Those who kill animals in a church trophy hunt would do well to read the Green Bible
Christiaan Bakkes

As an Afrikaner I understand the passion to hunt — it’s what we learnt at our father’s knee. But justifying it by the Bible and for pleasure is a step too far.

I read the article Killing for the House of Jesus (Daily Maverick 25 August) with both understanding and shock.

The Afrikaner obsession with hunting and fishing is deeply ingrained in our DNA and that served to define us for centuries. In their early days in Africa, it was to “tame” the land and provide sustenance for our families.

We did it with such enthusiasm and skill that soon the veld became denuded of wildlife. Were it not for far-sighted Afrikaners like Paul Kruger, Deneys Reitz and Piet Grobler, many more species would have been exterminated.

To most of us as young boys, hunting served as a rite of passage to manhood. My father took me hunting so that I could “learn about death”. It seemed the most natural thing to do. He also used it as an opportunity to teach me about life. 

Largely because of these adventures in the veld with my father, I was inspired to pursue a life of adventure in the wilderness as a game ranger.

With the growth of game ranching, hunting was often hailed as a sustainable form of conservation in that wild lands for hunting ensured the survival of species.

But game ranching and game breeding rapidly mutated into an industry that promoted captive breeding and genetic engineering of colour variants of ungulates. This blurred the lines of hunting ethics.

It has become a lucrative, profit-driven industry that undermines everything we stand for in wildlife conservation and genetic biodiversity.

The old-fashioned Boer who took up his Mauser and walked off into the bushveld to shoot a kudu for winter meat has become a thing of the past. He has been replaced by the bakkie jagter.

The Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk’s hunting competition dresses it up as a problem animal control operation, because the species mentioned are generally regarded as a threat to their livestock and crops. I’m sure that no one from the Schweizer-Reneke APK gemeente has a problem with it.

Ironically, all the animals listed tend to survive despite the fact that they’re relentlessly hunted by farmers. Jackals only seem to be evolving as “superdogs” because of persecution by hunters.

The APK is a variation of the devout Doppers and Calvinists of Oom Paul Kruger van ouds. They will only listen to what the Bible tells them. However, they listen selectively.

I recommend they expand their reading to the Green Bible Devotional written by Carla Barnhill, a book of daily readings as a companion to the Green Bible. It’s a profound re-look at Christian teachings on the care of fellow creatures:

“At times, the animal kingdom has suffered greatly because of human domination, abuse, industrialisation and simple ignorance. Yet we have also saved entire species from extinction simply by changing our understanding of what it means to live in this mutually dependent relationship.

“We wield tremendous power in our relationship with our fellow creatures, and the Bible is exceedingly clear on how we are to use that power.

“Our dominion over the creatures who share this planet with us is a humbling call to serve and to protect; one that compels us to consider the ways in which our lives and our choices impact those creatures we are to care for.”

Then she quotes the Bible:

“Anyone who kills an animal shall make restitution for it, life for life. Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered. One who kills an animal shall make restitution for it, but one who kills a human shall be put to death. — Leviticus 24:18-21”.

It addresses ignorance:

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer? Can you number the months that they fulfil, and do you know the time they give birth, when they crouch to give birth to their offspring and are delivered of their young? Their young ones become strong, they grow up in the open; they go forth and do not return to them. — Job 39:1-4”

It also addresses arrogance:

“How long will the land mourn and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it, the animals and the birds are swept away, and because people said, ‘He is blind to our ways’.” — Jeremiah 12:4.”

And redemption in a balanced world:

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.” –Isaiah 11:6-8.”

Barnhill continues: 

“Conversation about creation care typically centre on the planet — the air, the water, the land — and the protection of animals. And yet at the heart of creation care is a human rights issue, one we too often ignore. Creation care isn’t about caring for the earth. It is about caring for one another.”

I relate to this. I find my spirituality in nature, the wilderness and among wildlife, big and small. Spirituality should not be mistaken for religion, but my father, Casper Bakkes, always said that when he was walking in the veld, he was close to God. He had a deep respect for wildlife and nature.

He was the epitome of the Boer walking in the veld looking for winter meat. If he was still alive, he would have been horrified by the slaughter for funds propagated by the APK church. More especially because he was a member. DM/OBP

Christiaan Bakkes led an anti-poaching unit as part of his military service and worked as a game ranger in the Kruger National Park. Thereafter, he worked in the Damaraland desert as a guide and conservation official for Wilderness Safaris. In 2014, he was nominated as No 7 of the top 20 safari guides in Africa by Conde Nast Traveller. He is also the author of wilderness and conservation tales in Afrikaans. Several of his books have been translated into English. He currently works on education and advocacy projects with his wife Marcia, an environmental lawyer, on issues related to wildlife crime, environmental damage and social justice. Together they are trying to make sense out of humankind’s ignorance and disdain towards their planet and its inhabitants.

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