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Debunking the idyllic view of natural processes. Population dynamics and suffering in the wild

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... We can call this problem 'the problem of r-strategists'. With the exception of Oscar Horta's work (Horta 2010(Horta , 2013(Horta , 2015, questions about r-strategists have been largely ignored in the AR literature. 9 This is unfortunate. ...
... It is among fish species in particular that we find some of the most extreme examples of the rstrategy. Consider a particular example discussed by Oscar Horta: the Atlantic Cod population located on the Gulf of Maine's bank (Horta 2010). An adult female cod lays anywhere from many thousands to many millions of eggs each time (Jørstad et al. 2007, 11). ...
... For papers arguing that most wild animals experience more suffering in their lives than enjoyment, see, for example,Horta 2010Horta , 2013Horta , 2015and Tomasik 2015. For a prominent paper that suggests this conclusion on primarily theoretical grounds, see Ng 1995, especially 269-72 and appendix A. I owe thanks to Sue Donaldson and Howard Nye for comments that drew my attention to the importance of emphasizing the combined significance of the pain and prematurity associated with r-strategists' deaths. ...
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Wild animal reproduction poses an important moral problem for animal rights theorists. Many wild animals give birth to large numbers of uncared-for offspring, and thus child mortality rates are far higher in nature than they are among human beings. In light of this reproductive strategy – traditionally referred to as the ‘r-strategy’ – does concern for the interests of wild animals require us to intervene in nature? In this paper, I argue that animal rights theorists should embrace fallibility-constrained interventionism: the view that intervention in nature is desirable but should be constrained by our ignorance of the inner workings of ecosystems. Though authors sometimes assume that large-scale intervention requires turning nature into an enormous zoo, I suggest an alternative. With sufficient research, a new form of gene editing called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) promises to one day give us the capacity to intervene without perpetually interfering with wild animals’ liberties.
... The mathematical trade-off between the number of individuals suffering and the degree of each individual's suffering may be reflected in the nature of r-selected species. While mammals such as humans may not produce large numbers of offspring who die before reaching maturity, many organisms do produce large clutches, sometimes as many as thousands or tens of thousands (Horta 2010a), the vast majority of whom die shortly after birth of starvation or predation. While these organisms suffer in large numbers, they typically live relatively short lives, often extremely so. ...
... In light of the revision of the Buddhist Premise, the common view in the academic and grey literature that suffering exceeds enjoyment in nature should be reconsidered. In the two decades since the publication of the original paper on welfare biology, a number of papers have discussed wild animal suffering, particularly in academic ethics (Cunha 2015;Horta 2010aHorta , b, 2015Dawrst 2009;Mannino 2015;Kymlicka and Donaldson 2011). In addition to the academic papers, a number of nonprofits have begun to focus on researching and potentially intervening in wildanimal suffering, including the Wild Animal Welfare Committee, Wild Animal Initiative, and Animal Ethics. ...
... Dawrst (2009) cites Ng (1995 as part of a paper claiming that there is likely to be more total suffering than enjoyment in nature and calls for further research on the subject. Horta (2010aHorta ( , b, 2015 in turn cites Ng (1995) and Dawrst (2009) in making the same claim and in calling for intervention into nature where practicable. The research to date gives rise to a sense that caring about wild animal welfare necessitates a pessimistic view of nature. ...
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Ng (Biol Philos 10(3):255–285, 1995. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00852469) models the evolutionary dynamics underlying the existence of suffering and enjoyment and concludes that there is likely to be more suffering than enjoyment in nature. In this paper, we find an error in Ng’s model that, when fixed, negates the original conclusion. Instead, the model offers only ambiguity as to whether suffering or enjoyment predominates in nature. We illustrate the dynamics around suffering and enjoyment with the most plausible parameters. In our illustration, we find surprising results: the rate of failure to reproduce can improve or worsen average welfare depending on other characteristics of a species. Our illustration suggests that for organisms with more intense conscious experiences, the balance of enjoyment and suffering may lean more toward suffering. We offer some suggestions for empirical study of wild animal welfare. We conclude by noting that recent writings on wild animal welfare should be revised based on this correction to have a somewhat less pessimistic view of nature.
