(People's World) -- BERLIN – My brother-in-law Werner was a passionate hunter. Until his early death he lived in East Germany, called the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or DDR (in English GDR), which disappeared 28 years ago. I lived there, too, for many years, and it was there that my brother-in-law took me with him on a few hunting trips. I made clear that I did not at all like the idea of shooting a deer, a gracefully beautiful animal. As for the wild boars, hardly beautiful creatures to any eyes but those of their mates and offspring, I didn’t like the idea of shooting them either. I went along partly out of curiosity, partly for the chance to do some bird-watching while he was watching for prey.
Werner had an amazingly sharp eye for distant grazers, he was skilled with his gun, but also with words as he tried to convince me that hunting, despite its death and blood, was a necessity. With no natural enemies (until recent years when some wolves were re-introduced) an overgrown deer population would bite and ruin acres of young woodland, and the very fecund wild hogs can ruin many potato fields. Their numbers had to be kept in check by humans, he insisted. This did not justify excited hobby hunters banging away at all that moved but, he claimed, did justify a strictly planned improvement of animal ranks.
I suspect that even this rationale would anger vegetarians and vegans, and I will not argue. But the interesting aspect for me was a system which many would see as a restriction of freedom, typical for such a Communist-run state. Weapons and ammunition were strictly controlled. Rifles, though privately-owned, were locked up at the hunting clubs, usually connected with the forest rangers’ home and station.
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