Wild animal welfare: a bibliography

This bibliography is primarily based on Oscar Horta’s Publications in English on wild animal suffering and intervention in nature (for and against), Daniel Dorado’s Ethical interventions in the wild: an annotated bibliography, and the research that Aron Vallinder and I did for a paper on wild animal welfare that we once planned to write. If you know of relevant material not included in the list below, please let me know.

Aaltola, E. Animal ethics and the argument from absurdity, Environmental values, vol. 19, no. 1 (February, 2010), pp. 79-98.

Arguments for the inherent value, equality of interests, or rights of non-human animals have presented a strong challenge for the anthropocentric worldview. However, they have been met with criticism. One form of criticism maintains that, regardless of their theoretical consistency, these ‘pro-animal arguments’ cannot be accepted due to their absurdity. Often, particularly inter-species interest conflicts are brought to the fore: if pro-animal arguments were followed,we could not solve interest conflicts between species, which is absurd. Because of this absurdity, the arguments need to be abandoned. The paper analyses the strength, background and relevance of this ‘argument from absurdity’. It is claimed that in all of the three areas mentioned above, the argument faces severe difficulties.

Alward, P. The naïve argument against moral vegetarianism, Environmental values, vol. 9, no. 1 (February, 2000), pp. 81-89.

The naïve argument against moral vegetarianism claims that if it is wrong for us to eat meat then it is wrong for lions and tigers to do so as well. I argue that the fact that such carnivores lack higher order mental states and need meat to survive do suffice to undermine the naïve argument.

Benatar, D. Why the naïve argument against moral vegetarianism really is naïve, Environmental values, vol. 10, no. 1 (February, 2001), pp. 103–112.

When presented with the claim of the moral vegetarian that it is wrong for us to eat meat, many people respond that because it is not wrong for lions, tigers and other carnivores to kill and eat animals, it cannot be wrong for humans to do so. This response is what Peter Alward has called the naïve argument. Peter Alward has defended the naïve argument against objections. I argue that his defence fails.

Bovenkerk, Bernice et al. To act or not to act? Sheltering animals from the wild: a pluralistic account of a conflict between animal and environmental ethicsEthics, place and environment, vol. 6, no. 1 (2003), pp. 13-26.

The leading question of this article is whether it is acceptable, from a moral point of view, to take wild animals that are ill out of their natural habitat and temporarily bring them under human control with the purpose of curing them. To this end the so-called ‘seal debate’ was examined. In the Netherlands, seals that are lost or ill are rescued and taken into shelters, where they are cured and afterwards reintroduced into their natural environment. Recently, this practice has been criticised because it is thought to interfere with the wildness of the animals and population. In this research, the moral assumptions behind the arguments of both the proponents and opponents of sheltering have been analysed within a morally pluralistic framework. It is concluded that sheltering on too large a scale would be contrary to the efforts of the last few decades to maintain an independent or wild seal population, which means that a certain amount of caution is called for. However, in the current situation there is no decisive reason to completely prohibit shelters either. Good arguments can even be given in favour of sheltering. It also becomes clear that the acceptability of sheltering wild animals depends on the specific circumstances in which an animal is encountered.

Bruers, S. The predation and procreation problems: persistent intuitions gone wild, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 85-91.

Predation causes a lot of suffering in the wild. Yet, a lot of people believe it is morally permissible. This article presents an ethical principle that justifies (condones) predation without referring to anthropocentric notions such as moral agency or species membership. The moral intuition that predation is permissible is coherent with other intuitions about harmful behaviors in the wild, such as the permissibility of some kinds of procreation (for example r-selection) that do not sufficiently contribute to wellbeing. These intuitions can be unified in an ethical principle that uses the three conditions of naturalness, normality and necessity. Furthermore, this 3-N-principle is related to the intrinsic value of biodiversity. Finally, some analogies between well-being of a sentient being and biodiversity of an ecosystem are discussed.

Carpendale, Max Welfare biology as an extension of biologyRelations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 197-202.

Yew-Kwang Ng is Winsemius professor in economics at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and emeritus professor at Monash University. He has been a member of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia since 1980, and in 2007 received the highest award (Distinguished Fellow) of the Economic Society of Australia. He has published over two hundred papers in leading journals in economics, as well as in biology, cosmology, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. His books include: Welfare Economics; Mesoeconomics: a Micro-Macro Analysis; Social Welfare and Economic Policy; Specialization and Economic Organization; Efficiency, Equality, and Public Policy: with a Case for Higher Public Spending; and Common Mistakes in Economics: by the Public, Students, Economists, and Nobel Laureates. He has been a world leading scholar in welfare economics and mesoeconomics. In 1995 he published a very influential paper Towards Welfare Biology: Evolutionary Economics of Animal Consciousness and Suffering, which launched concern for the situation of animals in the wild and proposed the creation of a new discipline “welfare biology”.

