Recreational hunting is not only good for the economy, but also good for the heart and soul, according to a Federal Department of Health-commissioned report.
RM Consulting Group, which surveyed more than 16,000 people, estimated in the report hunting contributed $638 million to the Victorian economy through direct and indirect economic activity.
While money may not equal happiness, it seems hunting might, as the report also concluded a number of activities involved in hunting and shooting had a positive effect on health and well-being. In fact, the report found hunters had a higher level of overall well-being than someone who might just go hiking or play football. And the more you hunted, the happier you were.
People who did not hunt were found to be eight per cent less happy than someone who hunted more than once a week.
Exercise, combined with a connection with nature, self-efficacy, ongoing social interactions and increased nutrition, to be the factors the study found were unique to hunting and important pieces of the well-being puzzle.
Ballarat's Gary Huntington is a lifelong hunter. He can remember shooting and eating rabbits as a child and how there was a gun kept down the side of the fridge at his childhood home.
He used to be excited to get home from school so he could grab a gun and go out with his mates in pursuit of more rabbits which they would sell to the butcher or eat themselves.
And he can remember a time when he worked in the Northern Territory culling thousands of pigs from a chopper. "I didn't enjoy it, it was just a mass kill. If you got a thrill out of that there'd have to be something wrong with you. It's not a good thing... I didn't like it, but it had to be done."
Mr Huntington said he has only ever shot feral animals and did not agree with the report in relation to self-efficacy and the achievement of a kill,
There's no glory in anything... If I shoot a rabbit, Jesus, I'm not getting a buzz out of it.Gary Huntington.
Mr Huntington now owns a gun shop in Ballarat and hunting is essentially just business for him, although he still recognises how hunting has been a source of friendship and connection with nature over his lifetime.
"Mainly with hunters it's just a matter of being out in the wilderness. Some of these hunters might be out in the woods for a fortnight and shoot one deer, but it's just being out there with mates, you've got a campfire... It's good that way... The pleasure of being out and about in the wilderness is good for the soul."
Another hunter from Ballarat who did not wish to be named could see how the report would conclude what it did.
He works in the health system and is close to hardship regularly which he says is mentally taxing.
He says hunting can be a good way to escape from the mental effects of his work and the other normal pressures of life.
Due to his role he had an understanding of the contributing factors to positive mental health and recognised the physical side of hunting as something important for health and well-being.
"In terms of mental health and physical well-being there are huge benefits. Just moving more, whether it's on the golf course, or moving the back lawn, or walking through the bush. There's a link between sunlight and depression prevention and management. The vast majority of the time you actually don't shoot anything. The actual act is such a small part of the whole process."
Although, he did say he was not sure whether hunters were necessarily happier and thought perhaps it was the availability of time, rather than a need to shoot, which led to greater life satisfaction.
"People who get to do those activities more regularly have a better quality of life, they are probably getting a better work-life balance and finding the time to go and do those things."
Despite the conclusion of the report, hunting remains a point of contention in Victoria.
Victorian Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick disagrees with the report.
He said the Animal Justice Party is not a fan of hunting of any type and struggled to see how hunting aided well-being. "I find it quite strange that hunting would be beneficial to anyone's health at all," he said.
"I'm more concerned with the health of people in regional Victorian towns, the health of those people is adversely affected by duck shooting. Having recreational duck hunting in Victoria has been proven to have a negative economic impact on regional towns."
RSPCA Victoria, which opposes recreational hunting, said: "the significant economic or health benefits (of the report) can be achieved through activities that do not result in the suffering and pain of animals such as ecotourism, hiking, four-wheel driving and camping."
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