What do hunters mean when they say they have respect for the animals they kill?
Hunters may make the claim that they have respect for the animals they kill. However, killing something for ‘sport’ seems totally counter-intuitive to having respect for a living being. The value that being places on living must be a higher-order desire/need than the value derived by a hunter who makes a successful kill. To the animal, their life is their everything. To the hunter, hunting is pass time. But if we are to take hunters at their word, who truly believe they harbour respect for the animals they kill, then how do we reconcile their claim with the fact that in ordinary terms taking another being’s life, unnecessarily, is the antipode of respect.
I will jettison the case of hunting for survival, where such people must necessarily take the lives of other animals in order to feed themselves and their family in a time of desperation where no other sustenance is available. I can imagine such people being deeply remorseful for having to kill others, who just like them wish to live, but must make the decision for their own continued existence.
An analogous example to the hunter is a rapist, who imposes their will upon an unconsenting victim. The rapist may claim that they have respect for the person they rape. They admire their beauty. They took them out to a nice restaurant, first. They made sure to be quick and cause as little suffering as possible. Now, all of that sounds totally delusional and no matter how ‘nice’ the rapist was to their victim beforehand, none of that justifies them imposing their will on another being. However, hunters will make similar remarks. ‘I make sure it’s a clean kill’. ‘I honour the animal by using all their body parts.’ But why in the case of hunting would this make their actions okay?
I do think hunters mean what they say. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. But I believe the respect is being directed in a different manner by the hunter. The hunter does not really respect the life of animals in a way that recognises that these animals are individuals, who share a sense of sanctimony for their life as does the hunter. If the hunter really respected the animal’s life, they would not needlessly take it. What I imagine what they mean when they say they respect the animals they kill, is that they respect the agility of the animal, the challenge of the hunt, and the build of the animal’s body. That is not respect for the life of the animal, but for some of their qualities and what the animals provide for them.