By Darryl Treat
Is it morally wrong to hunt, kill and eat animals? This is the question that animal rights activists have been asking and trying to get America to answer in the affirmative. As a Christian and a hunter, I’ve set out to see if my passion for hunting, passed down through my family for generations, is acceptable in the eyes of the Creator. Were my pioneer and Cherokee ancestors justified in passing down this time-honored aspect of their American culture?
An examination of this ethical question begins by defining the word “moral.” Webster’s dictionary says morals “are or are related to principles of right and wrong and conforming to a standard of right behavior.” As a Christian, I have always derived my standards and principles of morality from the Holy Bible. I wonder where the animal rights activists get their standards and principles?
Does the hunting, killing, and eating of animals stand up to the litmus test of Bible-derived morality? Let me share with you what I have found.
Before we examine specific biblical evidence on this topic, it’s important to know what God says about his own book, the Bible. In the last chapter of the book of Revelation verses 18 and 19 and in Galatians 1:7-10, God reveals his severe displeasure with those who would distort, add to, or delete from his word. The apostle Paul wrote the young preacher Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15-17, that all the Holy Scriptures were given by inspiration of God to make one completely furnished unto all good works.
For those who fail to understand the reasoning of the Almighty, remember what God said in Isaiah 55:8-9. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are My ways your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Now that God’s authority on the matter is established, let’s examine his revealed will. A proper discussion must begin in the book of Genesis. In the first chapter, God created the earth and all its inhabitants and God saw that it was good. The last statement is important to note, especially those who needlessly and recklessly abuse God’s creation. God created the earth and saw that it was good.
Let’s keep it that way.
Near the end of the first chapter of Genesis, God ex-plains that man was set apart from the animals, made in God’s image, and told to have dominion over creation. The command from God included the instruction to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. This has turned out to be a great responsibility for humans one to be handled wisely and not emotionally. In Psalm 8:3-9, David repeated this theme by saying the Creator of all things made man a little lower than the angels and made him to have dominion over the works of God’s hands and put all things under man’s feet.
In Genesis 3:7 Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves sewn together. Notice God’s response in verse 21. God, himself, made coats of skins and clothed Adam and Eve. If the Lord God could choose to clothe Adam and Eve with whatever he desired, but chose animal skins, what right do I have to protest another person’s desire to wear furs and leather products? Is wearing an elk robe morally wrong? Not if your morals come from the Bible.
God initially made man a vegetarian as we can read in verse 29 of the first chapter of Genesis. However, God gave new instructions to Noah and his family after the flood in Genesis 9:1-7. In these verses, God says the fear and dread of man will now be on every animal on earth and that every moving thing that liveth should be for food, with the exception of the blood. Remember, God destroyed the world, except for Noah and his family, because of their great wickedness. Now no longer would God require man to be a vegetarian. Is there a connection here?
Reading further, God even gave his chosen people specific instructions for hunters and the proper disposition of the blood of wild game (Lev. 17:13-14). To place a distinction between God’s people and the heathens, God also established food laws. In Deuteronomy 14:2-21, God listed the animals his people would now be allowed to eat, such as sheep and deer, and those forbidden, such as camels and eagles. These food laws remained for hundreds of years until the Christian age when God changed them again at the establishment of the New Testament.
We read of God’s change in the food laws in the book of Acts. In Acts 10:10-16 God tells the apostle Peter that he was no longer under the restrictive food laws of the old law and that once again all animals were clean to eat. The analogy was meant to show that as all animals would now be considered clean to eat, all people were now accepted into God’s family as had been the Jews. When the apostle Peter protested God’s instructions to “Rise, Peter, kill and eat,” God said that what he has declared clean to eat, do not call unclean. Are you going to tell God it’s morally wrong to hunt, kill and eat an elk, or that it’s wrong to raise chickens for our dinner table? I for one will not.
Not to be left out, the apostle Paul explained that no food is unclean unless it personally offends your conscience to eat it, or causes a brother to stumble (Rom. 14:13-15, 21-23). Paul says “Happy is he that condemneth not him-self in that thing which he alloweth.” I can second that statement as my family joyously partakes of the many culinary delights of wild game. Paul also explains in the same chapter in verse two that our vegetarian brothers are weak, and we should show the proper Christian spirit toward them.
