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Monday, 22 February 2016

Hunter Gatherer Ethics pt 5 (Ownership of Game)

It's a strange concept isn't it that someone can own another living thing but farmers would certainly consider their livestock to be their property but it is a little different with wild animals.

Under Roman Law the right to hunt came with the ownership of a piece of land.

A depiction of hunting during Roman times
By Nanosanchez (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

During the 'Medieval' period and after the conquest of the British Isles by the Normans hunting became institutionalised as the pursuit of the rich and noble. The right to hunt was separated from the ownership of land and the right to hut was retained exclusively by the crown. This meant that hunting could only be carried out with the permission of the king.  This meant that the nobility were generally permitted to hunt on the lands they controlled but even then there were occasions where nobles were fined by the kings 'foresters' for hunting without permission. This famously occurred after Richard The Lionheart's was ransomed from Henry VI Holy Roman Emperor and to raise funds for another crusade enforced fines on his nobles who had been hunting in his absence.   The punishment for hunting or poaching without permission as a peasant were somewhat more severe, peasants had no money to pay fines remember, and historically would have included hanging, blinding, castration and deportation. 

Nowadays the right to hunt can still be separate from land ownership and it is fairly normal for someone to rent the game shooting rights without actually owning the land on which they will be shooting. We do just that in our deer management work in and around Riddy Wood.  

In summary though no one owns 'game' while it is alive, even the people who put time effort and money into rearing, raising or making the habitat perfect for it. So a gamekeeper who buys pheasant chicks, rears them, releases them and eventually accommodates guests who are going to try and shoot them doesn't own those pheasants until they are dead. While they are alive and wild they can leave his land and he would have no right to shoot them or claim them back from a neighboring landowner. 


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