Debunking the idyllic view of natural processes

I have published a paper which aims at showing the way in which population dynamics increase to shocking levels the suffering and premature death that there is in nature.

Many people think that animal ethics entails respect for natural processes, on the assumption that nonhuman animals are able to live relatively easy and happy lives in the wild. Unfortunately, this assumption is wrong. The reason has to do with population dynamics. The most widespread reproductive strategy in nature is called r-selection. This strategy entails that the overwhelming majority of nonhuman animals die shortly after they come into existence, and they do so in painful ways. They starve or are eaten alive, which means their suffering vastly outweighs their happiness. The amount of harm nonhuman animals endure due to this is just dreadful.

If we think that nonhuman animals are morally considerable individuals there is no way in which we can dismiss this. If there are ways in which we may help them and reduce such a tremendous amount of harm that occurs in nature, we should do it. There are many who may find this conclusion very counter-intuitive at first. However, would we reject it if instead of nonhuman animals, the victims of misery and early death were humans? Hardly so. This entails that this conclusion, even if counter-intuitive, can only be rejected from a speciesist and callous viewpoint which completely disregards the plight of all these animals.

You can download the paper here:

Debunking the Idyllic View of Natural Processes: Population Dynamics and Suffering in the Wild

The paper appeared in the journal Télos, vol. 17, 2010, 73–88, in its special issue on animal ethics. The published version of the paper can be downloaded here.