Tag Archives: wild animals

Robert Buswell & Donald Lopez

In the story of the life of the Buddha, in the early days of the saṃgha the monks had no fixed abode but wandered throughout the year. Eventually, the Buddha instructed monks to cease their peregrinations during the torrential monsoon period in order to prevent the killing of insects and worms while walking on muddy roads.

Robert Buswell & Donald Lopez, The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton, 2014, p. 968

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Is there anything we can do about animal suffering in wildlife? There was a time when many said that nothing should be done to obviate human suffering, since attempts to establish a welfare state would either be in vain, jeopardise what kind of welfare there happens to exist, or produce perverse (even worse) results. We rarely meet with that reaction any more. However, many seem to be ready to argue that wildlife constitutes such a complex system of ecological balances that any attempt to interfere must produce no good results, put into jeopardy whatever ecological ‘balances’ there happen to exist, or perversely make the situation even worse. This is not the place to settle whether they are right or not, but, certainly, there must exist some measures we could take, if we bothered to do so, rendering wildlife at least slightly less terrible. If this were so, we should do so, according to utilitarianism.

Torbjörn Tännsjö, Taking Life: Three Theories on the Ethics of Killing, Oxford, 2015, pp. 260-261

Jamie Mayerfeld

A strong duty to relieve suffering that does not discriminate between species would require radical changes in the ways that we relate to other animals. It would, for example, require an end to the practice of factory farming, in which billions of animals are annually subjected to extreme suffering in order to supply humans with meat and other products at the lowest possible cost. It would also raise difficult questions about the practice of experimenting on animals to obtain medical benefits for humans. These cases, much discussed in the literature on animal ethics, involve suffering that is inflicted by human beings. But a species-blind duty to relieve suffering would also make it a prima facie requirement to save animals from suffering brought upon them by natural conditions and other animals. That seems right to me.

Jamie Mayerfeld, Suffering and Moral Responsibility, Oxford, 2002, p. 117

Marc Sagoff

The ways in which creatures in nature die are typically violent: predation, starvation, disease, parasitism, cold. The dying animal in the wild does not understand the vast ocean of misery into which it and billions of other animals are born only to drown. If the wild animal understood the conditions into which it is born, what would it think? It might reasonably prefer to be raised on a farm, where the chances of survival for a year or more would be good, and to escape from the wild, where they are negligible. Either way, the animal will be eaten: few die of old age. The path from birth to slaughter, however, is often longer and less painful in the barnyard than in the woods. Comparisons, sad as they are, must be made to recognize where a great opportunity lies to prevent or mitigate suffering. The misery of animals in nature – which humans can do much to relieve – makes every other form of suffering pale in comparison. Mother Nature is so cruel to her children she makes Frank Perdue look like a saint.

Marc Sagoff, ‘Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce’, Osgoode Law Journal, vol. 22, no. 2 (Summer, 1984), p. 303

Fred Hapgood

All species reproduce in excess, way past the carrying capacity of their niche. In her lifetime a lioness might have 20 cubs; a pigeon, 150 chicks; a mouse, 1,000 kits; a trout, 20,000 fry, a tuna or cod, a million fry or more; an elm tree, several million seeds; and an oyster, perhaps a hundred million spat. If one assumes that the population of each of these species is, from generation to generation, roughly equal, then on the average only one offspring will survive to replace each parent. All the other thousands and millions will die, one way or another.

Fred Hapgood, Why Males Exist: An Inquiry into the Evolution of Sex, New York, 1979, pp. 44-45

Marc Sagoff

The principle of natural selection is not obviously a humanitarian principle; the predator-prey relation does not depend on moral empathy. Nature ruthlessly limits animal populations by doing violence to virtually every individual before it reaches maturity[.]

Marc Sagoff, ‘Animal Liberation and Environmental Ethics: Bad Marriage, Quick Divorce’, Osgoode Law Journal, vol. 22, no. 2 (Summer, 1984), p. 299

Richard Dawkins

[M]aximization of DNA survival is not a recipe for happiness. So long as DNA is passed on, it does not matter who or what gets hurt in the process. Genes don’t care about suffering, because they don’t care about anything.

Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s Utility Function’, Scientific American, vol. 274, no. 6 (November, 1995), p. 85

Tyler Cowen

Many believers in animal rights and the relevance of animal welfare do not critically examine their basic assumptions […]. Typically these individuals hold two conflicting views. The first view is that animal welfare counts, and that people should treat animals as decently as possible. The second view is a presumption of human non0interference with nature, as much as possible. […] [T]he two views are less compatible than is commonly supposed. If we care about the welfare and rights of individual animals, we may be led to interfere with nature whenever the costs of doing so are sufficiently low.

Tyler Cowen, ‘Policing Nature’, Environmental Ethics, vol. 25, no. 2 (Summer, 2003)