Sunday, 12 July 2015

Trip to Hunting Museum spiced with ethics and twisted humor

This weekend I went to the Hunting Museum of Finland. It is situated in the city of Riihimäki, which is accessible by train, bus, and private car. By car the trip takes about an hour from Helsinki to Riihimäki.

I ended up there because I had bought a Museum Card, which is a card that grants access to about 200 different museums in Finland for a year. Probably had not visited the Hunting Museum of Finland without that card so I am really glad I bought the thing since the museum about hunting was a surprisingly interesting experience.

Hunting Museum and Goths

I am featuring this museum on my blog because it reminded me that like hunting, goth subculture considers aesthetic many things that can be seen as ethical dilemmas.

Goths tend to have a fascination towards death. Goths tend to like skulls. It is not easy to have a skull as a decorative object without something dying first. Trophies are really popular at the moment even among more mainstream styles. How to acquire a piece of a dead creature ethically? What does that even mean?

Also, vampires are pretty popular among goths: is it necrophilia, if the dead one is still moving? ;) 

Is it ethical to roam around woods or motorways trying to find leftovers of a wild beasts' lunch or remains of a roadkill? Even carcasses have an important role in the functioning of an ecosystem in the woods, taking them all away could be problematic. With road kills something else has done the violence, so that is not on the human scavenger's conscience and the ecosystem of an asphalt road is not exactly depending on rotting substance.

Still, is there something questionable at having a part of a dead creature as art or decor at one's home? Could there be some problems with the fascination towards death among goths?

Trophies have their issues but the Hunting Museum is a great place to go to admire old trophies. (Trophies of endangered species are surely more problematic than trophies of common creatures, unless they are antique) The museum had a huge collection of exotic creatures. The trophy collection of Jaakko Ojanperä, a Finnish big game hunter, contained 90 different species. Mr. Ojanperä was born 1939 and he moved to USA 1964, mainly because of the hunting prospects. His hunting trips took him to many parts of Africa and North America.

The most natural death is a violent death. Animals in nature tend to get eaten or killed by a rival in a fight for better living space, food resources or for the right to reproduce.

Some moral views state that killing is wrong for humans. Preserving life is usually the point. In Finland a large amount of hunting is about maintaining the balance and diversity of species in nature. I learned at the Hunting Museum of Finland that a mink, which is nowadays found in Finland, is a North American species and it ended up into the nature of Finland during the 1920's. American mink is small but a real killing machine and it reproduces a lot. It is a danger for many native bird species and could cause extinction if left in peace. In Finland 50 000 - 85 000 wild minks are hunted yearly. That amount keeps the mink population at it's current size.

For me ethical hunting, whether it is for food or for decorative elements, is about trying one's best to not cause suffering. Same thing goes for the meat I buy from supermarket. I think a steak from a hunted wild creature is more ethical than eating a battery cage hen. I must say though that I myself have never hunted or participated in killing a mammal. I do eat meat and sometimes I wonder, am I hypocritical eating a lamb if I could not actually kill it myself.

From ethics to exhibitions

The museum had several exhibitions open at the same time. One featured the trophies, another hunting themed art by a famous Finnish artist Seppo Polameri, who had specialized on them. The third exhibition showed hunting knives. The fourth exhibition is about hunting in Finland and the last one is called "Thrill of the Hunt". If I understood correctly, the trophies and the two last ones about hunting are permanent exhibitions.

As you can see from the photo above, almost every museum in Finland produces information in three languages, the official languages of Finland, Finnish and Swedish, and then in English. The Hunting Museum of Finland is no exception.

This reindeer installation was quite surprising, since all other taxidermy was made life-like.

Herding reindeer is a way of living in Northern Finland. Not for everybody of coarse, but it has been practiced centuries. For people herding the reindeer it is important that the population of beasts of prey is maintained on a reasonable level.

The exhibition of the Thrill of the Hunt was well executed, The atmosphere was almost mystical.

One last thing about the museum that made me snicker:

In the front yard they had these wood screens with holes for people to put their head there and present them selves as animals. Animals, that people shoot in the nature. Photoshoot just got a new meaning...

Little something about guns in Finland

I have never fired a gun or even considered hunting as a hobby so it was interesting to read about it in the museum. In Finland there is quite a lot of guns compared to the population. According to the Washington Post Finland comes third when they compared "developed" countries and their number of privately owned guns in relation to the number of citizens. Statistics tell us that in Finland there is about 4,5 guns per 10 people. In reality those guns are owned by tiny minority of Finnish population who either hunt (6% of population) and/or take an interest in shooting sport.

The laws about guns are really strict in Finland. To get a licence to own one requires you have had shooting sport or hunting as a hobby for at least two years and you also need to pass a psychiatric assessment test. That is to make sure that a person who gets a gun has no tendency towards erratic & violent behavior nor suicide.

I hope you enjoyed my post, even though it was a bit off the usual material!


  1. I found your post very interesting, it incorporated arrange of issues that were I would never considered. Also, I enjoyed how you added both your personal perspective of being a part of goth culture and Finnish. It makes me think of the current political and ethical debates about the Government wanting to appeal fox hunting, despite being outlawed for only 10 years ago.

    1. Thank you! ^^ Isn't fox hunting quite a weird ritual? All those humans on horses and dogs for one little fox and they all make an awful racket, trying to scare the fox out of the woods? That is hardly ethical hunting.

    2. Personally, it's archaic and a cruel sport inflicting unnecessary pain and stress to foxes. From your suggestions of hunting at least the animals are used for nourishment, so the animals death are justifiable and done as humanly as possible. Culturally as a nation we are quite progressive, just our current Government out stuck in Victorian idealism and have no sense of reality. .

  2. Oh my word, I'm still laughing at those cutouts! You needed a picture of you in one :p

    1. Did not manage to take one. D: Should've though, and now I regret it! :D

  3. This seems like an awesome museum. I personally love hunting trophies, even though I've never hunted. I'm OK with head mounts or claws or bones--parts of the animal that aren't eaten... That way the whole animal is used. I read an interesting article in national geographic about the reindeer in Finland... I thought the herders were so cool. Thanks for this post!

  4. sad you didnt take a picture with those cutouts :-( and you shared some really interesting thoughts here. i am not sure what i think about them. of course for taxidermy / decoration i prefer things that were not killed for that matter but the mink thing has a point...

  5. I really enjoyed this post, I found myself nodding in agreement concerning hunting, taxidermy and it's ethical issues. All very interesting too.