According to the French Office for Biodiversity, nearly 22 million animals were killed by hunting during the 2013-2014 season.
How many animals are killed each year when hunting in France? On social networks, the debate of figures is raging. “Hunters in France would kill 45 MILLION animals out of 91 different species each year, it’s worse than I imagined, when will it stop?”moved on March 13 a user on Twitter. “21 million in reality”, retorts a pro-hunting account. “It still seems huge to you? But do you know, for example, that the most hunted species, the wood pigeon (has seen) its population increase by 78% in 18 years?”
21 million in reality according to ONCFS reference data
Does that still seem huge to you? But did you know, for example, that the most hunted species in France is the wood pigeon (pigeon) with 4.9 million birds sampled/year… for a population up by +78% in 18 years…
– Franc Aller (@FrancAller_info) March 13, 2023
Is it true to say that millions of animals are victims of hunting? What are the environmental consequences of these withdrawals, which seem massive?
Approximately 22 million animals killed each year
According to the French Office for Biodiversity, the number of animals killed by hunting is actually in the tens of millions per year. According to a survey published in 2019 by this public institution (document PDF, page 40) relating to target hunting – that is to say with a shotgun or rifle – approximately 22 million animals were slaughtered during the 2013-2014 season. The wood pigeon is the most hunted species with approximately 4.9 million specimens killed, followed by the common pheasant (3 million) then the wild rabbit (1.4 million). For big game, “850,000 wild boars were taken (in 2022), 600,000 roe deer and 75,000 deer”, lists Matthieu Salvaudon, director of the “big game damage” service at the National Federation of Hunters (FNC).
For Jean-Dominique Lebreton, specialist in animal demography, research director at the CNRS and member of the Academy of Sciences, these statistics are probably underestimated: “a large number of killed animals are not found because they have been injured and die the following days. If we consider that this is the case for 10% of the birds taken, that would be around 1.5 million animals that are dying in miserable conditions”he complains.
The FNC counts nearly 87 huntable species in France. “It’s a record in Europe” laments Richard Holding, head of communications for the Association for the Protection of Wild Animals. For the National Federation of Hunters, this high number of species hunted would be justified by “the diversity and quality of biotopes” of France and the fact that France is “one of the most important migration routes for birds”.
One out of four slaughtered animals comes from breeding
Is such hunting pressure on wildlife sustainable? It really all depends on the species being hunted. “With regard to the pheasant, the mallard or the gray and red partridges, the vast majority of the animals in the hunting tables – that is to say the recorded catches of the hunters – are in fact animals from the ‘breeding”points out Jean-Dominique Lebreton. “Of the 22 million animals killed each year, between 5 and 8 million were bred in captivity” to be released on hunting grounds or in enclosures, says this specialist.
“The farming conditions are quite dramatic for the animals”stresses however Richard Holding. “To prevent them from killing each other in the farms, we have to put beak covers on the partridges. And since they were raised in cages, these birds are not at all adapted to wild life and often die. very quickly once released into the wild”.
“Hunting released animals, that is to say animals bred in captivity, however has the advantage of directing part of the hunting effort on farmed animals. the wild animals”, recognizes, however, Jean-Dominique Lebreton.
Threatened species hunted despite everything
The situation of hunted species among wild animal populations, on the other hand, is highly variable. “Apart from mountain species, populations of ungulates, i.e. hoofed animals, are increasing or rather stable”, believes Matthieu Salvaudon. Likewise, according to a study published in 2020 (document PDF) over there Departmental Commission for Hunting and Wildlife and the Departmental Federation of Hunters and Nature of the Aude, the population of the wood pigeon, the most hunted species in France, has increased by around 67.65% in 18 years.
On the other hand, according to the figures of the Bird Protection League , twenty of the 64 species of birds considered huntable in 2022 were reported as threatened with extinction or in decline by the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UIC N) . Again according to IUCN data, quoted by Release , between 30 and 40% of huntable species in France in 2020 were in a poor state of conservation. Asked about the hunting of endangered species, the FNC indicates that “for the sake of optimal wildlife management, the number of individuals of a hunted species in a territory can be regulated by means of quotas.” “For dwindling populations like sheep, gives as an example Matthieu Salvaudon, the hunting federations in relation with the prefectures adjust the authorized levies downwards.
“It is shocking that we continue to hunt species that are in a poor state of conservation”however moved Jean-Dominique Lebreton. “The argument of the hunting world is that the decline of populations is mainly due to the transformation of the environment, by agriculture or pesticides. This is very debatable, because by adding hunting mortality to them, we imposes a double penalty on species in decline”, concludes the CNRS research director.