Clark, S. R. L. The rights of wild things, Inquiry, vol. 22, no. 1-4 (January, 1979), pp. 171-188.

It has been argued that if non-human animals had rights we should be obliged to
defend them against predators. I contend that this either does not follow, follows in the abstract but not in practice, or is not absurd. We should defend non-humans against large or unusual dangers, when we can, but should not claim so much authority as to regulate all the relationships of wild things. Some non-human animals are members of our society, and the rhetoric of ‘the land as a community’ is an attempt, paralleling that of humanism, to create the moral ideal of Earth’s Household. But wild animals should be considered as Nozick’s ‘independents’ and have correspondingly fewer claims on our assistance than members of our society. They still have some claims, often strong ones.

Clarke, M., & Ng, Y.-K. Population dynamics and animal welfare: issues raised by the culling of kangaroos in Puckapunyal, Social choice and welfare, 27, no. 2 (October, 2006), pp. 407–422.

The culling of kangaroos at the Puckapunyal Army base (Australia) raises some intriguing ethical issues around animal welfare. After discussing the costs and benefits of the cull, this paper addresses the more general animal welfare issues related to population dynamics. Natural selection favours the maximization of the number of surviving offspring. This need not result in the maximization of the welfare of individuals in the species. The contrast between growth maximization and welfare maximization is first illustrated for a single population and then discussed in terms of competing populations. In the Lotka-Volterra model of competing species and its generalizations, the choice of different birthrates does not affect the population sizes at equilibrium. Welfare could be much higher at lower birthrates without even reducing numbers (at equilibrium).

Cowen, T. Policing nature, Environmental ethics, vol. 25, no. 2 (Summer, 2003), pp. 169–182.

Utility, rights, and holistic standards all point toward some modest steps to limit or check the predatory activity of carnivores relative to their victims. At the very least, we should limit current subsidies to nature’s carnivores. Policing nature need not be absurdly costly or violate common-sense intuitions.

Cunha, L. C. If natural entities have intrinsic value, should we then abstain from helping animals who are victims of natural processes?, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 51-63.

The idyllic view of nature is false: natural processes, given the prevalence of the reproductive strategy known as “r-selection”, tend to maximize the suffering of animals in nature. For the animals subjected to natural processes, disvalue overwhelmingly prevails over value. Any normative theory that directly considers sentient beings must recognize strong reasons to minimize such disvalue. Here, I will respond to a possible objection to this conclusion: that if non-sentient natural entities have intrinsic value, then our axiological evaluation of the situation of animals in nature must imply either that helping animals in nature is prohibited or that our reasons for helping them are considerably weak.

Dawkins, R. God’s utility function, Scientific American, vol. 274, no. 6 (November, 1995), pp. 80–85.

Humans have always wondered about the meaning of life. According to the author, life has no higher purpose than to perpetuate the survival of DNA.

Donaldson, S. & Kymlicka, W. Zoopolis: a political theory of animal rights, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Zoopolis offers a new agenda for the theory and practice of animal rights. Most animal rights theory focuses on the intrinsic capacities or interests of animals, and the moral status and moral rights that these intrinsic characteristics give rise to. Zoopolis shifts the debate from the realm of moral theory and applied ethics to the realm of political theory, focusing on the relational obligations that arise from the varied ways that animals relate to human societies and institutions. Building on recent developments in the political theory of group-differentiated citizenship, Zoopolis introduces us to the genuine ‘political animal’. It argues that different types of animals stand in different relationships to human political communities. Domesticated animals should be seen as full members of human-animal mixed communities, participating in the cooperative project of shared citizenship. Wilderness animals, by contrast, form their own sovereign communities entitled to protection against colonization, invasion, domination, and other threats to self-determination. ‘Liminal’ animals who are wild but live in the midst of human settlement (such as crows or raccoons) should be seen as ‘denizens’, residents of our societies, but not fully included in rights and responsibilities of citizenship. To all of these animals we owe respect for their basic inviolable rights, but we inevitably and appropriately have very different relations with them, with different types of obligations. Humans and animals are inextricably bound in a complex web of relationships, and Zoopolis offers an original and profoundly affirmative vision of how to ground this complex web of relations on principles of justice and compassion.

Donaldson, S. & Kymlicka, W. A defense of animal citizens and sovereignsLaw, ethics and philosophy, vol. 1 (2013), pp. 143-160.

In their commentaries on Zoopolis, Alasdair Cochrane and Oscar Horta raise several challenges to our argument for a “political theory of animal rights”, and to the specific models of animal citizenship and animal sovereignty we offer. In this reply, we focus on three key issues: 1) the need for a group differentiated theory of animal rights that takes seriously ideas of membership in bounded communities, as against more “cosmopolitan” or “cosmo- cosmopolitan” or “cosmo- cosmopolitan” or “cosmo- ” or “cosmo- or “cosmozoopolis” alternatives that minimize the moral significance of boundaries and membership; 2) the challenge of defining the nature and scope of wild animal sovereignty; and 3) the problem of policing nature and humanitarian intervention to reduce suffering in the wild.

