Is it appropriate for a Christian to kill animals for sport?
We see many examples in this world of mankind using animals for heinous purposes, be it gambling on cockfighting or dogfighting or the culturally renowned bullfights in Spain. Some animals are harvested for valuable parts used for show or pagan remedies. Even in modern medicine, animals are used inhumanely in clinical drug trials.
Man was given dominion over the newly created world by God. “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28). And God expected man to take care of it, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 NIV). God even fashioned clothing for Adam and Eve using animals, “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21)
The brutality mankind inflicts upon God’s creation is second only to the cruelty inflicted upon himself. God charged us to use animals for our needs and enjoyment but only in a biblical manner as ordained by God. Destroying animals just because we can is not godly.
God gave man animals as one of many food sources for us to survive. He outlined exactly what we could eat, stating that “You shall not eat any detestable thing…for you are a holy people to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 14:3, 21). And God told man that it was his duty to grow and harvest that food, “…for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food” (Leviticus 25:7).
Part of harvesting those beasts was through hunting. This method of acquiring meat has been part of man’s history since our creation. It was said of Isaac’s son Esau, “So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:27-28). As with other physical necessities, God allows enjoyment, skill and purpose to be derived from harvesting animals.
Under certain circumstances, the Bible does allow the killing of animals other than killing for meat. These purposes would include prevention of overpopulation of certain animals which might destroy the environment, or for reasons of self-defense. However, that would not include hunting for trophies, just for the fun or sport of it. To kill animals without a compelling purpose is clearly wrong.
“…a distinction must be made between ‘needed’ hunting for the purpose of the control of wild life and the acquisition of food, and trophies hunting for ‘fun’ and ‘entertainment.’ Examples would be fox hunting in Great Britain and killing animals on a safari in Africa.”
David was known as someone who tended and took care of sheep, even protecting those flocks from predators. “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God’” (1 Samuel 17:34-36). David’s skill in field shepherding and protecting those flocks helped steer him into the position of King over Israel.
It appears that David’s “weapon” included a sling to protect his flocks, which was the best technology of his time. Just as the disciples of Christ’s time did with their fishing. “When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’…And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking” (Luke 5:4,6). The disciples made their livelihood using the best methods available to them for catching fish.
For those of us who are hunters, there is nothing biblically wrong in using the best and most ethical ways of harvesting or hunting for our meat. In most US states, hunters must complete educational classes and obtain a license in order to harvest game. One key element in these hunter education courses is how to shoot in an ethical manner using legal guns or bows. This fundamental concept promotes becoming “skilled” so that a hunter shoots an animal causing minimal suffering.
But when people lose a biblical perspective, cruelty and godlessness follow. This occurred in man’s early history to the point that God forbade certain pagan customs. We read, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19). While it is acceptable to eat meat and dairy together (see our Q&A: “Does the Bible prohibit eating a mixture of milk and meat?”), pagan practices pervert the way God intended us to eat meat.
And our godless attitudes towards animals have only grown worse today. Extreme groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who place animals on the same level as humans, have no biblical perspective. By God’s own words, we were given dominion over the creation which man is failing to keep.
Even more destructive is the growing fascination with firearms that has overtaken many in this world. Assault rifles serve no purpose in hunting and are illegal for this purpose. These types of guns have no place in a Christian home, and we should rely on God alone for our protection.
But these godless attitudes will come to an end. There will eventually be no use for guns or weapons of any type when the Kingdom of God is established: “…They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore” (Micah 4:3). We will finally be taking care of God’s creation as he intended.
Lead Writer: Robb Harris