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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Fresh meat: Women's motivations to hunt and how they challenge hunting structures

Tickle, Lara ; von Essen, Erica; Fischer, Anke


Hunting has a unique status as a sport and leisure activity alongside its practices having high stakes for society related to ecology, biosecurity, animal welfare and public safety. As such, hunting must increasingly legitimate itself before the public both in terms of ethically justifiable motivations for why to hunt and ethical standards for how to hunt. One way in which public acceptance has been sought in recent years has been to frontline ‘women hunters’ as the hunting community's indirect ambassadors. An effort to recruit more women is also seen as imperative to the survival of hunting in a practical, demographic sense. When women enter hunting, they enter an arena that is opaque and difficult to navigate along with heavy baggage from gender roles, expectations about proximity to wildlife and nature, and masculine norms on behaviour. In this study, we demonstrate through semi-structured interviews, participant observation and auto-ethnography of a hunting license education in Sweden, how women navigate spaces carved out for men. The findings show traps of emphasised femininity, expectations of women as ‘softening influences’ on male hunters to rein in their potentially unethical behaviour, and as differentially positioned in the learning process of hunting. However, using Bourdieu's social capital, findings also reveal that women negotiate and trade attributes in creative ways – such as landownership, meat handling skills and knowledge – to gain an advantage, status or level the playing field. We argue that regardless of gender, being in a position of sufficient capital to be able to call out unethical behaviour in the hunting team is crucial insofar as it serves the hunting community's ultimate interest.


Hunting; gender; social capital; power; animal ethics

Published in

Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space