Dorado, D. Ethical interventions in the wild: an annotated bibliographyRelations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 219-238.

Ebert, R & Machan, T. R. Innocent threats and the problem of carnivorous animalsJournal of applied philosophy, vol. 29, no. 2 (May, 2012), pp. 146-159.

The existence of predatory animals is a problem in animal ethics that is often not taken as seriously as it should be.We show that it reveals a weakness in Tom Regan’s theory of animal rights that also becomes apparent in his treatment of innocent human threats.We show that there are cases in which Regan’s justice-prevails-approach to morality implies a duty not to assist the jeopardized, contrary to his own moral beliefs.While a modified account of animal rights that recognizes the moral patient as a kind of entity that can violate moral rights avoids this counterintuitive conclusion,it makes non-human predation a rights issue that morally ought to be subjected to human regulation. Jennifer Everett, Lori Gruen and other animal advocates base their treatment of predation in part on Regan’s theory and run into similar problems, demonstrating the need to radically rethink the foundations of the animal rights movement.We suggest to those who, like us, find it less plausible to introduce morality to the wild than to reject the concept of rights that makes this move necessary to read our criticism either as a modus tollens argument and reject non-human animal rights altogether or as motivating a libertarianish theory of animal rights.

Everett, J. Environmental ethics, animal welfarism, and the problem of predation: a Bambi lover’s respect for nature, Ethics & the environment, vol. 6, no. 1 (Spring, 2001), pp. 42–67.

Many environmentalists criticize as unecological the emphasis that animal liberationists and animal rights theorists place on preventing animal suffering. The strong form of their objection holds that both theories absurdly entail a duty to intervene in wild predation. The weak form holds that animal welfarists must at least regard predation as bad, and that this stance reflects an arrogance toward nature that true environmentalists should reject. This paper disputes both versions of the predation critique. Animal welfarists are not committed to protecting the rabbit from the fox, nor do their principles implicitly deprecate nature.

Faria, C. & Paez, E. Animals in need: the problem of wild animal suffering and intervention in nature, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 7-13.

Faria, C. Making a difference on behalf of animals living in the wild: interview with Jeff McMahan, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 81-84.

Jeff McMahan currently holds the prestigious White’s Chair of Moral Philosophy at Oxford University. He has previously been a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University (USA). He has written extensively about theoretical and applied ethics, two of his most notable contributions being The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life and Killing in War. Professor McMahan is also known for his work in animal ethics, being one the first major philosophers to seriously address the situation of animals in nature. In his New York Times article The Meat Eaters he defends the view that if the suffering of nonhuman animals is morally relevant, then we should also be concerned with the suffering of animals living in the wild. In this way, he concludes that we should intervene for their benefit whenever it is in our power to do so.

Faria, C. Disentangling obligations of assistance: a reply to Clare Palmer’s “Against the view that we are usually required to assist wild animals”Relations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 211-218.

Animals are sentient individuals. They can be harmed and benefited by what happens to them. A significant number of nonhuman animals live under human control, yet the overwhelming majority of them live in the wild (Tomasik 2014). Many of the harms wild animals endure are due to natural events, rather than to human agency. Given the means at our disposal, wild animal suffering could be, to some extent, prevented or, at least, alleviated. This raises the question of whether we are morally required to intervene in nature to assist them or, alternatively, whether we may permissibly choose not to. Clare Palmer is one of the few philosophers who directly tackles this problem 1, answering it from the relational account of the moral consideration of nonhuman animals which she has developed (2010, 2013, 2015). As it can be surmised from her contribution to this issue, her claim is that we are not usually required to assist wild animals. However, we may be permitted to do so.

Favre, D. S. Wildlife rights: the ever-widening circle, Environmental law, vol. 9, no. 241 (1978-1979), pp. 241-281.

Wildlife can be granted legal rights. Wildlife’s treatment throughout history by various peoples demonstrates that human awareness has evolved to a level where wildlife rights can be recognized. Concerns for conservation and preservation have increased as humans have depended less upon wildlife as a food source. Present attitudes toward sport hunting and pest control can be changed without harming either humans or animals. Humans must recognize that their activities and those of wildlife are tied together and that they are partners in an ongoing enterprise called the ecosystem. With this recognition., it will be easier for humans to change their attitudes towards animals and to realize that wildlife can be given species, property and individual rights. By focusing on the ecosystem, humans will realize that they have a duty and responsibility toward wildlife. Finally, man’s duty to wildlife is most likely to be effectuated by enacting a constitutional amendment granting wildlife both individual and species rights. The American system of jurisprudence can recognize wildlife’s interests and capacity to hold rights as a new category of legal persons.

