Respect for Nature has a very good section about deceiving animals. It never occurred to me before how often hunting and fishing involve deception. Deer are lured to feeding stations where they become easy targets. Baited traps trick animals into a false sense of security. Fish "take the bait" and find themselves with a hook in their mouths. All of this violates a duty of "fidelity" that Taylor postulates as an element of our general duty to respect animals.
I was reminded of his argument while reading a review in today's New York Times book review. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas writes about feeding deer and then studying them in New Hampshire. Wildlife managers tell people to consider whether they'll be able to follow through, if the deer keep coming back for more. They are assuming the duty of fidelity Taylor talks about. The reviewer says Thomas knows she shouldn't be feeding the deer, and worries about it in the book--I'm going to have read it for that reason, but also because she's a very good animal writer.
There's a very touching passage about fidelity to animals in Dave Eggers' new work of narative non-fiction, Zeitoun. The book is about a successful business owner who stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. After the city flooded and the scope of the disaster became clear, Zeitoun's family begged him to leave the city, but he stayed on--putting himself in harm's way (don't worry, no "spoilers" below). He stayed because he was able to paddle around in a canoe and pull people out of houses, and because he wanted to watch over his house and properties. But there's another very touching part of the explanation.
Zeitoun heard dogs barking in the house opposite his, and paddled over once a day to feed them meat from his defunct freezer. They expected him at the same time every day, and how could he disappoint them? Zeitoun--a Muslim from Syria--isn't particularly an animal advocate (note: meat in freezer). But he feels he can't let the dogs down. (I've read that Muslims think about dogs the way westerners think about rats and pigs, but I guess that's not necessarily so. The book challenges many other stereotypes about Muslims--it's interesting on many levels.)
We seem to fall very easily into a sense of owing things to animals. We shouldn't deceive them (we think) and what's more, we shouldn't make promises to them that we can't keep. Thinking about hunting and fishing in that light, it's harder than ever for me to get a grip on why people do these things.