Are Elephants Not Meat?

I normally try to stick to covering such substantive philosophical topics as, Does Your Nail Polish Color Signify Something? and Can a Poke Be Considered a Finger Punch?

I’m of course being frivolous. There’s nothing even remotely substantive about either of those topics, though they were fun to talk about with the people who read those posts. I suppose what I’m saying is I normally try to keep things light and leave the heavy mental lifting to people who are qualified.

elephant-hunter1There’s been a topic going around lately, however, that’s got me pondering: Big game hunting.

I’ve seen quite a lot of fuss made over pictures of people standing over dead elephants, calls to refuse to shop at the companies they work for, petitions to ban them from Africa, things like that.

I’ll admit, the thought of killing an elephant makes me sad. They’re intelligent creatures and magnificent and loyal and good swimmers and they already have enough problems to deal with without weekend warriors coming at them with high-powered rifles.

Still, here’s what’s got me wondering: Why are all the people who are upset about big game hunting not vegetarians?

I get that big game hunting is different from, say, deer hunting. All the deer hunters I know eat the deer they shoot, whereas I doubt very much that big game hunters go home with 10,000 pounds of elephant meat. So, easy, clear distinction there. Maybe some people don’t see it that way. I saw a picture on Twitter that said “Save a deer, hunt a hunter” and it showed a man posing over a dead guy with a bullet hole in his head. For what it’s worth, I see the difference between hunting for food and sport hunting.

What I wonder, though, is whether there’s enough of a difference between elephants and cows/chickens/sheep/goats/pigs/etc. to make it an outrageous offense against nature to kill an elephant and permissible to kill a farm animal in a slaughterhouse.

Is it the utility of the meat that makes a difference? Even though the humans who shoot the elephants don’t eat the meat, I have to imagine savannah scavengers have a field day every time an elephant goes down. I doubt that meat goes wasted.

Is it because elephants are endangered? If there are enough of them to make hunting legal, then should this be a concern? Am I naive for assuming the governments who take care of this sort of thing have done the math to ensure the hunting permits they grants don’t wipe out the species?

This is my question in its simplest form: Why is it abhorrent to hunt and kill an elephant, but permissible to eat meat? How are the two different?

{Please bear in mind, I’m not asking whether hunting elephants is wrong. What I’m asking is why it’s ok to kill chickens but not elephants.}