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


Hunting row divides Christians

A Christian Socialist Movement pamphlet that condemns hunting with dogs has again exposed the differences between church people over the issue.

The pamphlet, A Christian Case Against Hunting, has been written by Martin Palmer, a religious adviser to the Worldwide Fund for Nature. It was published on Boxing Day to coincide with the most popular moment in the hunting calender.

"Even if we accept that in certain circumstances the fox is a pest and the numbers have to be controlled", Mr Palmer writes, "we must accept the responsibility of being the powerful species. Whatever else this power might mean, it cannot mean we take pleasure in the killing of the fox or in the destruction of the stag. Hunting for pleasure and Christianity cannot be bedfellows."

The pamphlet's conclusions were endorsed in a Boxing Day letter to The Times signed by the Archbishop of Wales, six other Anglican bishops, and Lord Soper. But a dissenting note was struck by Hugh Montefiore, the former Bishop of Birmingham, who said that the CSM had "got its priorities wrong". In a separate letter to The Times, he wrote: "I should have thought that, on any showing, we have a prior duty to prevent stress and suffering by domesticated rather than wild animals."

Speaking later to The Tablet, Bishop Montefiore said that opponents of fox-hunting appeared to be motivated by class envy. "Why else do they not campaign against fishing? Because it is enjoyed by all social groups." And while many pursuits were morally repugnant, he added, that was not in itself sufficient grounds for banning them.

Chris Bryant, the CSM chairman, said: "Hunting with dogs is the only issue on which there has been a free vote in Parliament in the last year. Our magazine has regularly commented on broader issues in animal welfare. We wanted to offer guidance to our 54 members who are MP's."

From The Tablet dated 3 January 1998.

See: Boxing Day letters: .

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