The Place of Hunting in Rural Ireland
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Recreational hunting activities occupy an uneasy position in contemporary rural space. Framed by global developments and changes in the sociocultural, political and economic fabric of rural societies, we are also witnessing, however, a growth and interest in non-agricultural activities in the countryside, particularly those associated with recreation and leisure, including that of hunting. Contextualised within this broader discourse, this research seeks to explore how hunting is positioned by those within and outside by drawing on critiques of how nature is socially constructed; work in animal geography, which highlights the changing character of human-animal relationships, and rural studies which illustrate not only how representations of rurality are seen as socio-cultural constructions, but can also be specific to particular social groups and individuals. To unpack this complex and nuanced relationship and explore the place of recreational hunting in rural Ireland, this research utilises a national questionnaire-based survey of hunters and hunting organisers, an examination of rural policy documents, in-depth interviews with rural policy decision-makers, and focus group discussions with farmers. This approach not only registers the relationship between hunting and the rural economy and between hunting and the ecological management of rural space, it also highlights hunting and its portrayal as exclusionary, selective and divisive within Irish rural policy. Overall, this research provides a comprehensive study on the place of hunting in rural Ireland. It offers new understandings into how hunting activities potentially challenge contemporary rural policy objectives and provides complex insights into nature-society-rurality connections, within a broad discourse of rural change and restructuring.
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