The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


'Unnecessary pain': Church comes out against hunting

Fox-hunting cannot be defended on the grounds that the fox feels no pain, says a Church of England briefing paper issued this week, writes Pat Ashworth.

Hunting with Hounds was commissioned by the Board for Social Responsibility (BSR) from a moral theologian, the Revd Professor Michael Banner.

It argues that, though Christian teaching throws no light on claims about the economic and social benefits of fox-hunting, Christians have a clear responsibility towards animals. The view that they were incapable of suffering was "no longer seriously supported".

Dominion over animals as expressed in Genesis should not be read as an "absolute and unfettered grant of power". The case against fox-hunting would be weakened if it could be scientifically proved that foxes were not seriously distressed during a hunt; but, in the absence of such evidence, animals should be given the benefit of the doubt.

The paper acknowledges that town and country-dwellers may have different outlooks, and says it could be argued that one section of society ought not to impose its moral convictions on another.

But if animals deserved moral consideration, then their treatment was as public a matter as the treatment of children. "For this reason, it would not be a sufficient justification of hunting simply to argue that it is a widely enjoyed and traditional sport for individuals to take up or not as they see fit."

The paper admits fox-hunting is one of several issues that raise moral questions, including fishing and zoos; and that those who want to criminalise fox-hunting might be thought to be motivated by "its association with social privilege rather than concern for the well-being of animals".

The Bishop of Oxford, chairman of the BSR, said on Tuesday that the issue was both "political and highly politicised", and would become even more contentious. But Christians would have to take seriously their responsibility towards animals in not inflicting gratuitous pain. "That must be the starting-point for all Christian discussion," the Rt Revd Richard Harries said.

"Whatever view you come to in the end, you have to make a judgement about pain inflicted on animals against other considerations around the ecology and way of life of the countryside."

The Revd Stephen Trott, who has tabled a private members motion in General Synod urging the Government to ban hunting with dogs, praised the report for setting out the issues so clearly. "I've become increasingly concerned about hunting as I've got to know more about it. The cruelty of it is the compelling issue," he said on Tuesday.

From the Church Times dated 4 February 2000. Reproduced with thanks.

See related Editorial: .

Return to Articles


Homepage/About Us

What's New








Your comments are welcome

This site is hosted and maintained by The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation
Thank you for visiting