Challenges Facing Swedish Hunting Ethics in Post-Modernity

Last changed: 31 March 2023
A female hunter kneeling beside a shot caribou. Photo.

Wildlife is a public good or shared resource in modernity, but many of our actual relations and interactions with wildlife, such as hunting, is guided by a private morality to a surprising extent.  How are these codes of conduct pertaining to wildlife changing in light of modernization processes?

While legislation stipulates certain duties of protection and provision toward wildlife (such as not do inflict unnecessary harm, when to hunt what and so on), research indicates that many of the codes of conduct regarding hunting operate independently from the law. This begs the question, what are the constitutive features of Swedish hunters’ wildlife ethic today, how does the code of conduct of such ethics compare internationally, and how is it changing?

Aims and objectives of the project

The purpose of this research was to outline, deconstruct and problematise the contemporary Swedish hunting ethic and the principal challenges that presently, and in the future, face it. Within this, it aimed to: 

  • Identify the code of conduct on wildlife among Swedish hunters of various demographics and locations to see how well these cohere with 
    (1) the formal regulatory framework;
    (2) other hunting ethics internationally.
  • Determine the internal and societal processes and challenges that currently face the Swedish hunting ethic and assess how they impact hunting ethics, including processes of cosmopolitanism, commodification, globalization and modernization.
  • In conjunction with hunting practitioners reflecting on research findings, identify junctures at which the hunting ethic needs greater discussion or be better reflected in legislation.

The research wa divided into three phases:

The first was to reconstruct a hunting ethic from the phenomenological perspective of hunters in Sweden, using qualitative data collection methods.

The second was to problematize this ethic in a change perspective, asking how are these codes of conduct pertaining to wildlife changing in light of modernization processes? By ascertaining the forces impact ethics from the perspective of hunters themselves, including commodification, new species, demographic transitions and technological innovation, the research could predict the evolution of the ethic and prepare for its future challenges.

The third phase focused on capacity-building for reflexive dialogue on wildlife ethics today and tomorrow, as called for by Swedish hunters to be cultivated in their community. This research phase went toward greater harmonization of laws with ethics as well as increased internal scrutiny (and therefore public transparency) over the principles that guide human-wildlife interactions in hunting. At the end of this phase, the Swedish hunting ethic was compared internationally through desk studies and collaboration with Nordic researchers and international researchers.  


Project leader

Erica von Essen, Associate Professor, Researcher, Division of Environmental Communication, SLU

Project time


External Funding

Swedish Enironmental Protection Agency/The Game Management Fund