Commodification of recreational hunting in Sweden : hunting tourism experiences as ‘peculiar goods’
Summary, in Swedish
Recreational hunting in Sweden can be depicted as being embedded in two different but overlapping cultural and socio-economic contexts. One is the traditional non-commercial and stewardship-oriented form hunting, in Swedish called ‘allmoge’ hunting. It is characterised by a democratic hunting tradition where the local hunting team is ascribed a main role in wildlife management. These teams often include the landowner, or the landowner may receive either monetary compensation or a proportion of the meat as payment. Another form is the commercial form of hunting, where hunting is packaged and offered to visitors, quite often with services such as accommodation, with food and other services included. Although the hunting as such is similar, these two forms of organising hunting are based on different logics of exchange. The ‘allmoge’ hunting is in general terms organised by local communities of hunters or through ‘friendship hunting’ a reciprocal relationship where friends are invited to hunt with a team. The other is market-oriented, arranging hunting events for visitors/tourists, with differing range of price depending on the segment. These two systems represent different value spheres that both intersect and collide, creating tensions and ambiguity. This is a tension that may be even reinforced considering the circumstance that hunting, as a consumptive form of wildlife tourism (cf. Lovelock, 2008), highlights ethical aspects and can thus be considered to be a morally-contested area (Cohen, 2014; von Essen, 2018).
The paper is based on a study of hunting tourism enterprising in Sweden. The study examines how hunting tourism businesses in Sweden navigate in a complex social, economic and moral environment. The aim of the present paper is to identify how tensions between a market-oriented value sphere and a value sphere based on friendship- and community reciprocity are played out in hunting tourism entrepreneurship. In particular, the study focuses on the ambiguous character of the hunting experience product and the different narratives and discourses framing what is considered, by the actors themselves, to be a ‘good’ hunting tourism experience.
Hunting tourism takes many forms and can be broadly defined as a form of consumptive wildlife tourism, where hunting takes place in a region other than the hunter´s own region (Lovelock, 2008). In this type of tourism, the actors involved – tourists as well as service providers – do not always regard themselves as participants in the tourism industry. Landowners, for instance, may organize hunting events and invite hunters from their own personal network without considering themselves to be involved in tourism. Others may lease land and run commercial enterprises with packaged hunting tours, with a clear marketing profile as professional entrepreneurs.
It has been argued that hunting tourism can sustain a social sustainable development, benefiting rural communities and local economies (Dahl & Sjöberg, 2010; Matilainen & Keskinarkaus, 2010; Novelli, Barnes, & Humavindu, 2006; Nygård & Uthardt, 2011; Willebrand, 2009; Wszola et al., 2020). However, the extent to which hunting tourism is economically and socially beneficial to local livelihoods, particularly in comparison to non-consumptive wildlife tourism, is highly contextual (Baker, 1997; Mbaiwa, 2011, 2018; Novelli et al., 2006). Trophy hunting, for instance, is often seen as the most notorious form of international hunting tourism, and its effects on the conservation of wildlife is debated (Aryal, Morley, Cowan, & Ji, 2016). In a similar vein, local residents’ and the public’s views on trophy hunting and sport hunting in various parts of the world is probably even more controversial, and demonstrate underlying moral, social and political tensions (MacKay & Campbell, 2004; Mkono, 2019; Nordbø, Turdumambetov, & Gulcan, 2018).
In the Nordic countries, such as Sweden and Denmark, the general public is generally supportive of recreational hunting, particularly if it has a utilitarian dimension (Gamborg & Söndergaard Jensen, 2017; Kagervall, 2014; Ljung, Riley, & Ericsson, 2015; Willebrand, 2009). However, as this study demonstrates, commercialization of hunting is a controversial area, also among hunters themselves. Studies from Norway (Oian & Skogen, 2016) and Finland (Nygård & Uthardt, 2011) and a comparison between Finland and Scotland (Watts, Matilainen, Kurki, & Keskinarkaus, 2017) have shown a similar pattern of ‘frictional resistance’ (Watts et al., 2017) in the local and dominant hunting culture towards hunting tourism. Several reasons have been identified: Competition for resources in places where the game decreases due to an intensified hunting, and increased prices for hunting leases when more hunting rights are allocated to commercial actors. Other factors being identified are socio-cultural dimensions such as risks associated with unethical hunting practices. The few studies that exist of a Swedish context (Dahl & Sjöberg, 2010; Gunnarsdotter, 2005; Kagervall, 2014; Willebrand, 2009) point at a similar direction and have highlighted an ambivalence among hunters towards commercial hunting tourism.
