Ban on hunting
The purpose of this website, run by the „Źródła” association, is to make it easier for landowners to prohibit hunting on their private land. We also assist individuals people when their rights are violated by local hunting clubs and take steps to ensure the safety of people hiking or picking mushrooms in forests and fields, who may be threatened by hunting. Our association believes that all animals deserve respect and good treatment, and should not be killed as part of a cruel blood sport.
A short introduction to the rules of hunting in Poland
Since the adoption of the Hunting Act by the communist authorities in 1959, all wild animals are thought of as state property, and the state practices “game management”, deciding how many or which animals will be bred or killed. Property law is considered secondary to the needs of forest and game management, and the new act of 1995 has done little to change that. “Hunting districts” containing both public (e.g., state forests) and countless private areas (forests, meadows or arable fields) are dispersed throughout Poland, yet only members of the quasi-state organization, The Polish Hunting Association (PZŁ), have the right to hunt.
The local clubs of PZŁ manage individual hunting districts and pay a nominal annual fee to local authorities or to the administration department of state forests. Private owners do not receive any benefit from this, neither may they refuse consent for hunting in practice. Hunters may enter their land at any time without consent, even by car. Once there, they can install raised hides, set up “bait stations” (a place where carrots or corn may be left to lure wild animals) and, most importantly, shoot at animals. In exchange for “game management”, the state shifted its obligation to settle claims for damage to agricultural crops caused by wild animals to the Polish Hunting Association.
In practice, farmers often fail to be awarded satisfactory damages. Many hunting clubs do not take action to protect arable fields against wild animals at all, firstly, because they wish to attract hunters who are solely interested in shooting animals as a hobby - a weekend adventure for trophies - and secondly because they are interested in promoting commercial hunts to attract foreign hunters. Such clubs wish to ensure that the populations of deer, roe deer or wild boar are as large as possible. They may even feed the animals large quantities of food in winter, to create as many opportunities for shooting as possible during the hunting season.
Liberalization period 2014-2020
In 2014, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that Article 27 of the Hunting Act 1995 was inconsistent with the Constitution because it allowed private properties to be subject to the hunting district regime, without giving the landowners the opportunity to express their opinion.
Based on this judgement, our association, which owns five hectares of forest in the Łódź Province, called on the local government to exclude this area from the hunting district. When the local government refused, our association took legal action in the administrative court. In December 2016, a ruling was made that annulled the establishment of any hunting district on land that belonged to “Źródła”. After this judgement was passed, we helped several hundred people prepare similar lawsuits, and 150 judgments were issued by administrative courts, invalidating the boundaries of hunting districts.
Eventually, in 2018, the Sejm adopted amendments to the Hunting Act 1995, reintroducing Article 27 in a form that allegedly considered the guidelines set out by the Constitutional Tribunal. By 2020, local governments had redesignated hunting districts, but this time, gave each landowner 21 days to submit comments, due to the nature of the activity conducted on the property. Throughout Poland, landowners submitted over 500 “comments”, none of which were taken into account. All areas previously excluded from hunting districts by court judgements were again covered by the hunting district regime (including the forest belonging to “Źródła”).
Prohibition of hunting on real estate
As a result of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Herrmann v Germany, another option exists to ban hunting on private land. This involves submitting a simple statement to the county administrative (‘Starostwo’) office. The person submitting the statement is not obligated to mark or fence off the area in which he or she has established the ban; the starost simply issues the statement to the hunting club and the hunters are obliged to respect it. Such an area is still part of a hunting district and hunters can enter it without the owner’s consent (e.g., to track game, when in pursuit of a wounded animal or to feed animals) but they are not allowed to shoot. Unfortunately, this provision is restricted to natural, not legal, persons, so an association such as the “Źródła” would not be able to use it and neither would companies that own arable areas or commercial forests. Additionally, according to a particular clause, persons using this form of hunting ban under this act are deprived of the possibility of receiving any damages for losses caused by wild animals. Another inconvenience planned by the legislator is that the declaration must be submitted to the Starost office in person (it cannot be submitted by means of correspondence, by proxy or before a notary), and if the property has several co-owners, all of them must visit the office at the same time. We have monitored the number of such declarations submitted; by 2021, over 1,000 of them had been submitted throughout the country. We provide legal advice for those who wish to take advantage of this opportunity.