When Anti-Trappers Are Open About their Beliefs
Anyone who has known me, understands that one of my greatest complaints about the animal rights protest industry (ARPI) is how they mask their true intentions. I published an article on this point in the Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference (Vantassel, Stephen. (2008). In R. M. Timm & M. B. Madon (Eds.), Proceedings of the Twenty-Third Vertebrate Pest Conference (Vol. 23, pp. 294-300). San Diego, CA: University of California, Davis.) where I noted how if the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) really wanted dialogue then it should respond to the criticisms and issues I raised.
Unfortunately, the HSUS has yet to respond directly to those concerns nor has it proffered any opportunity for true dialogue. A friend of mine noted that the problem with my article was that I misunderstood how animal rights protest industry advocates define dialogue. He said that for ARPI advocates, dialogue means, shut up or be quiet and listen to me talk. I don’t know if the HSUS believes that way. I think the problem may be that if it said what its goals really were in an open (openness is different than honesty) way, they might just loose funding from the more radical elements of their supporters. I should note that openness is different than honesty. Openness refers to the willingness to explain one’s presuppositions and ultimate goals as I explained in my article. Perhaps, the HSUS will engage me sometime in the future. They should respect my opinion because they used one of my articles in a favorable way in one of their training sessions in Connecticut.
Nevertheless, I am always glad when ARPI advocates are open about their beliefs. Too often they cloud their ultimate intentions with the side argument of “humanness”. One such organization that deserves credit for being open is the folks behind Furbearer Defenders.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIVmVMraR3I. While their video was less than fully fair with their assertions, I did want to send out kudos for them for their openness in noting their opinion that no trap is humane. They are wrong of course, but I appreciate the frankness of their stating it.
There it is everyone, ‘No Trap Is Humane.” It is nice to hear when ARPIs are open about their full beliefs. What this does is underscore and prove my long-argued point that for ARPIs cruelty is defined as the mere killing or even restraint of a wild animal for consumptive purposes. The reason why it is essential for people to understand this is that it highlights the true nature of the debate. While ARPIs frequently claim this or that technique is “cruel” or “inhumane” when one answers those concerns, they will not be satisfied because their real goal is the elimination of trapping for the fur trade period no matter how painless the activity. This is just more proof from my dissertation which was published as Dominion over Wildlife: An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 209). For them, the mere act of sport or commercial trapping is wrong. Cruelty is just a canard to get ignorant people to vote their way (or send money).
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest book is the The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats. He can be contacted at stephenvantassel at Hotmail dot com.
All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.
Carpenter, David. 2010. A Hunter’s Confession. Vancouver, B.C.: D. and M. Publishers Inc.
A Hunter’s Confession is a memoir and an essay on the morality and meaning of hunting. Carpenter brings his superb prose and extensive hunting experience together in a book that openly discusses the moral dilemmas of a hunter. No matter where you are on the position of animal-rights and the role of the consumptive use of wildlife, readers will find much to ponder.
Carpenter explains how his attitude toward hunting has changed as he’s gotten older. He thoughtfully explains how he transitioned from being a body-count hunter (one who hunted to fill the bag-limit) to one who entered wild places to experience a more spiritual interaction with nature. He decries what he sees as the overemphasis on trophy and high animal counts in much hunting literature and hunting lore. He is concerned with the protection of open space and wildlands and wonders whether hunting is playing a role in the degradation and lack of respect for nature. Yet, Carpenter does not adopt a simplistic condemnation of hunting. He knows that hunting has been a force of good for protecting wildlife and open spaces. He also sees immense value from the hunting practices and philosophy of the Native Americans. In this regard, the author is somewhat conflicted, and honestly so, about hunting and its role both for the hunter and the broader society.
I commend the author for his emotional transparency and taking on the difficult questions such as bloodlust, and environmental degradation. Too often the socio-relational and moral elements of hunting are not considered in a thoughtful way. I just wish the author provided an answer to the dilemmas and problems he reveals.
On the negative side, Carpenter fails to provide proper distinctions. He neglected to distinguish between regulated hunting and poaching when he spoke of the impact hunting has had on wildlife populations. Additionally, he falls victim to the old canard that dominionism is somehow opposed to the respect for nature view and has caused the domination of the environment. His simplistic and inaccurate understanding of Christian teaching on humanity’s role as manager of the environment is unfortunate but a common one among non-Christians.
Nevertheless, his question, “Why do you hunt?” should be answered by all hunters (trappers) and those who use wildlife in a consumptive manner. Likewise, his point is well made when he asks, “Are you hunting to fill a void in your life or are you hunting to connect to nature in a deeper way than just simply observing?” I find these questions poignant. It is because Carpenter asks these questions in such a powerful way that I recommend this book for those interested in exploring these questions. I would simply suggest that these questions should be asked to non-hunters as well as all activities in nature are subject to the selfishness and egoism rampant in the human heart.
The book is available at Amazon.com for 14.00. A number of used copies are available also for less than 3.00.
About the Author
Stephen M Vantassel http://wildlifecontrolconsultant.com specializes in wildlife damage management and has a particular interest in environmental ethics.
Christianity, Animal Rights, and Environmentalism
Why Christians Cannot Support Animal Rights
In recent years, an increasing number of self-identified Christians have begun propagating the beliefs of the animal rights movement. These Christians assert that, contrary to the traditional view of the Church, God does not want humanity to kill, harm or eat animals. They contend that humanity’s carnivorous behavior was a result of the Fall, when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden (Gen 3). God only tolerated our meat eating as a form of concession just as God conceded with our tendency to divorce (Mk 10). Rather Christ came to restore peace, not only between God and humanity, but also between humanity and animals (Col 1:20). Therefore, Christians, being followers of Christ (2 Cor 5:18), must participate in restoring relations by adopting vegetarianism and forsaking hunting, fishing, and trapping.
