Celebrating predation II: disregarding the agony of animals

In a previous post, I presented an example of the ways in which many humans lack any concern for nonhuman animals suffering and dying for natural reasons. In this post I’m going to present some more examples of such speciesist attitudes. I won’t describe them, but post some videos showing this attitude displayed. To be honest, I find them just horrible, but my intention in showing them here is, of course, not just to claim they are terrible to watch. Rather, I’d like to promote some reflection on the question of whether we should be indifferent to the suffering of wild animals, even when it’s due to natural causes.

There are many other similar videos on the internet. If we find them repugnant, I think we have to reject the celebration of predation and the disturbing disregard for the plight of wild animals they imply.

In this video, we can see how another person is thrilled about how a centipede he has as a pet kills a mouse he puts in his or her cage.

And in this other one, we can see the same attitude with a mouse that is killed to feed a carnivorous plant (that is not even a sentient being).

In this other video, a couple of guys send a wasp to death by throwing it to a spider net just to see how the spider captures and kills this insect. This animal moves and twists as the spider is eating her body alive, while the guys comment how great that situation is.

I hope these gruesome images will encourage us to question the attitude of celebration of predation that is so common nowadays.

To those interested in this, some texts that question this attitude and reflect on the ethics of our position towards many natural processes can be seen  in this list that was published before in this blog. One of the papers that deals with this question is this one. Luckily, there is a growing number of people now concerned with this issue, as one can see in this recently created fb page.

French translation of “The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear vs the Nonspeciesist Paradigm” in Les Cahiers antispécistes

Les Cahiers antispécistes is in my view one of the best journals all around the world in the field of animal ethics and speciesism. I can’t really tell for how many years I’ve been a follower of Les Cahiers, and I can say that some of the papers published there are among the most interesting literature on the issue that I’ve found online.

Due to this, I’m very honored that they’ve published there the translation into French of this paper “The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature“, which appeared initially in the journal Between the Species. You can read and download the paper here:

Éthique de l’écologie de la peur versus paradigme antispéciste : Changer les objectifs des interventions dans la nature

The issue where the article appeared (in pp. 46-61), together with other very interesting papers, can be downloaded as a pdf here:

Les Cahiers antispécistes, n. 35, nov. 2012

This has been possible due to the fantastic work of Marceline Pauly who translated the paper and to whom I’m very grateful due to this.

Publications in English on the suffering of animals in the wild and the ways to help them

The suffering and death of animals in nature is an important question in animal ethics. This is a list with several papers and books that have addressed this question. Some of them are in favor of aiding animals in need of help in the wild, while others reject that we should do anything for them. I’ll try to update this list every now and then as new works are published. I hope this will be useful to those interested in this issue.

Publications in English on wild animal suffering and intervention

Talks in Switzerland on Animal Rights, Wild Animals and Speciesism

I’ll be giving a couple of talks in Switzerland in a few days. The first one will be in Bern, on August the 5th. Its title will be: “Different Strategies of the Animal Rights Movement”, and it will be organized by the organization Tier Im Fokus. You have more information on the event here.

The second one will be in Zurich on the 6th, at the University of Zurich, and its title will be: “If speciesism is untenable, should we reduce wild animal suffering too?”. There is more information on the event here.

I want to thank Tier Im Fokus, the University of Zurich and in particular Adriano Mannino, Lukas Gloor and Klaus Petrus for organizing these events.

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.

Animals in Society Conference

On March 10th I will be visiting the UK to attend the conference Critical Perspectives on Animals in Society, which will take place at the University of Exeter. I’m looking forward to it! You can check the whole programme of the event here. So if you can attend this conference, don’t miss the opportunity.

Among other activists, representatives from Animal Equality will be there. I want to thank them since they are the ones who have encouraged and helped me to attend this conference, so thanks for the invite!

You can find below the abstract of the talk I will be giving at this conference:

Disregarding Sentient Beings: Speciesism and Environmentalism

The ethics of antispeciesist animal activism defends the consideration of all sentient beings. Environmentalism, instead, claims that what we should consider are ecosystemic relations and other natural entities, even if they aren’t sentient. For this reason, it approves of sacrificing sentient beings if it benefits environmental balances.

