Constitutional Court bans recreational hunting

By Arjun Harindranath February 9, 2019
Recreational hunting is becoming a thing of the past after the Constitutional Court’s recent judgment. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Colombia’s Constitutional Court has banned recreational hunting, stating that it went contrary to the government’s obligation to protect animals and the environment. The court held that “the norms that authorised hunting for sport were unconstitutional” and that the ban would be in complete effect in a year’s time.

Recreational hunting, or caza deportiva, is legally permitted in Colombia but it was argued that the laws were contrary to the principles in the constitution that valued the preservation of the environment. It was also argued that the practice led to a reduction in species population and that the sport wasn’t a part of Colombian culture.

The defendants, including the Colombian Federation of Shooting and Recreational Hunting (FEDTIRO), invoked the general principle of freedom within the constitution, how the sport fit into the culture and how it was an educational pursuit as well.  The defendants also asserted their property rights in arguing that the practice was permitted when held on private property.

The iguaza, or the black-bellied hunting duck, is within the hunter’s sights in Colombia. Photo courtesy of Wikicommons

On Wednesday this week Magistrate Antonio José Lizarazo held in favour of the plaintiffs, which included lawyer Laura Santacoloma and the Ministry of the Environment , by ruling that the norms that permitted recreational hunting were in violation of the obligations under the constitution to protect the environment.

The court also allowed for a grace period of a year to allow for current hunters to continue their practice before an outright ban. The decision also made an exception for sport fishing, which will not be covered by the ban.

The court’s decision comes as a surprise given a recent judgment that overturned a ban on bullfighting and other types of animal fighting that appear within Colombian culture. Blood sports involving animals, including cultural practices like cockfighting, was previously banned in Colombia but its prohibition was overturned last year.

Colombia is now only the second Latin American nation to ban recreational hunting since Costa Rica did so in 2012. This decision will come as good news to those hoping the Colombian government will take the obligation to protect its exceptional biodiversity; a resource that remains under constant threat by environmental degradation, habitat loss and the illegal trafficking of rare exotic animals.