Fink, C. K. The predation argument, Between the species, vol. 13, no. 5 (August, 2005), pp. 1–16.

Gould, S. J. Nonmoral nature, Natural history, vol. 91, no. 2 (1982), pp. 19–26.

Hadley, J. The duty to aid nonhuman animals in dire need, Journal of applied philosophy, vol. 23, no. 4 (2006), pp. 445–451.

Most moral philosophers accept that we have obligations to provide at least some aid and assistance to distant strangers in dire need. Philosophers who extend rights and obligations to nonhuman animals, however, have been less than explicit about whether we have any positive duties to free-roaming or ‘wild’ animals. I argue our obligations to freeroaming nonhuman animals in dire need are essentially no different to those we have to severely cognitively impaired distant strangers. I address three objections to the view that we have positive duties to free-roaming nonhuman animals, and respond to the predation objection to animal rights.

Hettinger, N. Valuing predation in Rolston’s environmental ethics: Bambi lovers versus tree huggers, Environmental ethics, vol. 16, no. 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 1–10.

Without modification, Rolston’s environmental ethics is biased in favor of plants, since he gives them stronger protection than animals. Rolston can avoid this bias by extending his principle protecting plants (the principle of the nonloss of goods) to human interactions with animals. Were he to do so, however, he would risk undermining his acceptance of meat eating and certain types of hunting. I argue, nevertheless, that meat eating and hunting, properly conceived, are compatible with this extended ethics. As the quintessential natural process, carnivorous predation is rightfully valued and respected by such environmentalists as Rolston. Because the condemnation of human participation in predation by animal activists suggests a hatred of nature, the challenge for Rolston’s animal activist critics is to show that one can properly appreciate natural predation while consistently and plausibly objecting to human participation in it.

Hills, A. Utilitarianism, contractualism and demandingness, Philosophical quarterly, vol. 60, no. 239 (April, 2010), pp. 225–242.

One familiar criticism of utilitarianism is that it is too demanding. It requires us to promote the happiness of others, even at the expense of our own projects, our integrity, or the welfare of our friends and family. Recently Ashford has defended utilitarianism, arguing that it provides compelling reasons for demanding duties to help the needy, and that other moral theories, notably contractualism, are committed to comparably stringent duties. In response, I argue that utilitarianism is even more demanding than is commonly realized: both act- and rule-utilitarianism are committed to extremely stringent duties to wild animals. In this regard, utilitarianism is more demanding (and more counter-intuitive) than contractualism.

Horta, O. Disvalue in nature and intervention, Pensata animal, vol. 34 (2010).

Horta, O. The ethics of the ecology of fear against the nonspeciesist paradigm: a shift in the aims of intervention in nature, Between the species, vol. 13, no. 10 (2010), pp. 163–187.

Humans often intervene in the wild for anthropocentric or environmental reasons. An example of such interventions is the reintroduction of wolves in places where they no longer live in order to create what has been called an “ecology of fear”, which is being currently discussed in places such as Scotland. In the first part of this paper I discuss the reasons for this measure and argue that they are not compatible with a nonspeciesist approach. Then, I claim that if we abandon a speciesist viewpoint we should change completely the way in which we should intervene in nature. Rather than intervening for environmental or anthropocentric reasons, we should do it in order to reduce the harms that nonhuman animals suffer. This conflicts significantly with some fundamental environmental ideals whose defence is not compatible with the consideration of the interests of nonhuman animals.

Horta, O. Debunking the idyllic view of natural processes: population dynamics and suffering in the wild, Télos, vol. 17, no. 1 (2010), 73–88.

It is commonly believed that animal ethics entails respect for natural processes, because nonhuman animals are able to live relatively easy and happy lives in the wild. However, this assumption is wrong. Due to the most widespread reproductive strategy in nature, r-selection, the overwhelming majority of nonhuman animals die shortly after they come into existence. They starve or are eaten alive, which means their suffering vastly outweighs their happiness. Hence, concern for nonhuman animals entails that we should try to intervene in nature to reduce the enormous amount of harm they suffer. Even if this conclusion may seem extremely counter-intuitive at first, it can only be rejected from a speciesist viewpoint.

Horta, O. Zoopolis, intervention, and the state of natureLaw, ethics and philosophy, vol. 1 (2013), pp. 113-125.

In Zoopolis, Donaldson and Kymlicka argue that intervention in nature to aid animals is sometimes permissible, and in some cases obligatory, to save them from the harms they commonly face. But they claim these interventions must have some limits, since they could otherwise disrupt the structure of the communities wild animals form, which should be respected as sovereign ones. These claims are based on the widespread assumption that ecosystemic processes ensure that animals have good lives in nature. However, this assumption is, unfortunately, totally unrealistic. Most animals are r-strategists who die in pain shortly after coming into existence, and those who make it to maturity commonly suffer terrible harms too. In addition, most animals do not form the political communities Zoopolis describes. The situation of animals in the wild can therefore be considered analogous to one of humanitarian catastrophe, or to that of irretrievably failed states. It matches closely what a Hobbesian state of nature would be like. This means that intervention in nature to aid nonhuman animals should not be limited as Donaldson and Kymlicka argue.

