The Senate has just published an informative report proposing “prohibit alcohol and narcotics during the hunt” and take a little similar measures to those requested for driving. This idea was criticized by the president of the National Federation of Hunters Willly Schraen, who kept replying that“A drunk on a bicycle is also dangerous”forgetting that the rules that apply to motorists in terms of drunkenness also applies to cyclists.
The vehement argument of the French hunting chief does not seem to stand up to international comparison, when in other countries, hunting organizations recommend abstaining from alcohol. Take the official site of a US Hunting Education Agency: remember that “Alcohol consumption before or during hunting increases the risk of accidents by affecting coordination, hearing, vision, communication and judgment”.
This common-sense recommendation is worth it, as alcohol seems to continue to be part of the world of hunting, in France and abroad.
In the United States, a hobby often practiced while intoxicated.
Thus, in the United States (where average alcohol consumption is 20% lower to ours in the general population), a recent survey carried out on a representative sample of 2,349 young adults indicated that 23% of male hunters had already practiced their hobby while intoxicated.
And in France? Despite the absence of figures, the Senate report ventures to speak of a “small minority” of people who would hunt while intoxicated. Regarding deaths and serious events, the senators are more specific: 9% of them are attributable to the drunkenness of a hunter.
Unfortunately, this very hexagonal report ignores most of the international data available on the subject. It does not mention that in the United States, drunkenness is present in 15% of hunting accidents. Also overlooked is this vast Danish study of 1,800 hunters showing that the risk of an accident with a firearm increases directly with the level of alcohol in the blood.
The recent Senate report also doesn’t bother to clarify how alcohol is highly accident-prone. However, we can identify three consequences of drunkenness that contribute to it.
Locomotion and motor coordination.
A study in a hospital emergency department in Switzerland indicated that one-third of hunting injuries were due to falls, for example when a shooter falls from his watchtower. Alcohol favors this type of incident, in particular through its disruptive action on the inner ear, which regulates balance, as well as the cerebellum. Anticipation and coordination of movement are affected.
A research by Judith Hegeman in a research laboratory in Amsterdam showed that when people move on a treadmill, even with low concentrations of alcohol, their reaction time to avoid obstacles increases considerably.
Visual and auditory disturbances
Alcohol also affects peripheral vision, which can affect the appreciation and respect of the shooting angles. It is responsible for the famous diplopia (split vision) and blurry vision by interrupting the action of the ciliary muscles that control visual focus. also promotes flashbecause the sphincter muscles that execute the opening and closing of the pupil according to the ambient light slow down.
In the long term, a high alcohol content impairs color perceptionCauses chronic pathologies as the waterfall Y promotes age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that results in degradation of the central part of the retina.
Finally, we add that the alcohol also blurs hearing. In one study, a Korean university researcher brewed several dozen participants with alcohol (0.5 grams, or two standard drinks), then put them through a series of tests that included pitch detection tasks, word recognition exercises, or speech understanding in noise. Compared to fasting results, the participants’ hearing abilities were affected.
errors of judgment
When one realizes the magnitude of the effects of alcohol on vision and hearing, certain facts that dot the regional press are better understood, such as the incident of this drunk hunter who, aiming at a hare, riddled his buddy with lead.
However, it would be wrong to give great explanatory weight to these perceptual alterations. Indeed, according to the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), hunting accidents are often due to lack of caution and errors in judgment, such as shooting without identifying the target, not following30 degree angle (prohibition of shooting in angular sectors of 30 degrees to the left and to the right) or shooting in the direction of houses.
As the OFB reminds us, the projectiles used can travel a distance of up to 5 kilometers. Drunk or sober, when a target is far away or even on the move, how to ensure bullets miss more of a mountain bikera 10 year old girl playing by the river or a young hiker?
Alcohol often pushes you to choose the riskier option
The decision to pull the trigger or refrain from firing involves a third, more complex psychological dimension: situational awareness. According to the Senate report, “More than two thirds of accidents are due to serious faults that violate basic safety standards. Added to this are a hundred incidents a year, that is, shootings in vehicles or homes, which could have had dramatic consequences.
Risk assessment and representation of the consequences of the act itself are two methods notoriously affected by intoxication.
This was shown in a simplified way during a 2015 study conducted in a bar, during which men and women aged 18 to 43 were presented with two jars full of cards. They were informed that they could win a prize by choosing one of them: in the jar on the right there were 50% winning cards, while in the jar on the left the probability of winning was unknown. The results showed that drunk men (but not women) chose plus the riskiest option. Shooting in uncertainty in the hope of hitting the target is probably the same phenomenon.
One of the first factors of human aggression.
By directly affecting the prefrontal cortex, alcohol disrupts executive cognitive functions involved in the ability to consider or adopt several options at a given time to solve a problem (cognitive flexibility), attention, action inhibition and aggressive behavior. It is even the psychoactive substance most consistently linked to human aggression in the world.
Of course, it was not the alcohol but the hunters who shot to death. 400 people for twenty years in France and injured thousands of people (alcohol has killed almost a million in totalbut by other means).
However, since it is clearly identified as an avoidable risk factor, it seems prudent to prohibit its consumption by people who shoot semi-automatic rifles and shotguns in forested areas frequented by the public. Alcoholic hunters pose a lethal risk to everyone, including themselves.