On OKCupid, one of the match questions you can choose to answer is whether or not you would consider dating someone who hunts animals for sport. I am still surprised by how many people are not vegetarian but state that they would not date a hunter. What is the moral difference there? Someone who hunts animals for sport (as opposed to for food) is doing so because it gives them pleasure. Someone who chooses to eat animals (assuming they’ve given it any thought in the first place) is presumably doing so because they like the taste — which is to say, it gives them pleasure. Why is one form of pleasure an acceptable reason to deprive an animal of its life while the other is not? Indeed, if anything it seems like the hunter is the less cruel of the two. Prior to being killed by the hunter, the animal lived a natural life in the wild. And the hunter’s goal is to kill the animal in one shot. In the meat industry, on the other hand, the animals endure a lifetime of confinement and torture before finally being killed, often in a prolonged and cruel fashion. Personally, I don’t think hunting is acceptable either, no matter how “humanely” it is done (I put that in quotation marks because I don’t see how any killing can truly be humane). But if I’m trying to look through the eyes of someone who believes that killing can be humane and killing animals can be justified in the name of human pleasure, then I fail to see how someone could eat meat but oppose sport hunting.
One response I can imagine is that sport hunting is “wasteful”. The animal is giving its life and you aren’t making use of its body. At least if you eat it, then it’s life has served a purpose. Thus why some people oppose sport hunting but are okay with someone who eats the animals they hunt. Two things:
First, what purpose has the animal served in being eaten? Sure, it provided someone with nutrition, but this is nutrition they could easily have gotten without having killed an animal. It also allowed the person to enjoy the taste of the animal, but as discussed before, an animal killed by a sport hunter allows the person to enjoy the thrill of the hunt. A purpose is served in both cases. Okay, but maybe you feel that nutrition is a tangible thing, whereas pleasure is not. Fine — what if the sport hunter uses a taxidermist and mounts the head of the kill. That’s a tangible end achieved by killing the animal. How is that less valid?
Second, who are we to decide what purpose this animal’s life is to serve? That animal experiences pain and fear and contentment. Why do we get to decide what purposes merit taking that away from them?
Let me be clear here that I am not talking about matters of survival. If I needed to kill to survive, I suspect I would. Or if I lived in a situation where it was extremely difficult to live, or to be healthy, without eating animal products, then that’s an entirely different set of considerations. What I’m talking about here is the situation faced by most people in first world countries, where eating meat is a choice, not a necessity.