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