... To put it succinctly: we first have to answer what their welfare 'is' before we can make judgements about what it 'ought to be'. In particular, we challenge the now-prevailing view that the lives of wild animals contain more suffering than pleasure; that the balance of wild animal welfare is net-negative (Horta 2010;Johannsen 2020b;Ng 1995;Tomasik 2015). This view is now taken on board by many and frames most of the current discussion; but we think it needs a more critical assessment, both theoretically and empirically. ...
... This means that most animals that ever exist will have short lives with a lot of suffering -dying quickly from predation, or starvation when competing for resources against their siblings and conspecifics. Their lives are taken to be almost entirely suffering, and thus the number of animals with net-negative lives will outweigh those surviving members who have positive lives (Horta 2010). In this section we will challenge this conclusion on two grounds. ...
... While no-one denies that there are many sources of suffering for wild animals, there are also many sources of pleasure, and we cannot from the outside try to weigh these against one another. There are many reasons why our intuitions may be faulty -we may fail to empathise with the exact experiences of wild animals or we may only think about small sub-sets of existing animals (with a bias toward the more visible larger vertebrate animals) (Horta 2010;Tomasik 2015). ...
Article
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With increasing attention given to wild animal welfare and ethics, it has become common to depict animals outside of captivity as existing in a state of predominantly suffering. This assumption is now taken on board by many and frames much of the current discussion; but needs a more critical assessment, both theoretically and empirically. In this paper, we challenge the primary lines of evidence employed in support of wild animal suffering, to provide an alternative picture in which wild animals may often have much more positive lives than is commonly assumed. Nevertheless, while it is useful to have an alternative model to challenge unexamined assumptions, our real emphasis in this paper is the need for the development of effective methods for applying animal welfare science in the wild, including new means of data collection, the ability to determine the extent and scope of welfare challenges and opportunities, and their effects on welfare.
... The focus is thus on the populations and ecosystems' natural equilibria but not on individuals and, especially, not on the welfare of individual animals. Moreover, some argue that natural scientists have an idyllic view of natural processes and the preservation of nature (Dorado, 2015;Faria and Páez, 2015;Horta, 2010). These views have probably impacted ecological economics which also tends to focus on population issues and environmental preservation and do not typically study animals' welfare. ...
... decreasing) the numbers of farm animals (Espinosa and Treich, 2019). Similarly, if we believe that many, perhaps most, wild animals have lives that include more suffering than positive wellbeing, as does Horta (2010Horta ( , 2018, a reduction of animal biomass might not necessarily be a curse for the animals. Due to their agnosticism on this question, Groff and Ng (2019) believe that "it makes sense to base one's views on environmental issues on the more known benefits (and costs) of nature for humans". ...
Article
Research in economics is anthropocentric. It only cares about the welfare of humans and usually does not concern itself with animals. When it does, animals are treated as resources, biodiversity, or food. That is, animals only have instrumental value for humans. Yet, unlike water, trees, or vegetables, and like humans, most animals have a brain and a nervous system. They can feel pain and pleasure and many argue that their welfare should matter. Some economic studies value animal welfare, but only indirectly through humans' altruistic valuation. This overall position of economics is inconsistent with the utilitarian tradition and can be qualified as speciesist. We suggest that economics should directly value the welfare of sentient animals, at least sometimes. We briefly discuss some possible implications and challenges for (environmental) economics.
... The same goes for speciesism. Even some long-time animal rights advocates 7 sometimes fall back to speciesist judgments when it comes to a particular subject: wild animal suffering (Horta 2010;Tomasik 2015;Faria 2016). ...
Article
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Just as one line appears to be longer than another in an optical illusion, we can have a spontaneous moral judgment that one individual is more important than another. Sometimes such judgments can lead to moral illusions like speciesism and other kinds of discrimination. Moral illusions are persistent spontaneous judgments that violate our deepest moral values and distract us away from a rational, authentic ethic. They generate pseudo-ethics, similar to pseudoscience. The antidote against moral illusions is the ethical principle to avoid unwanted arbitrariness. Speciesism involves unwanted arbitrariness, and psychological research as well as the problem of wild animal suffering demonstrate that moral illusions such as speciesism can be very persistent.
