Can one be a Christian and a hunter?

With autumn, as sure as mushrooms grow in the undergrowth and insects fall from chestnut trees, hunting season returns. Can Christians, who see in Creation the work of God, be able, in a context of collapse of biodiversity (1), to participate in a hobby that consists of killing an animal, without needing to eat? Certainly, the explosion in the number of big games in our country, and the damage caused by them, makes it necessary to regulate them. But opponents of hunting point to the responsibility of hunters in the proliferation of certain species, such as wild boar, sparing breeding females, precisely for the purpose of hunting…

Three Eurasian sandpipers have already been shot in France since the opening of waterfowl hunting, although it is a vulnerable species whose hunting has been banned since 2020.. What can be Christian about intentionally killing an animal whose population is in sharp decline? », laments the naturalist Johannes Herrmann (2), emphasizing the “ exorbitant cost from an ecological point of view of this hobby. “I found hunters bragging about shooting 800 lapwings every winter, all of which are given to the dogs. “, he protests. In fact, such an example is directly opposed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which describes as “contrary to human dignity (the act) of making animals suffer needlessly and waste their lives. »

However, far from seeking the most complete hunting list possible, some hunters describe a completely different relationship to this practice. ” Like the fisherman or the gatherer, the hunter frequents nature, taking an interest in what it produces and extracting something wild from it.highlights Father Patrick Guinnepain, parish priest of Brenne, in the diocese of Bourges.

Coming from a farming family, where we always hunt », practicing small-scale hunting, describes « a nuanced relationship with nature, which is not a land I can overexploit to make her give back all she can give. “Hunting is precisely the place that allows you to “Maintain an emotional connection with nature”to the point of nourishing a “offertory spirituality” : ” The fruit of the earth and the labor of men become a source of salvation, exposes Father Guinnepain. How is our way of inhabiting, cultivating, organizing and developing Creation not an occasion for selfishness, abuse of power, violence and mistreatment, even towards future generations, but thought and lived with a view to the salvation of all? » « I like to see wild animals, plants, I like nature as it is, continues the hunter priest. During the whole summer, when the fauna was faced with drought, we spent some time peeling and watering, this is also part of the hunter’s activity, outside the hunting season ».

Father Guinnepain also states “ a social dimension not negligible “: “ The great pleasure of hunting is the pursuit of hunting, the fact of making my dog ​​work… We miss you so much! But if you have talent, you catch a game, a fish, a mushroom… And then there’s the pleasure of cooking, of sharing.continues the one who admits that he almost never buys meat. I have parishioners who kill their pigs or their cows, I trade a lot with my tureens! »

In a predominantly rural society, hunting has long been part of the common local culture.” analyzes Dominique Lang, an Assumptionist priest and animator of the blog Igrejas e Ecologias. In French history, after having been the privilege of an elite, the right to hunt was liberalized, becoming a revolutionary achievement and, therefore, an expression of the freedom and equality of individuals. “But with the evolution of society, hunting has also become a sport or leisure practice, which brings other questions, emphasizes Dominique Lang. Today, many hunted animals were raised on farms and are shot within days of being released. What is the meaning of this practice? »

These questions are not absent from Agnès Bonnet’s mind. It was on her return to her grandparents’ region, on the occasion of her retirement, that this committed parishioner decided to obtain a hunting license. For this 66-year-old woman, who lives on the edge of the Tronçais (Allier) national forest, this activity goes hand in hand with an ecological conscience. “ I greatly reduced my meat consumption, refusing to buy meat from factory farms, chain-killed in intensive industrial slaughterhousesshe says. Today, the meat I eat is bought from a local producer or from game. In keeping with this choice, Agnès, who hunts deer and wild boar, has little taste for hunting captive-bred pheasants. ” QWhen my grandfather went hunting, he used to say: ”we help each other and stop”, she recalls, advocating moderation in taxation. We’re not at the shooting range and we’re not here to paint. »

In the Old Testament there are calls for moderation in the capture of natural species, recalls, in turn, Johannes Herrmann. In the same idea of ​​the jubilee, which is the rest of the earth, we can ask for the cessation of hunting so that ecosystems can recharge their batteries. »

Jesus caught fish, ate lamb, emphasizes Dominique Lang. On the practice of people rooted in a territory and for whom hunting, fishing and breeding are part of the local economy, there is, at all, There’s not much to say. But we must not hide behind an idyllic vision of hunting to say that it is not today This one. » Being able, without ideology, to face morally indefensible practices, such as cornered hunting or the global trafficking of wild animals, is essential, according to the Assumptionist religious. That’s why it’s even more important, in the continuation of Laudato si’, open new spaces for dialogueare to allow interior conversions. For example, by organizing, in a parish, meetings where hunting and non-hunting can hear each other, starting from common values ​​and thus overcoming sterile divisions to defend urgent common struggles against degrading excesses and materialistic excesses. »

DEEPEN. What value do animals have?

– Saint Hubert († 727), patron saint of hunters, owes his conversion, according to tradition, to the encounter with a deer on Good Friday, when his passion for hunting made him abandon the craft. ” Hubert! How long will you chase the beasts in the forests? How long will this vain passion make you forget the salvation of your soul? “, he would have heard. Then choosing the religious life, he became bishop of Liège-Maastricht and Tongres.

– In the encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis repeatedly addresses the question of the self-worth of animals:

– ” At the same time that we can make responsible use of things, we are called to recognize that other living beings have their own value before God and ‘by their mere existence they bless him and give him glory’, for ‘the Lord rejoices in his works” (Ps 104:31) (nº 69)

– ” Today the Church not only says that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of man, as if they had no value in themselves and that we could dispose of them at will. (nº 69)

When we read in the Gospel that Jesus speaks of birds, and says that “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Lk 12,6): can we still mistreat or harm them? ? (No. 221).

TO PROLONG THE REFLECTION.

→ What place do animals occupy in the Bible?
→ Will the animals go to heaven?
→ “ The relationship with animals raises the question of the depth of the heart »

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