These differing, sometimes oppositional, views and traditions among hunters and hunting operators in Sweden serves as the context and the backdrop for the present study. The analysis has identified different logics and forms of exchange, highlighting a tension between different value spheres (Andersson Cederholm & Sjöholm, 2020, 2021). This paper builds on previous publications and highlights how the promotion of specific experience values are embedded in moral accounts of value. The analysis departs from literature in economic sociology on the moral economy and the notion of ‘peculiar goods’ – a specific type of commodity that evokes moral doubt or ambiguity when commodified (Fourcade 2011). This is the kind of goods that must find legitimacy as ‘products’ (Beckert & Aspers, 2011). This paper investigates how this process of legitimacy is being enacted by the hunting tourism operators, by analysing accounts and narratives of the ‘good’ hunting tourism experience.
The study is based on ethnographic interviews with 30 business operators based in Sweden, observations of hunting arrangements, and document analysis of hunting media. The businesses have different profiles in terms of marketing – some of them do not market their business as specifically tourism oriented with service packages etc., or barely do any marketing at all, others have a clear marketized profile with specific service offerings and packages. The sample includes businesses of different size and character – some own their own land, some lease hunting grounds, some have extensive grounds, some are relatively small. They are located in various parts in Sweden which means that that they are offering different types of hunting depending on the fauna and geographical/natural conditions. Some of the establishments are run by a single owner, a few of them by a couple/family, and a couple of them comprise large estates or farms. All of them offer hunting tourism packages or events to national as well as international guests. In general terms, although the economic conditions and resources vary between the different enterprises, the business owners clearly emphasise their passion for hunting, and the lifestyle dimension in running such a business.
By analysing the interviewees accounts, we focus on the mode in which the social reality is explained, narrated and justified (Scott & Lyman, 1968). In this mode, we can also discern many different voices or counternarratives in the interviewees’ accounts as they relate to various, sometimes conflicting, positions and opinions of other stakeholders, such as customers, competitors, authorities, landowners, as well as the general public.
The analysis demonstrates how moral arguments concerning wildlife management and human well-being are embedded in market relations and discourses on experiences, entailing different, but intertwined, moral-economic narratives on what constitutes a ‘good’ hunting experience. In line with an experience discourse in tourism, hunting may be promoted as a holistic and embodied nature experience, packaged as a service offering with food, wine, accommodation. It may also be framed in line with sport-discourse, focusing on quantifiable results such as number of kills or the weight and length of trophies. Another way of framing the hunting experience is in utilitarian terms, such as hunting for the sake of having access to sustainable quality meat. The analysis demonstrates how these arguments are embedded and framed in different narratives and discourses, highlighting a tension between personal lifestyle values and business, stewardship and commerce, wildlife management and recreation/leisure.
The findings show a complex economy where stewardship hunting – the traditional so called ‘allmoge’ hunting characterised by friendship- and community reciprocity – is both intertwined with and kept separate from market relations. This makes the hunting tourism product appear as a multifaceted as well as a ‘peculiar’ form of commodity. In this paper, we propose the concept of moral economy as an analytical framework in order to understand this type of market, existing on the fringe between market and non-market relations, in a morally-contested space. The notion of moral economy as we define it, points at a social process – an ongoing and dynamic negotiation and justification of what a product is and should be, with an ever-present and lurking doubt whether this should, at all, be considered a ‘product’. Hunting tourism, we argue, is a good case in point to demonstrate such a dynamic process.
Andersson Cederholm, E., & Sjöholm, C. (2021). The tourism business operator as a moral gatekeeper – the relational work of recreational hunting in Sweden. Journal of Sustainable Tourism. https://doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2021.1922425
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- Institutionen för tjänstevetenskap
Nordic Tourism Symposium 2022
2022-09-26 - 2022-09-29
- The social and cultural arena of hunting tourism entrepreneurship
- Service Studies Tourism