Dr. Don Payne has written an article simply titled “A Christian Perspective on Hunting.” In this article Dr. Payne offers some reflections “hoping to provide a reasoned defense of hunting that is consistent with the biblical values that sustain Christian faith.” Whether you are a Christian or not, this article can provide some valuable insights into the ethical issues involved with hunting. Due to the length of the article, it will be presented in 6 blog posts: the introduction, a series of objections and responses and some positive reasons for hunting.
Dr. Payne is an Associate Professor of Theology and Christian Formation at Denver Seminary and an avid outdoorsman. While grading student papers, he spends much of his time hunting Elk, Mule Deer, and Pronghorn, fishing, and hiking in the Rocky Mountain region. -Scott Glasscock, COFA Colorado State Director
Hunting may be practiced, but only as a last resort and as a means of survival. Even under these conditions it is morally regrettable and should be avoided if at all possible. Should the slaughter of animals be necessary for food, it should never be done for sport. Hunting for sport is immoral, in part because it encourages a love for killing and destruction that is incompatible with an appropriate respect for God and His creation.
This contention reflects a false and superficial understanding of “sport” as it applies to hunting. The pleasure that hunters derive from this endeavor is not (or should not be) simply a love for killing, some type of barbaric blood-lust. It involves complex emotions that are deeply human.
“Hunting, like all human occupations, has its different levels, and how little of the real work of hunting is suggested in words like diversion, relaxation, and entertainment! A good hunter’s way of hunting is a hard job which demands much from man . . . So, in my presentation of it as what it is, as a form of happiness, I have avoided calling it pleasure. Doubtless in all happiness there is pleasure, but pleasure is the least of happiness. . . . The truth is that the important and appealing aspect of hunting is neither pleasure nor annoyance, but rather the very activity that comprises hunting. Happy occupations, it is clear, are not merely pleasures; they are efforts, and real sports are effort.”1
He goes on to observe that “when an activity becomes a sport, whatever that activity may be, the hierarchy of its values becomes inverted. In utilitarian [or survival] hunting the true purpose of the hunter, what he seeks and values, is the death of the animal.”2 Thus, those who think that it is somehow less ethically questionable to eat meat that comes from the industrial slaughter of animals (meat processing plants, then supermarkets) actually hold the more questionable ethical position. A strictly utilitarian justification of animal slaughter represents the greater failure to appreciate the life of animals through disregard for the process involved and a singular focus on the death of the animal.
The love for hunting, even hunting for sport, is not a love for destruction. There are subordinate loves involved: challenge, conquest, respite from the complexities and stresses of life, and a sense of connectedness with one’s sustenance. Obviously, none of these factors necessitate hunting for most of us, though each is generally involved in the act. At its most basic level, the love of hunting is a visceral love for the connectedness with that basic dimension of our human experience that must find survival through dependence on other life forms within creation.
1. Josè Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Hunting (Belgrade, Mont: Wilderness Adventures Press, 1995), 42.
2. Ibid., 105.
Reproduced with permission. Copyright Don J. Payne, 2014.