Here's what coward means, courtesy of these guys:
The use of "cowardly" is fairly common in the media. The first time I heard it used in my life, it was used to describe terror attacks. And those typically are cowardly. Attacking unarmed, innocent people doesn't take courage. Attacking armed and dangerous people does. Even attacking soldiers can be cowardly under the right circumstances. When Nidal Hassan went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood, he was attacking unarmed people, not soldiers who were armed and ready. Therefore, it was cowardly
Mass shooters are cowardly too. Whether it's a movie theater, a college, or an elementary school, someone who feels the urge to blaze away at unarmed people is a giant wuss. This is probably why these chumps usually off themselves; they're too afraid to face justice after murdering dozens of people.
But occasionally, "cowardly" is used to describe people who aren't cowardly. This is frequently used to describe ISIS and the Taliban, even when it's not appropriate. When ISIS attacks the Syrian military or the Taliban attack the Pakistani army, they aren't being cowardly. When they light helpless prisoners on fire or shoot little girls in the face, that's cowardly. Also, Chris Kyle may have been a sniper, but he was still in a combat zone and constantly under fire. So he and other snipers are not cowardly, no matter what Michael Moore thinks. Unless the sniper is attacking an unarmed person, like the DC sniper or James Earl Ray.
Stalking a wild animal doesn't count as cowardly. Sure, you're sneaking around, but that's because if the animal is alerted to you it may turn on you. Just like a sniper in a combat zone, sneaking is necessary to stay alive. By the way, this is how big cats hunt too; using stealth. And despite what some say, lions are more than happy to come after you. I've seen it first hand.
On my last trip to Africa, I went on a short safari. The preserve, like most zoos, had to keep the lions separate from the other animals to prevent them from eating the other animals. The fenced in lion area was a square mile or so in size. As we walked up to the fence around the lion area, one of the teenage girls in our group stuck her fingers through the fence and began teasing a bored looking lion. The lion very quickly reacted and leapt at the fence. She very nearly lost fingers. Another touristy type person wanted to take a picture with a lion behind him. The second he turned his back, the lion charged the fence. The fence held, but we learned not to turn our backs on them.
So, if there's no fence and a lion gets pissed off, he will waste your sorry ass and eat you. Sometimes he'll kill you for no reason at all, like what happened to this poor girl. This is why stalking a lion is not at all cowardly. Hunting is not cowardly, unless you plan to shoot animals when they're helpless. What the dentist did was bad, but not cowardly.
So it's time to stop abusing the word cowardly. Cowardly means what Webster's says it means. We shouldn't let it become code for "stuff that I don't like." PETA provides a perfect example of how not to use the word by describing all hunting as cowardly. That's crap. Hunting isn't necessarily courageous, but it's not cowardly. Terrorism is cowardly. Killing innocents is cowardly. Running away from a fight is cowardly. Abandoning your family is cowardly. Lots of things are cowardly. Some putz shooting an endangered animal is not cowardly. The fact that we don't like it is no excuse for sloppiness and intellectual laziness.
Let's save the "coward" designation for those who deserve it. Like Zimbabwe's cowardly dictator who sends goon squads to intimidate opponents and voters, and ordered at least one cowardly slaughter. He's too chickenshit to compete in a real election and sends soldiers to attack civilians. Which is why we don't extradite the dentist. We should shun Robert Mugabe's true cowardice. We should not send one of our citizens, no matter what he's done, to face the twisted justice of an actual coward.