Horta, O. The problem of evil in nature: evolutionary bases of the prevalence of disvalue, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 17-32.

This paper examines the problem of evil in nature, that is, the issue of the disvalue present in nature, and the question of whether or not it prevails over happiness. The paper claims that disvalue actually outweighs happiness in nature. This is an unavoidable consequence of the existence of an evolutionary process in a context where resources are scarce. Because of this, suffering and early death are the norm in nature. The number of individuals who come into existence just to die in pain shortly after, vastly outweighs the number of those who survive. The paper also claims that the idea that the interests of nonhuman animals need not be considered in the same way as those of humans is speciesist and unacceptable, and that animals not only have an interest in not suffering, but also in not dying. In light of this, the paper concludes that the good things present in nature are vastly outweighed by the huge amount of disvalue that exists there, and that we should try to reduce such disvalue.

Hutchins, M. & Wemmer, C. Wildlife conservation and animal rights: are they compatible?, Advances in animal welfare science 1986/87, vol. 3 (1987), pp. 111–137.

Jamieson, D. Rights, justice, and duties to provide assistance: a critique of Regan’s theory of rights, Ethics, vol. 100, no. 2 (January, 1990), pp. 349-362.

In The Case for Animal Rights, Tom Regan seeks to develop a moral theory that is a dramatic alternative to utilitarian theories, and then to apply it to some practical problems concerning our treatment of animals.’ The range of Regan’s book is enormous: it includes thorough and subtle discussion of the foundation and nature of rights, as well as eloquent passages telling us what we must do to respect them. Even the reader who is uninterested in the question of animal rights will find much that is stimulating and provocative. In the wake of Regan’s achievement, the facile dismissal of animal rights may finally be seen as the prejudice that it is. Still, despite his impressive accomplishments, Regan has failed to develop a compelling and dramatic alternative to utilitarian theories. In this essay I present an overview of Regan’s theory, then critically examine two areas in which it is most problematic: its account of our duties to render assistance and its principles for overriding rights. I argue that Regan’s theory has serious problems and that the most plausible revisions would lead Regan back in the direction of utilitarianism.

Kirkwood, J. K. & Sainsbury, A. W. Ethics of interventions for the welfare of free-living wild animals, Animal welfare, vol. 5, no. 3 (August, 1996), pp. 235–243.

There is growing interest in and support for the development of disease prevention measures in free-living wildlife and for the rescue, treatment and rehabilitation of wild animals that are sick and injured. In some cases these endeavours may be of importance to the conservation of populations but frequently they are undertaken for welfare rather than conservation reasons. There are circumstances in which wildlife welfare can be improved by therapeutic intervention but the difficulties, and their potentially harmful consequences, should not be underestimated. Interventions for the welfare of free-living wild animals whose fate we control or influence and which are therefore, to some extent, under our stewardship, are consistent with the tradition of humanity for and stewardship of domesticated or captive animals. However, it is suggested here that the decision to treat sick or injured free-living wild animals should not be based on welfare grounds alone.

Lauber, T. B., Knuth, B. A., Tantillo, J. A. & Curtis, P. D. The role of ethical judgments related to wildlife fertility control, Society & natural resources, vol. 20, no. 2 (2007), pp. 119–133.

Certain species of wildlife cause considerable damage and therefore receive management attention. Traditional management methods rely on lethal control, but fertility control is increasingly being advocated as a more humane alternative. Because wildlife management decisions are influenced by citizen input, it is important to understand what makes people support or oppose lethal control and fertility control. We studied six U.S. communities trying to manage large populations of white-tailed deer or feral cats and categorized the ethical arguments citizens used to support their positions on lethal and fertility control methods. We identified two broad categories of ethical arguments. Arguments in the ‘‘obligations to people’’ category focused on (1) decision-making procedures, (2) public policy decisions, and (3) management outcomes. Arguments in the ‘‘obligations to animals and the environment’’ category focused on (1) life, suffering, and death, (2) altered characteristics of animals, (3) individuals and communities, and (4) invasive species impacts.

Mannino, A. Humanitarian intervention in nature: crucial questions and probable answers, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 109-120.

McKelvie, L. Seeking to increase awareness of speciesism and its impact on all animals: a report on Animal ethics, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 101-105.

McMahan, J. The meat eaters, The New York Times, September 19, 2010.

McMahan, J. Predators: a response, The New York Times, September 28, 2010.

McMahan, J. The moral problem of predation, in Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo & Matt Halteman (eds.), Philosophy Comes to dinner: arguments about the ethics of eating, London: Routledge, 2015, pp. 268-294.

