If We Won't Ban Hunting, at Least Let Animals Have the Sabbath as a Day of Rest
by Paul M. Howey
When I heard that some folks want to overturn North Carolina's Sunday hunting ban, I began wondering about the underlying question: Why do people hunt? A search for answers produced an arsenal of rationalizations, ranging from the absurdly pseudo-intellectual to the scripturally twisted.
"Hunting uniquely provides self-actualization, completeness, and expression which are complex, higher order needs deserving of protection," according to the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation. "If we were deprived of it, we would lose more than recreation. It is more than our heritage and culture, it is our essence."
I suggest confronting any hunter in the woods and asking him, "Are you feeling self-actualized today?" I don't really suggest doing that, but the answer might be humorous.
Mark DePugh, president of the Fellowship of Christian Hunters, has a slightly different take on it. He sees beauty in all of God's creation. "Can you think of anything more beautiful than dogwoods in the spring?" he asks. "Spectacular and vibrant foliage in the fall? Snow-kissed pine branches in the winter? Only to be followed again by daffodils, tulips, and the wonders continue!"
I'm with you, brother Mark. All of creation is indeed awe-inspiring. What? You're not finished? I'm sorry, please continue.
"The only thing to make it more beautiful," adds DePugh, "would be to picture a 10-point buck standing in that snow at a mere 30 yards away! ... We long to take on a nice buck, head-to-head, on his turf, on his terms, and on a level playing field!" (The exclamation points are his and not mine, so excited he is about this scene.)
Let me make certain I've heard you correctly, Mark. You say you're standing beneath the snow-kissed pine branches soaking in all the beauty of God's creation, and you get the sudden urge to pull the trigger of your steel extension of masculinity and kill one of his magnificent creatures?
Head-to-head, on his terms, and on a level playing field? Excuse me, but in what alternate universe have you parked your brain?
I decided to seek a more plausible answer as to why some feel the irresistible impulse to hunt.
Members of the Fellowship of Christian Hunters and others, I found, rely on the Bible for moral justification of their "sport." Granted, it is written in Genesis that, after deciding to make mankind, God said they should have "dominion" over all the animals he'd created. Are hunters possibly twisting Bible verses to justify their blood sport?
The answer lies in the word "dominion," which means "supreme authority.'' Some interpret it to mean man has the universal, God-given right to kill animals. But supreme authority should also carry with it the responsibility for compassion and stewardship for all living things. To do less, in my opinion, would be, well ' unGodly. And then there is that "thou shalt not kill" thing, too.
"Okay, maybe you're right," I dreamt I heard some hunters say. "Perhaps there's no intellectual or religious basis for killing animals. But you have to admit, hunting gets you outdoors with your companions. Ah, the beauty of nature, the special bonding time with sons and daughters and friends. Nothing like it!
"And besides, we're conservationists. If we hunters didn't harvest the animals, cull the herds so to speak, they would soon overrun the world."
All these pretexts ring hollow in the halls of honest reflection. It is simply not necessary ' in fact, it is counterintuitive ' to destroy life in order to experience the joys of nature or to build rewarding interpersonal relationships. Further, nature seeks its own balance and gets out of whack when man interferes.
To kill for recreation living creatures who bond and mate, who give birth and nurture their young, who experience happiness, pain, fear and grief is quite simply barbaric. In some measure, I feel that killing animals for sport can desensitize the individual to the value of life in general, not only for other creatures but also for humans.
I understand the vast majority of hunters do not shoot (okay, there was that unfortunate incident of Vice President Cheney shooting his pal Harry Whittington in the face) their fellow human beings. Still, with so much violence in our society and in the world at large, would it not be prudent to embrace more compassion, not less, for the animals with whom we share the planet?
Of course, I would like to see a world in which there was no recreational killing. But if we're going to allow hunting, at least let the animals have one day of rest. Even God took Sunday off after seeing what he had created was good.
Paul M. Howey is an author, editor and storyteller. He lives in a log cabin in the woods of Leicester, North Carolina, with his wife Trish, four dogs, and five parrots. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.