A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

When Killing Animals is ‘Honoring God’


Members of the International Order of St. Hubertus and special guests at a hunting ranch

They’re wealthy men of the old aristocracy, who wear dark green and scarlet robes on ceremonial occasions, and believe in “Honoring God by Honoring His Creatures.” And since they’re a hunting society, the way they honor His creatures is by killing them.

Welcome to the International Order of St. Hubertus (IOSH), named after the patron saint of hunters, trappers and dog trainers. And among their number, when some of them gathered at the Cibolo Creek Ranch for a weekend of shooting, two weeks ago, was Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The officers of this society, which dates back to the 1600s in Austria, include a Knight Grand Master, a Prior and a Grand Master (currently His Imperial Highness Istvan von Habsburg-Lothringen, Archduke of Austria, according to the Order’s website).


King Juan Carlos of Spain, Lord Protector of the Order, bags an elephant

Lord Protector of the Order is King Juan Carlos of Spain, an avid hunter who was also President Emeritus of the World Wildlife Fund and President of WWF’s Spanish chapter until a photo of him with the elephant he’d just killed caused international outrage in 2012.

Not that the king’s behavior was unusual among the ranks of WWF, whose leadership includes dozens of regal hunters, including Britain’s Prince William and his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is WWF’s President Emeritus. The so-called animal charity was not upset by the Spanish king’s behavior, but by the embarrassment of having the photo escape into the mass media, especially at a time when His Majesty’s subjects were in the middle of a crippling economic recession.

An international network of the super-rich, royal and influential, who dress up in funny clothes and kill helpless animals.Whether or not Scalia himself was a full member of the International Order of St. Hubertus (IOSH) is something upon which, according to the Washington Post, neither his family nor the Order itself are willing to comment. Regardless, these folks are all part of an international network of the super-rich, royal and influential, who enjoy dressing up in funny clothes, or, as the owner of the Texas hunting ranch describes it, “traditional European shooting attire.”

They also promote themselves as passionate conservationists. The Order’s stated purpose includes “to encourage wildlife conservation and to help protect endangered species from extinction” while “promoting the concept of hunting and fishing as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.” (Tell that to the elephant whom Lord Protector King Juan Carlos shot dead.)


The king presides over an investiture for the Order

So, what’s up with these royal pains? In our series of posts “I Am Not an Animal“, we explore some of the ways we humans try to deny our mortal, physical, animal nature. In particular, we try to cope with our lifelong terror of death by taking “dominion” over the natural world around us, thus elevating ourselves to the status of superior, even spiritual, beings who are perhaps not even animals at all.

What crasser and more contemptible way of doing this than by identifying oneself as part of an elite, global aristocracy that dates back to a bygone era, clothes its animal nakedness in green-and-scarlet robes and its insignificance in titles and honors, and claims dominion over its fellow animals by shooting them dead, taking a selfie, and then using them as home décor.

That’s what was going on at the elite weekend that Justice Scalia was proud to be part of when he retired to bed, never to awaken again. For those who sacrificed their lives to the whole miserable charade, perhaps there’s at least some justice in that.