Paul writes further on this subject in 1 Timothy 4:1-5. The apostle of God said every creature of God is good and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving. This is a responsibility we should not take lightly.
Those of us who hunt elk or deer with a bow have our own set of antagonists who declare our methods to be cruel. What does God say? In Genesis 21:20, Abraham’s son, Ishmael, was described as an archer and God dwelt with him in the wilderness. When I too am in the wilderness hunting elk, I’m comforted to know that God is with me. However, only Nimrod received the title from God as “a mighty hunter before the Lord” in Genesis 10:9.
We all remember the famous Bible story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 27. Isaac had plenty of livestock to eat, but had a special love for the taste of venison and commanded his son Esau to take his bow and arrows and hunt and kill venison and prepare it for his last meal before he died. I sure can’t think of a better last meal than venison. Under the old law, God specifically mentioned the native middle eastern deer as a clean animal to eat in Deuteronomy 12.
Just like Isaac, we today could find other things to eat besides animals. We could eat a strictly vegetarian diet and live, but as the Bible shows us, meat is a gift to man from God to be received and enjoyed with thanksgiving. This is explained in Ecclesiastes 5:18-19. The wise man Solomon, who had wealth and wisdom provided to him by God, had meals prepared consisting of both domestic animals and wild game (1 Kings 4:23). Able to eat anything on earth he wanted, King Solomon often chose venison. It was a blessing from God.
Do animals have the same rights as man? Some extremists say it is morally wrong to use animals for pets, in zoos, in agriculture, or as beasts of burden. We don’t have the space to examine the use of animals in the Bible as sacrifices, livestock, beasts of burden, and personal property, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of the word of God knows that these uses were a part of life in the Bible. Did Jesus as a Jew believe in animal sacrifice? Didn’t his heavenly Father initiate the practice?
The Bible doesn’t say if Jesus hunted or not, but we do know that he helped Peter catch fish and then recruited several fishermen to be apostles (Luke 5:1-11). When Jesus fed the 5,000 in Matthew 14 with only five loaves and two fishes, we see his nature revealed. He was not a vegetarian, but the perfect Son of God who followed all the commandments of his father. It’s becoming apparent, that the morality of the Bible and of the animal rights movement are at polar opposites.
In Matthew 6:26 Jesus proclaims the special place of man in the heart of God by saying that we are much better than the animals. After all, the animals were not created in the image of God, only we were. This contradicts the notion that animals have equal or greater rights than man, as some proclaim.
Finally, I’d like to temper our enthusiasm by remembering that God’s creation was created good from the beginning for the use of man, but not the abuse. To wantonly destroy God’s created plants and animals would be a violation of the responsibility God gave us when we were given dominion over creation. The apostle Paul says we can understand God’s creation from seeing it ourselves (Rom. 1:20). Standing high in the Colorado Rockies in pursuit of the majestic elk, I’m in awe of the power of God and his wisdom. Man-kind is so fortunate to have been granted dominion over this beautiful tapestry of life. To destroy it would be to deny future generations the ability to fully understand the greatness of God.
In Proverbs 12:27, King Solomon said the “slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting, but the sub-stance of a diligent man is precious.” I couldn’t agree more. Great care is taken in my household when taking the kill from the field to the pot. Our finest cuts of wild game are reserved for our most special guests.
In the same chapter of Proverbs Solomon made another observation, this time about those who own animals. The wise king said that “a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”
Psalms 104 should be mandatory reading for those who study nature. Verse 24 says, “0 Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all, the earth is full of Thy riches.” No one who makes frequent trips to the deer woods or elk country could dispute that pearl of wisdom. The wise man in Ecclesiastes said there is a time to kill and a time to heal (3:1-8). This poetic truth from God stresses moderation and balance in the world. Extremism on either side of this important issue is out of step with God. I for one want to stay in step with God when I teach my children to hunt, to respect nature, and to practice wise conservation. That’s not too much to ask of oneself. After all, God is watching.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 15, p. 20-22
August 1, 1996