Hunters Take Aim at Amendment That Would Shoot Down Their Lifestyle

The Israeli Hunters' Organization opposes a far-reaching amendment to the wild animal protection law, and hunters met last week with Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan urging changes in altering the law and saying it would gravely damage their freedom of profession and increase the risk to wildlife.

Erdan's ministry said in response hunting allowed in Israel today is not considered an occupation and is not meant to provide a livelihood.

The amendment sweepingly defines all wild animals as protected species, with the exception of a select few that are defined as pests. Permanent and renewable hunting licenses will be eliminated and replaced by permits to hunt specific species causing agricultural or ecological damage. Ministry officials said the amendment will, in effect, ban hunting here as a recreation and a sport.

"The new legislation means that hunting licenses will effectively be passed to contractor pest control companies," said organization chairman Ilan Fisher, who attended the meeting with Erdan. "These companies won't use professional hunters, because there won't be any anymore. In some cases, farmers will prefer to use poison rather than pay the companies, and even when companies will be used, they will be difficult to monitor."

Fisher said that "there will be widespread damage to wildlife because these won't be professionals who know which animal to target." He worried the permits would lead to cronyism and offer an opening for corruption.

The hunter said this scenario is unfolding despite professionals being happy to hunt pests free of charge. "The new law still sees a need to shoot animals. Why not leave it to people who have the professional commitment and values [concerning] the rules of hunting and protecting nature?" he asked.

A hobby for Jews

Israel has some 2,300 licensed hunters, but only some hunt regularly. "Most hunters are Arab or Druze," says Fisher, who at 74 has been hunting for more than 50 years. "For the Jews, it's more of a hobby, and we enjoy eating the meat. For the Druze and Arab hunters, it's a tradition going back generations, with fathers handing down hunting rifles to their sons. It's an important part of the culture of family meals after the hunter returns with the meat."

Fisher said that although the hunters enjoy their hobby, they also play a vital role in protecting nature by regulating species that reproduce rapidly and heed requests from the Nature and Parks Authority.

Hunting is "not supposed to provide sustenance for the hunters," the ministry said in a statement. It said the claim that the permits system is meant solely for certain unprofessional companies is unfounded. "The permits are meant for hunters and farmers, to carry out controlled hunting to prevent damage to agriculture."