... In addition, more than a quintillion live in nature (Tomasik, 2009). Plausibly, they also have lives in which suffering predominates, even if it's due to natural events rather than human agency (Horta, 2010;Faria, 2016;Ng, 1995;Tomasik, 2015). Do we have reasons to help them and alleviate the harms they endure? 1 As these numbers show, most of the individuals presently existing are nonhuman animals, not human beings. ...
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... According to this view, nonhuman animals generally have lives worth living when left to themselves; most of them experience more pleasure than pain. But many have argued that this is false: see, e.g., Faria (2016), Faria and Paez (2015), Horta (2010Horta ( , 2017, Ng (1995), and Tomasik (2015). On this alternative view, most animals live "net negative lives" -i.e., they experience more pain than pleasure -for reasons having little to do with human beings. ...
... Yet if it were true that concern for farmed animals automatically led to concern for wild animal suffering, one might confidently expect to find great concern for wild animal suffering among, for instance, animal ethicists. Nevertheless, with some exceptions (e.g., Cowen 2003, Nussbaum 2006, Horta 2010, animal ethicists usually fail to see that wild animals are in need. Prominent examples include Regan (2004Regan ( [1983), Clark (1977), Adams and Donovan (2007), Francione (2000), and Dunayer (2004). ...
... This happens as nonhuman animals typically face very harsh living conditions for natural reasons, such as lack of food, disease, hostile weather conditions, parasitism, attacks by other animals, and accidents. According to Ng, this suggests suffering prevails over positive wellbeing in nature (Horta 2010;Faria & Paez 2015;Tomasik 2015Tomasik [2009). Ng has recently stated that he still agrees with this, and considers this issue very important (Carpendale 2015). ...
... Assuming, however, that transpigs could have their own trans-species normality, it is not clear that the lives of transpigs, pampered like savior children, are worse than those experienced by pigs in the wild. Life in nature is not always idyllic [29,30]. Like the 'bubble-babies' suffering from combined immunodeficiency, transpigs will have their freedom limited in order to protect them from disease. ...
Article
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Xenotransplantation is often deemed morally objectionable because of the costs it imposes on the organ donor and the risks it imposes on the recipient. For some, involving human–pig chimeras as donors makes the practice more objectionable or even abhorrent from the start. For others, by contrast, using such chimeras weakens recipient-based objections because it reduces the risk of organ rejection and malfunctioning, and cancels donor-based objections because the practice does not harm chimeras but instead gives them valuable lives they would not otherwise have. The paper examines and eventually rejects the latter defense. It also discusses the additional risks of chimeric xenotourism in countries with less demanding procedural guidelines and reflects on two very different futures for humanity that may emerge from supporting or rejecting chimeric xenotransplantation.
... mathematical proof is impossible, reason requires us to accept that, in all probabilities, the welfare of an individual (affective) sentient that fails to survive to have successful mating is negative. It follows that, if we can reduce the number of such miserable individuals, other things being equal, we can increase the level of overall welfare".Horta (2016) shares the view in Ng, and systematically criticizes an idyllic view of Nature which is common in natural sciences that " animals are able to live relatively easy and happy lives in the wild" .Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved. ...
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While antispeciesism is an ethical notion, veganism is behavioral. In this paper, we examine the links between the two. Building on Blackorby and Donaldson (Econ J 102:1345–1369, 1992), we consider a two-species model in which humans consume animals. The level of antispeciesism is conceived as the weight on animals’ welfare in the utilitarian social welfare function. We show that more antispeciesism increases meat consumption if and only if animals’ utility is positive. That is, the critical condition is whether farm animals’ lives are worth living. We then empirically explore this condition using a survey. We find that farm-animal experts and frequent meat eaters are more likely to believe that the lives of farm animals are worth living. We finally discuss some issues in the study of animal welfare in economics and social choice.
