- There's not a viable way to feed the human species without meat. Humans biologically require the spectrum of vitamins, nutrients, proteins, amino acids, and so on from animal sources at some point in our food chain, and the only current way to produce that on the scale necessary is with animal sources. It isn't that a vegetarian diet has no health benefits- vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens, should play a much larger dietary role for a much larger section of the population than they currently do- but the complete absence of meat would be devastating for the human species, and what few of us survived would necessarily be biologically something different. The average vegan who has not had animal protein or supplements in over a year can typically raise their IQ by ten points with a single dose of creatine monohydrate, a popular bodybuilding supplement that's only available from animal sources like red meat, and if that's news and you want a fact that hits closer to home, look up vegan fertility rates. Again, vegans, I love you guys, but y'all are doing some shit the rest of us can't, and that isn't really plausible as a full-time solution for everyone.
- A natural life is better for the animal, and in such a way that makes it better for the person eating it. Even if that wild life entails a miserable hunt at the end, so what? The domestic ones get slaughtered too, they just know it, and watch their whole family go get killed in a line in front of them before- and even in the best case of domestication the animals should be allowed to live as much according to their nature as possible so as to develop most suitably into the food they will be used as afterwards, and then that animal should be fucking respected and not wasted and used inappropriately.
- Humans are biologically predators and have ecologically replaced the apex predators in the ecosystems around the world. If we are going to sustain an ecosystem, which is the fucking point of "Conservation" efforts, we need to make sure that the jobs in it are getting done, even if the creatures doing those jobs are not present, which is why you've seen that picture of Chinese farmers polinating their apple trees manually with paint brushes.
- Biologically, because of our evolution as predators, you should expect some of us to have the experience of being driven to hunt, a desire to hunt or kill animals for food, and ability and willingness to participate in this, even just socially. Because of this, there should be some socially acceptable way for those people to do that. And that's basically what "hunting" is and always has been, until Bambi, it seems, because that was the crossing of the graph lines between mechanized agriculture and cultural personification of animals.
There is even a place for Trophy hunting; trophy hunting is a good thing. Trophy hunting of dozens of species of particularly gazelle has led to them literally coming back from extinction. We should do it to fucking Rhinos and elephants, not because I dislike rhinos and elephants, not because I want to hunt them or don't know about the level of consciousness they have, but because taking out the antisocial and aggressive members of the population that are attacking other members can be beneficial, and if you want to argue that you have to be a sick motherfucker to want to pull that trigger, why not regulate the fuck out of it, so as to keep anything too fucked from going down, and charge the guy who STILL wants to do it enough money to pay for cloning the other elephants worth having?
Seriously, just google "male elephant" and watch a few videos- watch one of the indian elephants, the smaller type that lives in the jungles in asia, throw a motorbike at a guy when it'd had enough of being abused by its handler. watch it demolish cars like they're nothing. Elephants are majestic wonderful fucking animals, I have been lucky enough to interact with several and they have been wonderful animals and I loved them, but when you've got an outcaste one that's attacking the other elephants and attacking people and being a vindictive destructive pain in the ass everywhere it goes, is it too much to ask to end that elephant in as humane a way as possible, and charge the sort of motherfucker who wants to shoot elephants enough money to help the rest of the herd along?
Since the nature of the problem of poaching is desperate uneducated motherfuckers with AK-47's who are trying to get money for food, and their interaction leaves them without urgency for saving animals that have been feared and reviled historically, but that ignorance can't be treated as stupidity- those guys aren't stupid. They certainly aren't stupid about supply and demand- their customers are in fucking China, usually- and if you say "hey, wait wait, this could be a business but you have to stop killing and start being custodial", that could be a huge opportunity for a species like elephants and rhinos, AND it could be a huge opportunity for the humans in the area too.
The nature of trophy hunting means that it is rigorously regulated, because it can be taxed and will generate revenue anyway, and there are actually population problems with endangered animals that necessitate some portion of them to be killed so as to not pose a danger to the actual breeding population- the classic example is straggler male lions, which have the benefit of being extremely popular trophies AND extremely disastrous if left near breeding females, because the lion breeding strategy is to kill all the competing male's cubs so the females all stop lactating and go into heat, and then start fucking them all, which in lions involves a lot of fighting and biting, causing some percentage of females to die every generation breeding cycle. So if you left the male population unchecked, you'd get a population that would grow quickly until the males started overcompeting and killing the females off faster than they are reproducing, and the population collapses- and best case scenario, you're down to square one + the first generation of inbreeding.
Take that, and realize the male lions make enough money to hire, train, and equip expert game wardens, civilian and in government services, who are custodians over large free-ranging but segregated wild lion populations, from which the troublesome males are segregated off and hunted, and the revenues generated pay for the sustenance of the whole population. Because while these are wild animals, it is a breeding program, and so a steady supply of food is always available whether it's naturally available or not, from purchased livestock meat and so on.
But do I hunt? No, I don't. I don't like killing animals, it isn't fun for me, although I can and have. The day I am writing this, I killed a spider and was angry about it, because I half-crushed it on accident and didn't want to leave it to suffer, folded in half on a counter top, and so I finished it off. I like shooting- not killing. I have shot birds - they did not suffer, but I do not remember the experience fondly. I am even copious about killing the brain of a fish before I gut it, and the science seems to back this up- the stress hormones of an animal in distress actually make it taste bad, whether that's a lobster or a cow. So even though I for example oppose all notions of "Islam" as despicable fairytales that have been shamefully inflicted on Arab culture, I have no problem admitting that by keeping Halal- which has specifications about the extent to which the animal can suffer, and an ideal for minimizing that for general purposes of food, at least- can produce some reliably excellent quality meat.
So that's my two cents, why I think we should all stop being dicks to each other about this discussion. Hunters, nonhunters don't get it. They just don't. Don't listen to a colorblind art critic's bitching about the rainbow they can't see all of. Nonhunters, not seeing what someone else sees does not mean you are inferior. People are different, you are different, you may have made different decisions about how you might address problems like animal suffering or food production, but your opportunities are not universally available. Not because I think assholes should have a social way to torture animals, but because people trying not to be assholes should have an outlet that tortures animals less than the ones we use for food and treats them, before and after death, more respectfully.