My very good friend Peter Hammond has made some excellent points in his essay and the thoughtful Christian who with him appreciates the grandeur and wonder of the image of God revealed through the created order can only say "Amen." However, non-hunters often do not appreciate the very real love and respect that hunters have for animals. Without getting misty eyed (or mystical) they see the hunting experience as something almost reverential. They are as disgusted, shocked and outraged as Peter by the poachers and butchers he described.
The only "rebuttal" I would offer to Peter’s thesis is his objection to "trophy hunting" and that goes to the economics of game management. Land will be used according to its best economic value. The greatest threat to African wildlife comes from habitat destruction due to inefficient farming. If the land is not saved for wildlife, then the animals will disappear. Yet, land is precious, it costs something to preserve land for one use (animals) and not another (farming). Who pays the cost?
The short answer is "hunters." Hunters pour millions of dollars every year in preserving habitats so that wild animals do not disappear by paying enormous game fees for the privilege of hunting. Thus in Africa, the best insurance of habitat protection possible is the trophy hunter. These fees bring in more revenue than farming, allowing the land to be kept free from human encroachment and protecting the habitat for future generations of the wild game. Each lion shot, for example, allows thousands of other species to flourish in the same environment.
Game must be managed. In the "natural" course of events, animals will be fruitful, and multiply and then push the limits of their habitat. For example, if there are too many elephants in a certain area, then the entire habitat is threatened because of the massive destruction they do when they feed. Game wardens have to cull the herds both for the benefit of the elephants, and all the other species. Trophy hunters pay for the privilege of keeping the herds manageable.
In the same way, there is an optimum ratio of predators to prey. If there are too many lions, then the herbivores are threatened, and the lions cross from the preserve into someone’s back yard. The number of lions needs to be managed. The trophy hunter, by shooting that lion, is not only contributing to the local economy, but he is also making sure that the habitat is protected, and all the animals benefit.
Other than that, I welcome Peter’s timely and important comments.
- Brian M. Abshire
Rev. Brian Abshire, Ph.D. is currently a Teaching Elder associated with Hanover Presbytery. Along with his pastoral duties, he is also the director for the International Institute for Christian Culture, has served as an adjunct instructor in Religious Studies at Park University and is a visiting Professor of Comparative Religion at Whitefield College.