Moen, O. M. The ethics of wild animal suffering, Etikk i praksis – Nordic journal of applied ethics, no. 1 (2016), pp. 91-104.

Animal ethics has received a lot of attention over the last four decades. Its focus, however, has almost exclusively been on the welfare of captive animals, ignoring the vast majority of animals: those living in the wild. I suggest that this one-sided focus is unwarranted. On the empirical side, I argue that wild animals overwhelmingly outnumber captive animals, and that billions of wild animals are likely to have lives that are even more painful and distressing than those of their captive counterparts. On the normative side, I argue that as long as we have duties of assistance towards humans suffering from natural causes, and we reject anthropocentrism, we also have duties of assistance towards animals suffering in the wild.

Morris, M. C. & Thornhill, R. H. Animal liberationist responses to non-anthropogenic animal suffering, Worldviews: global religions, culture, and ecology, vol. 10, no. 3 (2006), pp. 355-379.

Animal liberationists generally pay little attention to the suffering of animals in the wild, and it is arguable that this is a significant proportion of the total amount of animal suffering. We examine a range of different responses of animal liberationists to the issue of non-anthropogenic suffering, but find none of them entirely satisfactory. Responses that lead logically to the conclusion that anthropogenic suffering should be eliminated can apply equally logically to the suffering of animals in the wild. On the other hand, the solution of micro-managing habitats to prevent suffering is counter-intuitive, and on closer examination eliminates the intrinsic value of animals’ lives. On balance, the approach that we favour is acceptance of the intrinsic value of individual animal lives, extending this from either individual human lives (as accepted predominantly by theists), or from biodiversity, species and ecosystems (as currently accepted by ecocentric philosophies). We also suggest that the combination of animal liberation and environmentalism only really makes sense in the context of a belief in the redeemable qualities of nature, as expressed in quasi-Hindu terms or in terms of some Biblical animal liberationist worldviews.

Mosquera, J. The harm they inflict when values conflict: why diversity does not matter, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 65-77.

Some policies that manage natural processes have the purpose of conserving and/or promoting the diversity that exists in an ecosystem. On many occasions, these policies conflict with values such as individual wellbeing. This paper looks at this issue. It focuses first on clarifying the concept of diversity. Second, it looks at whether diversity has value, and what kind of value it may have. Finally, it argues that although diversity is valuable, it may be overridden in cases in which actual harms exceed future benefits. Therefore, policies that promote diversity should, in some cases, be abandoned.

Musschenga, A. W. Naturalness: beyond animal welfareJournal of agricultural end environmental ethics, vol. 15, no. 2 (June, 2002), pp. 171-186.

There is an ongoing debate in animal ethics on the meaning and scope of animal welfare. In certain broader views, leading a natural life through the development of natural capabilities is also headed under the concept of animal welfare. I argue that a concern for the development of natural capabilities of an animal such as expressed when living freely should be distinguished from the preservation of the naturalness of its behavior and appearance. However, it is not always clear where a plea for natural living changes over into a plea for the preservation of their naturalness or wildness. In the first part of this article, I examine to what extent the concerns for natural living meet “the experience requirement.” I conclude that some of these concerns go beyond welfare. In the second part of the article. I ask whether we have moral reasons to respect concerns for the naturalness of an animal’s living that transcend its welfare. I argue that the moral relevance of such considerations can be grasped when we see animals as entities bearing non-moral intrinsic values. In my view the “natural” appearance and behavior of an animal may embody intrinsic values. Caring for an animal’s naturalness should then be understood as caring for such intrinsic values. Intrinsic values provide moral reasons for action iff they are seen as constitutive of the good life for humans. I conclude by reinterpreting, within the framework of a perfectionist ethical theory, the notion of indirect duties regarding animals, which go beyond and supplement the direct duties towards animals.

Naess, A. Should we try to relieve clear cases of extreme suffering in nature?, Pan ecology, vol. 6, no. 1 (1991), pp. 1-5.

Ng, Y.-K. Towards welfare biology: evolutionary economics of animal consciousness and suffering, Biology and philosophy, vol. 10, no. 3 (1995), pp. 255–285.

Welfare biology is the study of living things and their environment with respect to their welfare (defined as net happiness, or enjoyment minus suffering). Despite difficulties of ascertaining and measuring welfare and relevancy to normative issues, welfare biology is a positive science. Evolutionary economics and population dynamics are used to help answer basic questions in welfare biology: Which species are affective sentients capable of welfare? Do they enjoy positive or negative welfare? Can their welfare be dramatically increased? Under plausible axioms, all conscious species are plastic and all plastic species are conscious (and, with a stronger axiom, capable of welfare). More complex niches favour the evolution of more rational species. Evolutionary economics also supports the common-sense view that individual sentients failing to survive to mate suffer negative welfare. A kind of God-made (or evolution-created) fairness between species is also unexpectedly found. The contrast between growth maximization (as may be favoured by natural selection), average welfare, and total welfare maximization is discussed. It is shown that welfare could be increased without even sacrificing numbers (at equilibrium). Since the long-term reduction in animal suffering depends on scientific advances, strict restrictions on animal experimentation may be counter-productive to animal welfare.

