During his career as a journalist at News and on the show Investigation at Radio-Canada, Luc Chartrand was never one to give privileges to anyone. Not even the hunters, a brotherhood (and increasingly brotherhood too) of which he himself is a part. Some of his reports in the countries traveled by his peers, in Parent, in Haute-Mauricie, in 1990 or in Gaspésie more recently, provoked the ire of many disciples of Nimrod, that mythical hunter of Genesis for whom freedom was not negotiable.
He therefore does not shoot blindly when he devotes many pages of The Great Hunting Experience (Québec Amérique), his half-essay, half-report published in May, to the ongoing debates on this subject. Is this activity that goes back to the beginnings of humanity legitimate, even moral, in the 21st century?and century? However, it is mainly hunters who discuss in this book: chasing with bait is still hunting? Who owns the territories? What’s the point of the trophy race, these animals being slaughtered just for their attributes? How to prestige the game? The author dissects this last, more spiritual issue, notably with a young Huron-Wendat.
“I knew it might interest non-hunters who are looking to understand what’s on the mind of their hunter husband, friend, colleague or neighbor,” says Luc Chartrand. But most of all I wanted to write for hunters, so they could find elements of understanding about what they do and why they do it. »
At a time when the ethical fate reserved for animals concerns many people – think of Longueuil’s deer – Luc Chartrand defends himself against trying to make an activity socially acceptable which, in the eyes of some, constitutes for humans the absolute link with the environment. environment—“a pause for humanity,” he says, paraphrasing the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, author in 1942 of a famous treatise on hunting… even though he was not a hunter himself.
The 2022 portrait of the hunter painted by the journalist and writer is far from the image left by filmmaker Pierre Perrault in 1982 with his documentary the luminous beast, chronicle of a group of men in the moose hunting season, marked by violence, intimidation, drinking and vomiting. It caused a scandal at the time among hunters, who maintained that the painting was unrepresentative. “Today’s hunters are a reflection of their society,” says Luc Chartrand. I know workers, entrepreneurs, professionals, retirees, students…” More and more hunters too: around 30% of the new hunter certificates issued in 2019 by the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks went to women.
The stories the author extracts from his conversations with hunters – friends, peasants, urban youth, aborigines, industry stars and legendary guides – present dimensions of activity unknown to the layman. He talks about the environment, the protection of territories, gastronomy (a lot), but also about philosophical and even spiritual approaches.
Luc Chartrand also highlights the arrival of a spontaneous generation of hunters, for whom the taste for wildlife did not come from a family tradition, as was his case. “We are seeing the arrival of young urbanites, driven by ecological values that surround organic and local food, with ethical ideals, who seek to reduce the consumption of farm meat. Hunting is a good option for these youngsters. Also, on Sunday mornings, several TV channels are populated by this new type of hunters (caught in the hunt on TV5 and Unis TV, Quebec from a bird’s eye view and Chassomaniak on TVA Sports, to name just these programs) for whom the art of living linked to wood takes precedence over hunting.
The author joins historian Yuval Noah Harari, who, in his book sapiens published in 2011, argues that humans got the worst deal in history when they traded freedom for security, trading hunting for herding.
“I have admiration for wild animals, for the freedom they enjoy. And when you hunt, you participate in that freedom. It is the privileged channel to get inside the heads of free animals, to be empathetic with them and to understand the environment through them. Which makes it, Luc Chartrand swears, a demanding process. “Seeing animals while walking is one thing; understanding them in order to track them is on another level. You are no longer a spectator of nature, but an actor. »
Ethics is an intrinsic part of hunting, he argues: avoiding suffering, giving hunting a chance, abhorring waste, preserving nature and ecosystems, ensuring the health of hunted populations and other species whose survival is linked to it. The laws governing hunting are strict, even if certain morbid rules have aroused more misunderstandings than they have supported in the past. Like the bloody era of moose heads in hoods, which disgusted many citizens. “It was a legal obligation! The authorities wanted to combat poaching with this practice, ensuring that what was hunted was seen. This regulation no longer exists.
If anti-hunting demonstrations are rare enough in Quebec, they are legion in France. In the United States and English Canada, animal rights associations are more expressive. “The divide between hunters and anti-hunters is widening, even in Quebec, with the rise of the animalist and vegan movements. I have no problem with people who don’t like to hunt. But if it turns into proselytism, that’s another thing. »
Luc Chartrand donned a forest green plaid shirt suitable for the interview. Unbuttoned, it revealed a t-shirt displaying the various butcher’s pieces not of an ox, like the images you often see in the butcher’s, but of a moose. Two beasts of similar dimensions, but with opposite fates. “The success rate of a trip to the supermarket for animal protein is close to 100%,” he notes, while the odds of returning from a moose hunting trip with a catch are close to 10%, according to statistics. provided annually by the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs.
This is also one of the aspects that emerge from his essay: in 2022, killing is not essential to successful hunting. “An unsuccessful hunting trip remains an extraordinary adventure. But bringing the game back is the motivation that drives the entire process. It constitutes the hunting experience. »
Is he a good hunter? “I’m very average. And how does it feel when you kill a beast?” “Believing that hunters derive pleasure from it is a false interpretation,” replies Luc Chartrand. feeling of great drama. “Then there is the satisfaction of accomplishment. Because it takes a lot of effort, a long and difficult search. »
In his book, his friend Marleu Vincent writes: “It is a moral issue that all hunters must face. Killing an animal is a serious gesture, but it is the law of nature. You take. So, if man can be a wolf to man, he can also be to the moose or the deer.