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What is the RSPCA's view on bow hunting?

Article ID: 368
Last updated: 15 May, 2018
Revision: 5
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Bow hunting is a type of archery where bows and arrows are used to hunt wild animals. The RSPCA is opposed to bow hunting because, even when carried out by a competent marksman, it does not result in a rapid and humane death.

When an animal is fatally shot with a bow, it can take several minutes for them to die; they will suffer severe pain over this period due to the trauma and and damage to tissue and organs caused by an arrow entering the body. There is also a high risk of non-fatal injury occurring and of injured animals escaping to die a slow, painful death. For example, research indicates that between 12% and 48% of shot deer may escape whilst injured, which is substantially greater than for hunting by rifle [1]. 

In contrast, when an animal is shot with an appropriate firearm and ammunition by a trained and experienced shooter, death is instantaneous. Firearms deliver a percussive shock to the target animal which can delay the onset of pain, whereas arrows cause extensive damage without percussive shock. Based on assessments of animal welfare impacts using an established model [2], a head shot from a firearm is considered to achieve the most humane death when compared to other hunting methods. Ethically, there is no justification for using a method of killing that causes increased suffering when another more humane method is available. 

Proponents of bow hunting argue that the sport assists with pest animal management. However, for any pest animal control technique, it needs to be carried out as part of an integrated management program that focuses on reducing the adverse impacts of the target animals. In contrast, bow hunting is carried out as a sporting activity that focuses on the achievement of the individual hunter. There is no evidence that bow hunting makes any significant contribution to reducing the adverse impacts of pest animals in Australia.

How you can help

Please contact the Minister responsible for hunting regulations in your state and your local MP urging them to end bow hunting.


[1] Gregory NG (2005). Bowhunting deer. Animal Welfare 14:111-116

[2] Sharp T & Saunders G (2011) A model for assessing the relative humaneness of pest animal control methods (Second edition). Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, ACT.

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Attached files
file Recreational hunting - RSPCA Information Paper Dec 2017.pdf (538 kb) Download

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Also listed in
folder Sport, entertainment and working animals -> Hunting

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