Our Burning Planet

Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk Schweizer-Reneke

Killing for the House of Jesus — church trophy hunt raises a storm

Killing for the House of Jesus — church trophy hunt raises a storm
A group of hunters after a night hunt on 16 August 2013 in Phillopolis, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Conrad Bornman)

The Schweizer-Reneke Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk boosts funds by offering prizes for killing as many wild animals as possible. The prizes? The licence to kill even bigger wild animals.

The North West is hunting country so it evidently seemed logical to raise money for the APK church by shooting wild animals. It’s not clear who came up with the plan, but the church embraced it a year ago and last month ran the competition again. 

There were no obvious impediments. Hunting is perfectly legal in South Africa. Among the farming community, most of the animals shot would be considered vermin. And anyway, the Ten Commandments, being decidedly anthropocentric, forbid murder, but place no restrictions on killing, other than humans. And of course, the church needed the money.

The advertisement, written over the picture of a cute jackal licking its nose, laid out the game plan. On registration and deposit of R2,000, teams of two hunters were required to shoot jackals, caracals, warthogs, porcupines, guinea fowl and pheasants.

The winners were awarded licences to shoot two lions, three kudu, a day of deep-sea fishing off St Lucia and “many other prizes”. Entry included dinner at the prizegiving ceremony. From the advertisement, it seemed that the first round of hunts took place between 28-30 July.

Were the awards based on the number of animals shot, their weight or some other criteria? Were the lions farmed or wild? A cellphone number was given to request the rules of play, but was not supplied when Daily Maverick inquired. Four other numbers were given for further information, but none of “Acee”, “Simmie”, “Derik” or “Buks” replied.

Though it was a local affair in a small town, the competition didn’t go unnoticed. First reactions were on the AP Kerk’s own Facebook page:

  • It’s terrible that a church — in God’s name — wants to wipe out its creations like that. Don’t you think about how many wild animals will now be left orphaned? If the hunters can pay R2,000, surely they can donate the R2,000 without committing mass murder. There are much better ways to raise money instead of committing murder and disguising it as “hunting”.
  • What an absolute disgrace! People are supposed to [be] stewards of God’s creation! It says so in the Bible! I think the Lord is looking down at you in absolute disgust! SHAME ON YOU! This is absolutely barbaric! God will NEVER condone this!
  • Why don’t the morons who invented the callous and greedy fundraiser throw stones at each other? The last one standing wins a night in a cage with lions or wins a brain transplant.

Marula Media picked up the story and managed to get through to Buks, who made the mistake of saying the event had been cleared by the National Society for the Protection of Animals (NSPCA). Wrong move. The organisation came out guns blazing.

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It emailed the organisers 21 questions, demanding to know the number of hunting teams that entered, whether prizes were based on weight or number of animals shot, why those particular animals had been chosen, where the hunts took place, what weapons were used, whether the welfare of the animals had been considered and whether the two lions, the final prize, were wild or captive bred.

It got no response. 

So it wrote to the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism (Dedect), wanting to know whether jackals and caracals were listed as problem animals, the legality of the hunt, whether dogs were permitted in such hunts, the weapons permitted and welfare considerations for the young of the animals hunted.

It still got no response.

The next salvo came from the NSPCA’s national senior inspector of the Wildlife Protection Unit, Douglas Wolhuter, who pointed out to Dedect that his organisation had a legal mandate under the Animals Protection Act to ask and act on its questions. It was doing so following numerous complaints about the hunt and was required to investigate. 

At the time of writing, Dedect had not replied, but the AP Kerk then sent an email which sidestepped the questions but gave an explanation:

“Every team will hunt on their own discretion, legally on a hunting farm of their own choice, the hunt itself doesn’t have anything to do with the organizers. Each team will have to shoot one of each animal in 24 hours. 

“It will be mainly male animals and the reason is that some are weight and some measured and only males will count because they will measure much more than females. The prices (sic) are all sponsored. 

“Animals to be hunted as prices (sic) are all on hunting farms with the legal permits to do so. It is handled by them and not us. 

“I’m just out of office for the next week.”

“In essence,” the NSPCA commented in a media statement, “the church is happy to take the money for the hunt, but because the hunt doesn’t take place on the church grounds, they believe they are not involved.”

Was such a hunt in line with AP Kerk policy? Daily Maverick wrote to the Director of Church Administration, Rev JL Schütte, but received no reply. 

His position could possibly be gleaned from a letter written to the State President, Cyril Ramaposa, accusing him of “making a mockery of prayer and God’s law” and of “plundering the country” for 25 years.

“Your government,” he writes, “undermines the value and dignity of life and incites carnage by not punishing those who incite death and violence.” 

The government, he insisted, was undercutting parental authority by criminalising corporal punishment, allowing abortion and outlawing the death penalty. “The foundation of your government rests on the premise of the rights of people and not on the right of God. The much-vaunted constitution carries within itself the germ of ruin.”

One can infer from these sentiments that, given the approval of whipping and the death penalty, raising money for the church by killing wild animals for pleasure would probably not be seen as a moral problem. DM/OBP

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

Absa OBP

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