Pretend you’re an “ethical” hunter. You are a skilled marksman and you can ensure that when you shoot a deer it will instantly die. And on top of that, you are also very good at tracking and identifying the oldest bucks that are no longer fertile and likely to face gruesome, horrible deaths from younger males. So you feed yourself only on these old, infertile, and soon to die bucks, and on top of that you give them clean, easy deaths that they wouldn’t otherwise have.
In this situation, your interference in the animal kingdom makes it so that there is actually less net suffering. Now compare this to an ethical vegan who doesn’t partake in any interference in the animal kingdom, they have no net positive or negative impact on the suffering of wild animals. Despite the fact that the hunter is consuming meat, is their consumption actually more ethical than the vegan?
So this is just thought experiment. I don’t hunt and I don’t prescribe to this, but I think it’s at least thought provoking. If you argue for veganism from a strictly utilitarian perspective that is primarily driven by some desire to limit suffering in the world, there do seem to be some cases where meat consumption is not only defensible but the right thing to do.
Now I would not take this without question as some defense of hunting outright. There are a lot of complexities that are completely ignored in this thought experiment that may impact how we see this. And, unfortunately, many hunters don’t eat their kill, and many more don’t kill the old, infertile, and likely-to-soon-die bucks. But I think there may be ways to create guidelines for ethical meat consumption based on certain hunting practices.