Throughout history societies have developed all sorts of warped and twisted moral and legal systems based on the ability of some to convince others. Killing an animal for a thrill or for the wrong reasons should be punishable by jail time, but animal rights activists have gone too far with a shrill, aggressive approach to favoring animals over people. Society went over the edge when disturbed people started calling their forcibly enslaved animals "people" and giving them more rights than humans.
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Focus on the intent/psychology of crimes definitely sounds like it would be a much better approach to punishment, but unfortunately I don't think we can do that. It's a lot harder to prove an intention than it is to prove a death.
All of your answers are fantastic! Thanks for taking time to give such thoughtful responses.
What defines one life as being more valuable than another? A lot of bad things in history have happened on that belief.