wild animal suffering

Why Preventing Predation Can Be a Morally Right Cause for Effective Altruism?

This article received an honourable mention in the graduate category of the 2023 National Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Oxford student Pablo Neira

If the interests of sentient animals matter, then there are (at least pro tanto) reasons to prevent the harms they suffer. There are many different natural harms that wild animals suffer, including hunger, disease, parasitism and extreme weather conditions (Singer 1975; Clark 1979; Sapontzis 1984; Cowen 2003; Fink 2005; Simmons 2009; Horta 2010; McMahan 2010; Ebert and Mavhan 2012; Keulartz 2016; Palmer 2013; Sözmen 2013; Bruers 2015; Tomasik 2015; McMahan 2016; Bramble 2021; Johannsen 2021). One of these (on which I will focus in this paper) is the suffering caused by predation. Predation is an antagonistic relationship in which a predator obtains energy by consuming a prey animal—either wholly or partially—which is alive when it is attacked (Begon et al. 2006, 266). The harms predation cause to prey animals can vary greatly, depending on the kind of injuries they suffer in the process and how painful they are, the amount of time it takes them to die, the release of endorphins that reduce pain or the extent to which psychological suffering—mostly distress—affects them during the process. In addition, beyond the pain of predation itself, there are other substantial harms related to predation. Continue reading

Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics: “How should vegetarians actually live? A reply to Xavier Cohen.” Written by Thomas Sittler

This essay is a joint winner in the Undergraduate Category of the Oxford Uehiro Prize in Practical Ethics

Written by University of Oxford student, Thomas Sittler

“How should vegetarians actually live? A reply to Xavier Cohen.”

Ethical vegetarians abstain from eating animal flesh because they care about the harm done to farmed animals. More precisely, they believe that farmed animals have lives so bad they are not worth living, so that it is better for them not to come into existence. Vegetarians reduce the demand for meat, so that farmers will breed fewer animals, preventing the existence of additional animals. If ethical vegetarians believed animals have lives that are unpleasant but still better than non-existence, they would focus on reducing harm to these animals without reducing their numbers, for instance by supporting humane slaughter or buying meat from free-range cows.

I will argue that if vegetarians were to apply this principle consistently, wild animal suffering would dominate their concerns, and may lead them to be stringent anti-environmentalists. Continue reading