the hunted animals," says Schuld, who insists dogs should be properly trained and they should allow their prey to escape.

The campaign coincides with moves elsewhere in Switzerland to save certain animals from being hunted.

Later this month, voters in canton Aargau will decide on whether to ban the hunting of wild rabbits and coots (a type of aquatic bird).

Animal rights campaigners are also pushing for similar measures in canton Solothurn.

Hunting lobby

Meanwhile, groups representing the interests of the country's 30,000 registered hunters say hunting is carried out in the most humane way possible.

They say rigorous guidelines are imposed at cantonal level to protect animals.

"Everything is planned very precisely in order to maintain the right number of animals," Werner Grund, a spokesman for the Swiss Hunting Association, told swissinfo.

"If, for instance, there is a low number of deer at the start of the season, hunters will be allowed to shoot only a small number."

Grund also insists that animals are not injured by hounds. He says dogs are only used to lure their prey out of their warrens or holes.

Moreover, hunting is necessity in Switzerland, argues Grund.

"We are all nature lovers - but there have to be hunters in order keep the numbers of certain animals under control," says Grund.

"The proliferation of the wild boar, for example, is serious and the most effective way to fight it is by hunting with hounds."

Piecemeal regulations

One of the greatest concerns for animals rights groups is the fact that hunting is predominantly regulated at cantonal level, with widespread regional discrepancies.

"Some cantons have really advanced legislation, but others are really behind," says Schuld, adding that current national regulation should be broadened to replace cantonal law.

"It shouldn't make any difference to the animals whether they're in canton Thurgau or in Bern," he says.

Swiss Animal Protection, along with the Swiss Bird Protection League and Pro Natura, insists it is not, in principle, opposed to the hunting of wild animals.

However, they say stricter guidelines that are less open to abuse are imperative.

swissinfo, Vanessa Mock

hunting

There are 30,000 hunters in Switzerland.
Animals most commonly hunted: deer, foxes, boars and hares.
Cantons are able to impose their own hunting regulations.

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