This has significant consequences that are very harmful for nonhuman animals. A clear example of this is the politics of “culling” wild animals that are considered “invasive” or too populous, as encouraged by the Sierra Club and many other groups. Other examples include the support given to “natural” forms of hunting by Greenpeace or the campaign the WWF has ran for years to promote massive animal experimentation to test potentially environmentally harmful chemicals.

Environmentalism also disregards the interests of nonhuman animals when they are in need of help. Environmentalism advocates aiding some animals in nature only when they belong to certain (environmentally interesting) species. But when other animals are involved, they oppose helping them, often claiming that doing so wouldn’t be “natural” (even though intervention to cull or save certain animals is not “natural” either). Antispeciesists disagree with this. Note that, although many people have idyllic views of how nonhuman animals fare in nature, the fact is that they endure severe hardships and often suffer and die in situations in which it might be feasible to help them. Antispeciesist concern for individual animals favours helping them in these situations if doing so doesn’t cause some greater harm to others.

Note that environmentalists don’t favour the massive killing of humans for the sake of biocenotic or ecosystemic processes. Neither do they reject helping humans in need of aid in nature even if that’s not “natural”. But they assume a completely different perspective when nonhuman animals are affected. This is due to their speciesist viewpoint.

Disvalue in nature and intervention

Some time ago I wrote a paper in which I presented the following thought experiment: Suppose there is a rabbit and a fox that is about to capture and eat her. We are witnessing this, and we have two rations of vegan food. We consider what to do. Among the different ways in which we could act there are the following three ones: (1) We eat one of the rations of vegan food and see how the fox catches and eats the rabbit. (2) We give the fox one ration of our vegan food and we kill and eat the rabbit ourselves. (3) We give the fox one ration of our vegan food, we eat the other one and the rabbit runs free to live her life. Continuar leyendo “Disvalue in nature and intervention”

Podcast at Animal Rights Zone

Some days ago I was invited by Animal Rights Zone to be a guest at one of their discussion sessions. In it, we discussed a bunch of topics, from animal ethics and the situation of the antispeciesist movement in Spain to the strategies of vegan education and helping animals suffering in nature.

I’m very thankful for this opportunity to the ARZone team, who had already given me before another opportunity to discuss my view in a Live Chat Session (also transcribed here) six months ago.

I hope you find the podcast interesting. You can listen to it here:
Animal Rights Zone Podcast on Anti-Speciesism

Celebrating predation and making fun of the agony of animals in nature

In a previous post, I presented an article by ethicist Jeff McMahan on the issue of natural harms and predation. In it, McMahan argued that the fact that nonhuman animals suffer and die in nature is a very important issue that deserves our attention. I agree.

Most people’s attitude towards natural evils, and in particular predation, is a rather simplistic one. In fact, most people tend to see these evils as something good. In this post, I want to present an example of this attitude. It’s something we can see very clearly in this loathsome video:

This ghastly attitude of celebration of predation and other natural processes which means death and suffering for animals is at odds with the moral consideration of their interests.

There is a widespread view of nature as a pristine idyllic place in which animals live in paradisiacal conditions. This, unfortunately, is wrong. The scene this video shows is everyday life in nature.

We should definitely go beyond the disgusting attitude of celebration of animal suffering and death in nature displayed in this video. In order to do that, we should start by acknowledging that animals suffer terribly and die in many different ways in nature. There is no reason to keep this fact hidden. It is something we should be able to consider. Insofar as we are concerned with the interests of sentient beings, we should not dismiss this issue.

In fact, we should be able to change our view of natural processes and our attitude toward it. I really think that this is an issue we should think about.

The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature

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. I have written a paper in which I discuss the reasons for this measure and argue that they are not compatible with a nonspeciesist approach.

In it I also 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.

You can read and download the paper here:

The Ethics of the Ecology of Fear against the Nonspeciesist Paradigm: A Shift in the Aims of Intervention in Nature

I’m glad the paper has been published in Between the Species, a great journal on animal ethics and other issues related, as its website reads, “to the philosophical examination of the relationship between human beings and other animals”.