Paez, E. Intuitions gone astray: between implausibility and speciesism. ‘The predation and procreation problems’: a reply, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 93-99.

In his article Stijn Bruers presents an axiology which includes well-being and biodiversity. On his account, however, the latter has much more importance than the former. Tremendous gains in well-being are proscribed when they can only be obtained through a great loss in biodiversity. That is why we should not phase out predation by genetically reprogramming predators. I argue that, even if we value biodiversity, it cannot be that important. This is shown, first, by considering the results of Bruers’ account regarding the sacrifice of both nonhuman and human interests. Second, I suggest how rejecting Bruers’ view on biodiversity has acceptable implications regarding his two other worries, r-selection and the inadvertent killing of sentient invertebrates.

Paez, E. Refusing help and inflicting harm: a critique of the environmentalist viewRelations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 165-178.

Due to a variety of natural causes, suffering predominates over well-being in the lives of wild animals. From an antispeciesist standpoint that considers the interests of all sentient individuals, we should intervene in nature to benefit these animals, provided that the expectable result is net positive. However, according to the environmentalist view the aim of benefiting wild animals cannot justify intervening in nature. In addition, harmful human interventions can sometimes be justified. This view assumes that (i) certain entities such as ecosystems or species have intrinsic value, and that (ii) at least sometimes these values are more important than nonhuman well-being. In this article I review the arguments in support of this view advanced by three prominent environmentalists (Albert Schweitzer, Paul W. Taylor and J. Baird Callicott) and show how none of them succeed at grounding these assumptions.

Palmer, C. Against the view that we are normally required to assist wild animalsRelations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 203-210.

Pearce, D. A welfare state for elephants? A case study of compassionate stewardshipRelations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 153-164.

Technological advances over the next few decades will mean that every cubic meter of the planet will be computationally accessible to surveillance, micromanagement and control. Such unprecedented power places an immense burden of responsibility on the planet’s cognitively dominant species – Homo sapiens. Status quo bias equates the natural with the morally good; yet the immense burden of suffering in Nature calls this intuition into question. Human and non-human animals typically flourish best when free-living rather than incarcerated or wild. This paper presents a costed case study of compassionate stewardship of an entire species of free-living non-human animals. The successful construction of an elephant welfare state would be a key historical milestone on the road to a compassionately run global ecosystem.

Raterman, T. An environmentalist’s lament on predation, Environmental ethics, vol. 30, no. 4 (May, 2008), pp. 417–434.

That some animals need to prey on others in order to live is lamentable. While no one wants predators to die of starvation, a world in which no animal needed to prey on others would, in some meaningful sense, be a better world. Predation is lamentable for four primary reasons: (1) predation often inflicts pain on prey animals; (2) it often frustrates prey animals’ desires; (3) anything other than lamentation—which would include relishing predation as well as being indifferent to it—is in tension with sensitivity to many other forms of hardship and suffering; and (4) lamenting is demanded by the virtues of compassion and gentleness. One can lament predation even while acknowledging respects in which predation is genuinely praiseworthy. One can esteem admirable traits developed through and displayed in predation without esteeming the mechanism through which they are developed or the activity in which they are displayed. In addition, appreciating the check on population that predation provides does not preclude lamenting predation. While holding these positions does involve (in some sense) opposing nature itself and failing to appreciate predators for exactly what they are, doing so does not disqualify a person as an environmentalist. Finally, one can lament predation without being logically committed thereby to preventing or disrupting it.

Regan, T. The case for animal rights, 2nd ed., Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.
Rollin, B. E. Animal rights and human morality, Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1981.
Rolston, H. Disvalues in nature, The monist, vol. 75, no. 2 (April, 1992), pp. 250–278.

Sagoff, M. Animal liberation and environmental ethics: bad marriage, quick divorce, Osgoode Hall law journal, vol. 22, no. 1 (Spring, 1984), pp. 297–307.

A humanitarian ethic – an appreciation not of nature, but of the welfare of animals – will not help us to understand or to justify an environmental ethic. It will not provide necessary or valid foundations for environmental law.

Sapontzis, S. F. Predation, Ethics and animals, vol. 5, no. 2 (1984), pp. 27–38.

Sapontzis, S. F. Morals, reason, and animals, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987.

Simmons, A. Animals, predators, the right to life and the duty to save lives, Ethics & the environment, vol. 14, no. 1 (Spring, 2009), pp. 15–27.