Animal Rights is UnChristian
To put the matter bluntly, I contend that self-proclaimed Christians cannot affirm that position and those that do are either ignorant, deceived, or are not really Christians. Let provide just a few reasons for this. First, Scripture clearly says that God gave dominion to men and women (Gen 1:26-8). As the animal rights activists rightly state, dominion does not mean despotism. Humans were to govern the world in service to God as a beekeeper manages the bees owned by someone else. Genesis 2 explicitly relates God’s command to work the garden and to protect it. The evidence suggests that God wanted humans to protect species from extinction. If God had an overwhelming concern over each and every individual animal then one would have to ask why God sent the flood to kill all air-breathing creatures, save those in the ark (Gen 6-9)? If you have any doubts, ask how our lives would be different if Adam and Eve decided to express dominion over the Serpent rather than listening to it (Gen 3). Adam and Eve failed to protect the garden because they failed to eject, or dare I say kill the Serpent, for its blasphemy. In short, they failed to express their God given authority over the serpent. So when the animal rights activists say that there was peace and harmony in the Garden they are not completely correct. For there was at least one animal that was not in harmony with the command of God.
The Old Testament, Psalm 8 provides additional support for the traditional view of humanity’s authority over creation. The passage clearly observes how humans have authority over domesticated and wild animals alike. Of further interest is to see that the Psalm is treated as a prophecy of Christ by the New Testament (Heb 2:7).
Jesus Didn’t Support Animal Rights
Perhaps the greatest challenge to the animal rights view is Christ’s own words and deeds in regards to humanity’s treatment of animals. Here is the issue at stake. Either Christ was morally correct in his words and deeds or He wasn’t. If He was, then we can copy him. If he wasn’t then he was not God and certainly couldn’t die for our sins as the perfect Lamb of God (1 Pet 1:18ff). Consider Christ’s words. Jesus expanded humanity’s dinner menu by declaring all foods ceremonially clean. In one fell swoop, Christians were no longer subject to the restrictions of Kosher Laws (Mk 7:19) and could now enjoy the flavors of pigs and lobster with divine blessing. If Christ really wanted to protect animals from human predation, why would he expand the animals humans were allowed to eat? In addition, Christ asks the disciples to bring him some fish so he could cook breakfast (John 21:10f).
Christ’s actions towards animals are even more telling. He allowed demons to drown pigs without ever bothering to run into the Sea of Galilee to save them (Lk 8:33). He even helped the disciples kill more fish through the miracle of the fishes (Jn 21:6). Those actions don’t seem to speak very highly of the compassion to animals that animal rights activists say we should follow.
The Problem of Cruelty
Some of you may agree with my comments so far but are concerned that my position actually provides justification for people to be cruel to animals. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ was not cruel to animals but neither was he subject to them. But we must first be clear on what constitutes cruelty.
Animal rights start from the assumption that humans do not have a right to utilize animals for our purposes. So from this starting point, anything that interferes with an animal’s freedom can be considered a violation of its being and therefore cruel. To an animal rights activist, keeping a lion in a zoo is cruel because the lion loses its ability to “enjoy” the great outdoors hunting its prey. Christians believe that zoos are an appropriate expression of dominion over creation provided the animals were treated properly (i.e. zoos that provide proper sanitation, care, and treatment of the animals).
But what about something more controversial, such as sport hunting or say fur trapping? Aren’t these expressions of human greed and selfishness? They certainly can be but that would depend on the individual sportsman. Sport hunting and fur trapping are not by definition instances of cruelty. Why? Because God put animals on the earth for human enjoyment and enjoyment can range from deer watching to deer hunting. Christ never condemned the disciples’ fishing with nets, devices where fish can actually die by being crushed. It isn’t that Christ wasn’t concerned with animal suffering as he clearly was (Lk 12:6; 13:15). The difference was animals under our direct control, such as pets or livestock, require a higher level of attention than animals in the wild. I believe if the apostles had a more humane way of capturing fish that didn’t unduly hinder them financially; Christ would have had them use it. But we need to distinguish between capture techniques and euthanasia. I suggest the view known as animal welfare provides the biblical balance of respect for animal suffering and human need. Animal welfare seeks to treat the animal in a way to minimize its suffering while recognizing that it is an animal. Hunters who employ good shooting practices, and trappers who choose their sets carefully are each exhibiting the best qualities of animal welfare. Trapping and hunting are capture techniques, not euthanasia techniques. Capturing free-ranging animals is very different than dealing with an animal in a controlled environment. You treat your dog differently than a deer because a dog is under your control a deer is not.
As you can guess, my book, Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock 2009) has much more to say about this topic. But the bottom-line is trapping as performed legally and responsibly in the United States and Canada are completely within the bounds of good Christian behavior. Enjoy the bounty that God has bestowed upon us, recognizing that all of creation belongs to him and needs to be treated as such.
Stephen M. Vantassel is a specialist in the field of wildlife damage management as well as an Evangelical theologian. He has also dedicated his life to oppose the anti-environmentalism inherent in the animal rights protest industry and welcomes opportunities to show the public how dangerous animal rights is to the health of the planet.