Back in the days, the former Danish Foreign Minister and leader of the Liberal Party Uffe Ellemann-Jensen made much out of the fact that he was an avid angler while the former Conservative leader Bendt Bendtsen was known – some would say: best known – for his keen interest in hunting, which, by the way, could have sent his driver to jail, had the present arms legislation been in force.
Bendtsen’s hunting interest was not without a political aspect as hunting has a certain upper-class image in Denmark, so hunting is fitting for a Conservative leader, but a Social Democratic or Socialist leader might want to think twice before loading the rifles.
Sweden and Norway are different, which partly has to do with the absence of a traditional nobility in large parts of those countries. Sure, King Carl Gustaf and his entourage regularly enrage Swedish animal activists, but in Norrland hunting isn’t really linked with class. Farmers and workers go hunting and when a boy shoots his first bear it is headline news in local papers (no, really! And I strongly suspect that for Norrland boys shooting the first bear is one or two steps above having sex for the first time). If there is a problem, then it is that hunting is seen as a male (Swedes and gender!) and a rural sport. Recruiting new huntsmen is difficult and we risk that the moose and the bears take over Sweden in one or two generations.
I’m not quite sure what the situation is like in Norway, but will note that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg could celebrate two great performances this week. Not only was he the first Norwegian PM to get reelected since 1993, he also shot his first reindeer this weekend.
By the way: The story may not be true, but it is funny, at least to Danes. When Jens Otto Krag was married with the Swedish author Birgit Tengroth, King Frederik IX presented the newlyweds with a buck he had shot with the words “it’s not meant as a hint”. (If my dictionary is to be believed, the other meaning of the Danish “buk” translates into English “goat”)