With autumn, as surely as mushrooms grow in the undergrowth and bugs fall from chestnut trees, the hunting season returns. Christians, who see in Creation the work of God, can they, in a context of the collapse of biodiversity (1), take part in a hobby that consists of killing an animal, without the need to feed? Certainly, the explosion in the number of big game 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, by sparing breeding females, precisely with a hunting objective…
” Three Eurasian curlews have already been shot in France since the opening of waterfowl hunting, although it is a vulnerable species whose hunting has been prohibited since 2020. What can be Christian about intentionally killing an animal whose population is in sharp decline? », deplores the naturalist Johannes Herrmann (2), emphasizing the “ exorbitant cost from the ecological point of view of this hobby. “I’ve come across hunters boasting of shooting 800 lapwings every winter, all of which are given to dogs “, he protests. In fact, such an example is directly opposed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church describing as “contrary to human dignity (the act) of making animals suffer needlessly and wasting their lives. »
However, far from looking for the fullest hunting list possible, some hunters describe a completely different relationship to this practice. ” Like the fisherman or the gatherer, the hunter frequents nature by taking an interest in what it produces itself, and by taking something wild from it.emphasizes Father Patrick Guinnepain, parish priest of Brenne, in the diocese of Bourges.
Coming from a family of farmers, in which we have always hunted », practicing small game hunting, he describes « a nuanced relationship with nature, which is not a land that I can exploit excessively to make it give back everything it can give. “Hunting is precisely the place that allows him “to maintain an emotional connection to nature”to the point that she nurtured a “spirituality of the offertory” : “ The fruit of the earth and the work of men becomes a source of salvation, exposes Father Guinnepain. How our way of inhabiting, cultivating, organizing and developing Creation is not an occasion for selfishness, abuse of power, violence and mistreatment, including vis-à-vis generations to come, 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 hunting priest. Throughout the summer, when the wildlife was confronted with the drought, we spent time shelling and watering, this is also part of the activity of hunters, outside the hunting season ».
Father Guinnepain also claims “ a not at all negligible social dimension “: “ The great pleasure of hunting is the quest for game, the fact of making my dog work… We miss a lot! But if you are talented, you take a game, a fish, a mushroom… And then there is the pleasure of cooking, of sharingcontinues the one who admits that he almost never buys meat. I have parishioners who kill their pigs or their cows, I barter a lot with my terrines! »
“ In a predominantly rural society, hunting has long been part of the common local culture,” analyzes Dominique Lang, Assumptionist priest and animator of the Churches and Ecologies blog. In French history, after having been the privilege of an elite, the right to hunt was liberalized, becoming a revolutionary achievement, and thereby an expression of the freedom and equality of individuals. “But with the evolution of society, hunting has also become a sports or leisure practice, which brings up other questions, emphasizes Dominique Lang. Today, many hunted animals have been raised on farms and are shot within days of their release. What is the meaning of this practice? »
These questions are not absent from the mind of Agnès Bonnet. It was on returning, at the time of retirement, to the region of her grandparents, that this committed parishioner decided to obtain a hunting permit. For this 66-year-old woman, living on the edge of the national forest of Tronçais (Allier), this activity goes hand in hand with an ecological awareness. “ I have 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 either purchased from a local producer or from hunting. In line with this choice, Agnès, who notably hunts deer and wild boar, has little taste for shooting pheasants bred in captivity. ” QWhen my grandfather went hunting, he used to say: ”we help ourselves, and we stop”, she remembers, advocating moderation in the levy. 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 taking of natural species, recalls for his part Johannes Herrmann. In the same idea as the jubilee, which is the rest of the earth, we can call for a cessation of hunting so that the 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, breeding are part of the local economy, there is, in absolute, Not much to say. But we must not hide behind an idyllic vision of hunting to say that it is not today that. » Being able, without ideology, to look morally undefensible practices such as penned hunting or the global trafficking of wild animals in the face, is essential, according to the Assumptionist religious. ” It is therefore all the more important, in the continuation of Laudato si’, to open up new spaces for dialogueare to allow interior conversions. For example, by organizing, in a parish, meetings where people who practice hunting and those who do not practice it can listen to each other, start from common values and thus overcome sterile divisions to defend urgent common fights against the excesses degrading 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 had made him abandon the office. ” 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. Choosing then the religious life, he became bishop of Liège-Maastricht and Tongres
– In the encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis repeatedly addresses the question of the proper value 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 worth before God and ‘by their mere existence they bless him and give glory to him’, since ‘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 “none of them is forgotten in the sight of God” (Lk 12:6): will we still be able to mistreat them or do them harm? wrong ? (No. 221).
TO PROLONG THE REFLECTION.
→ What place do animals occupy in the Bible?
→ Will animals go to heaven?
→ “ The relationship with animals raises the question of the depth of the heart »
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Can one be a Christian and a hunter?
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