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Leading up to the days of his passing, Justice Antonin Scalia was enjoying some quality recreational time. Apparently, he had spent the weekend hanging out with members of the Austrian-based and very exclusive -- male only -- hunting society known as the International Order of St. Hubertus. The group frequently dons emerald robes emblazoned with the mantra "Deum Diligite Animalia Dilgentes," or Honoring God by Honoring his Creatures. And beyond that, there is some really weird stuff on this group.
This is exactly the sort of fuel conspiracy theorists need to stoke their fiery theories about Justice Scalia getting whacked in his sleep.
St. Hubertus is the patron saint you never heard of unless you drink a lot of Jaegermeister because the moment at which he suddenly saw God is captured forever on labels in bars all over the world. Various sources have him as the patron saint of hunting, fishing, opticians, what-have-you. We know that liked having a good time -- very saintly.
Standards for becoming a saint must have been very different back in the day than today -- or maybe we're missing something. By most accounts, Hubert was a "middle ages playboy" who loved hunting, loved to skip church, loved to hunt. And like so many legendary religious figures who seem to go through the most unlikely of conversions, he later saw a vision of the lord when a stag he was trailing turned on him in the form of the cross between the animal's antlers. Look at your Jaegermeister label and cue ominous secret order music.
The vision told Hubert the basic tenants of honoring animals. Only shoot when a kill is assured, kill animals beyond breeding ages, and do not hunt does and fawns. The society has maintained these rules throughout its history.
Animal lover skeptics regard these rules rather incredulously and balk at any notion that hunting can be done without cruelty. To them, the group's slogan may as well be "Honoring God's Creatures by Shooting Them."
Hunting was either an essential part of living, or it was just too darn fun to give up. The American Jesuit Priest Mitch Pacwa was known to be the author of the "Prayer for successful hunt," which called for a hunt and kill in as "painless a way possible. May I recognize my limits and take the shots I know I can make, not taking a shot that risks maiming or wounding an animal unnecessarily." It probably would have sounded more official in Latin, but alas.
Animal rights activists and Scalia did not get along particularly well. Scalia once essentially intimated that the debate over dog fighting and cock fighting should be analyzed under a free speech umbrella, and that the rights of people to see the animals fight might exceed the rights of the animals not to fight. Reasonable minds have disagreed of course. Thus, it's probably safe to say that many aren't surprised that he was found consorting with the Order -- honor through minimal cruelty aside.
These days, St. Hubert's day is recognized and celebrated on November 3, the day that marks the beginning of the hunting season. Generally, celebrations are in Belgium, France, and Netherlands.
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