The Call of The Hunt

Opinion | Vienna Review | May 2012

"I am very sorry. I made a mistake and it will not happen again," were the eleven words the Spanish king Juan Carlos managed to emit by way of an apology. The monarch had come under fire in April for going on a €10,000 a day hunting trip to Botswana, allegedly sponsored by a Syrian businessman close to the Saudi royal family. At the same time, Juan Carlos’ subjects were facing unprecedented social welfare cuts and almost a quarter of them had lost their jobs.

Yet those who think abolishing the monarchy would put an end to exclusive hunting forays with obscure patrons should consider Austria. After almost a century of republicanism, the country’s leaders are less apologetic about their feudal pastimes than the Spanish king.

"I’m a decent person and won’t let myself be criminalised for accepting invitations to hunt," the governor of Tyrol, Günter Platter, insisted when his outings with corporate bosses raised eyebrows in March. The visits of ÖVP-BZÖ era government ministers to the Scottish hunting grounds of the lobbyist Alfons Mendorff-Pouilly have become legendary. "It’s idyllic," raved then-Vice-Chancellor Hubert Gorbach according to the weekly Profil.

The differences between monarchies and democracies can sometimes seem slight: The common epithet for an Austrian state governor is Landesfürst – "prince of the province." And monarchs and politicians seem to have found a common response to globalisation by befriending investors while killing animals together.

Perhaps the old links between Vienna and Madrid could be profitably rekindled in a joint hunting venture?

– CH


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