One challenge to the idea that animals have a moral right to life claims that any such right would require us to intervene in the wild to prevent animals from being killed by predators. I argue that belief in an animal right to life does not commit us to supporting a program of predator-prey intervention. One common retort to the predator challenge contends that we are not required to save animals from predators because predators are not moral agents. I suggest that this retort fails to overcome the predator challenge. I seek to articulate a more satisfactory argument explaining why we are not required to save wild prey from predators and how this position is perfectly consistent with the idea that animals have a basic right to life.

Singer, P. Food for thought, New York review of books, June 14, 1973.

Sittler-Adamczewski, T. M. Consistent vegetarianism and the suffering of wild animals, Journal of practical ethics, vol. 4, no. 2 (December, 2016).

Ethical consequentialist vegetarians believe that farmed animals have lives that are worse than non-existence. In this paper, I sketch out an argument that wild animals have worse lives than farmed animals, and that consistent vegetarians should therefore reduce the number of wild animals as a top priority. I consider objections to the argument, and discuss which courses of action are open to those who accept the argument.

Sözmen, B. Harm in the wild: facing non-human suffering in nature, Ethical theory and moral practice (February, 2013).

The paper is concerned with whether the reductio of the natural-harm-argument can be avoided by disvaluing non-human suffering and death. According to the naturalharm-argument, alleviating the suffering of non-human animals is not a moral obligation for human beings because such an obligation would also morally prescribe human intervention in nature for the protection of non-human animal interests which, it claims, is absurd. It is possible to avoid the reductio by formulating the moral obligation to alleviate non-human suffering and death with two constraints: The first concerns the practicability of intervention and establishes a moral obligation to intervene only in cases where this is humanly possible. The other constraint acknowledges that lack of competence in humans can risk producing more harm than good by intervening. A third way of avoiding the problematic version of the natural-harm-argument considers whether human and non-human suffering and death are sufficiently different to allow different types of responses. I argue that the attempt to avoid the reductio of the natural-harm-argument by disvaluing non-human death can only work with an anthropocentric bias, which accords to non-human suffering and death a fundamentally different value and that it fails to dismiss the moral obligation created by the harm that non-human animals face in the wild.

Sözmen, B. Relations and moral obligations towards other animalsRelations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 179-193.

Relational accounts acknowledge and emphasise the intersubjective nature of selfhood and argue that focusing solely on the capacities of animals cannot account for all moral obligations towards them. My argument is concerned with the move from the premise of intersubjectivity to differential positive duties. Relationality here functions as a means of differentiating and refining our positive duties towards some animals, but this refinement often also functions as an exclusion of others, e.g. in the differential treatment of domesticated and wild animals. A similar danger lies in diminishing human moral obligation by arguing for accepting some cases of suffering and death as unavoidable tragedies. I argue that the debate about the nature and scope of our relational duties towards other animals can profit from the relational ethics of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. Buber and Levinas develop relational accounts, in which the fundamental ethical element is not knowledge of the capacities of the other but rather the encounter, out of which moral selfhood emerges. By applying Buber and Levinas we can refine the way relationality is used in animal ethics today without dismissing our positive duties towards individual animals, in the wild or otherwise.

Tomasik, B. The importance of wild animal suffering, Relations, vol. 3, no. 2 (November, 2015), pp. 133-152.

Wild animals are vastly more numerous than animals on factory farms, in laboratories, or kept as pets. Most of these animals endure intense suffering during their lives, such as from disease, hunger, cold, injury, and chronic fear of predators. Many wild animals give birth to tens or hundreds of offspring at a time, most of which die young, often in painful ways. This suggests that suffering plausibly dominates happiness in nature. Humans are not helpless to reduce wild-animal suffering. Indeed, humans already influence ecosystems in substantial ways, so the question is often not whether to intervene but how to intervene. Because ecology is so complex, we should study carefully how to reduce wild-animal suffering, giving due consideration to unintended long-run consequences. We should also promote concern for wild animals and challenge environmentalist assumptions among activists, academics, and other sympathetic groups. Finally, we should ensure that our descendants think twice before spreading ecosystems to areas where they do not yet exist.

Torres, M. The case for intervention in nature on behalf of animals: a critical review of the main arguments against intervention, Relations, vol. 3, no. 1 (June, 2015), pp. 33-49.

If we assume that all sentient animals deserve equal moral consideration and, therefore, that their interests are morally relevant, what should be our attitude regarding natural phenomena like predation or starvation which are harmful for many wild animals? Do we have the prima facie moral obligation to try to mitigate unnecessary, avoidable and unjustified animal suffering in nature? In this paper I assume two main theses: (1) Humans and (many) animals deserve equal moral consideration; this implies that (2) We have the prima facie moral obligation to try to mitigate unnecessary, avoidable and unjustified animal suffering. Based on these assumptions, I argue that we are morally obligated to aid animals in the wild whenever doing so would not originate as much or more suffering than it would prevent.

Young, S. M. On the status of verminBetween the species, vol. 13, no. 6 (August, 2006).

With thanks to Tom Bradschetl and Ricardo Torres.