... If the capacity for positive/negative welfare scales with brain size (or related features like cortical neuron count), this would reinforce the same conclusion. It seems likely that average welfare in these populations will be negative, at least on a hedonic view of welfare (Ng, 1995;Horta, 2010). These assumptions together would imply, for instance, that AU, VV1 and VV2 converge to a 27 In the name of conservatism, we are setting aside various hypotheses that might generate much larger background populations. ...
Preprint
Is the overall value of a world just the sum of values contributed by each value-bearing entity in that world? Additively separable axiologies (like total utilitarianism, prioritarianism, and critical level views) say 'yes', but non-additive axiologies (like average utilitarianism, rank-discounted utilitarianism, and variable value views) say 'no'. This distinction is practically important: additive axiologies support 'arguments from astronomical scale' which suggest (among other things) that it is overwhelmingly important for humanity to avoid premature extinction and ensure the existence of a large future population, while non-additive axiologies need not. We show, however, that when there is a large enough 'background population' unaffected by our choices, a wide range of non-additive axiologies converge in their implications with some additive axiology -- for instance, average utilitarianism converges to critical-level utilitarianism and various egalitarian theories converge to prioritiarianism. We further argue that real-world background populations may be large enough to make these limit results practically significant. This means that arguments from astronomical scale, and other arguments in practical ethics that seem to presuppose additive separability, may be truth-preserving in practice whether or not we accept additive separability as a basic axiological principle.
... Suffering probably predominates in their lives due to natural events. These include diseases, parasites, starvation, thirst, extreme weather conditions and attacks by other animals (Faria 2016;Horta 2010;Ng 1995;Tomasik 2015). Nature is a moral catastrophe. ...
... It is also common to think of nature as an idyllic place where there is a natural "order" or a "balance" of states, ignoring other facts about it that are considered less interesting or distasteful (Kellert 1991;Burton 2015;Waldhorn 2019). These biases are recognised across disciplines and levels of education; however, they are do not reflect actual circumstances in nature, nor relations between wild animals and ecological processes (Sterelny and Griffiths 1999;Cuddington 2001;Horta 2010). In addition, they might lead one to downplay or underestimate the significance of the following two important facts about nature: ...
... Finally, consider the well-being of wild animals; this also seems to be generally poor. One important argument for this conclusion in the literature is that it is common for animals to have many offspring, most of whom die young (Ng 1995, 270-72;Horta 2010). Add to this the extent of starvation, violence, disease and injury among wild animals and the picture becomes even grimmer. ...
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The most common argument against negative utilitarianism is the world destruction argument, according to which negative utilitarianism implies that if someone could kill everyone or destroy the world, it would be her duty to do so. Those making the argument often endorse some other form of consequentialism, usually traditional utilitarianism. It has been assumed that negative utilitarianism is less plausible than such other theories partly because of the world destruction argument. So, it is thought, someone who finds theories in the spirit of utilitarianism attractive should not go for negative utilitarianism, but should instead pick traditional utilitarianism or some other similar theory such as prioritarianism. I argue that this is a mistake. The world destruction argument is not a reason to reject negative utilitarianism in favour of these other forms of consequentialism, because there are similar arguments against such theories that are at least as persuasive as the world destruction argument is against negative utilitarianism.
... Examples range from amphibians and fishes (3) to invertebrates and mammals, including small rodents (Biggers, Finn & McLaren, 1962;Froese & Luna, 2004;Lu, Sopory & Whittaker, 2010[2000; Wolff & Sherman, 2008). Since suffering and premature death predominate among these animals and they are the most prevailing animals in the wild, it is plausible to conclude that, on aggregate, suffering and premature death predominate in the wild (Horta, 2010b;Tomasik, 2015a). ...
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The mainstream discussion regarding climate change in politics, public opinion and the media has focused almost exclusively on preventing the harms humans suffer due to global warming. Yet climate change is already having an impact on free-living nonhumans, which raises unexplored ethical concerns from a nondiscriminatory point of view. This paper discusses the inherent ethical challenge of climate change impacts on nonhuman animals living in nature and argues that the media and communication ethics cannot avoid addressing the issue. The paper further argues that media ethics needs to mirror animal ethics by rejecting moral anthropocentrism.
... Nevertheless, this is far from being true. This assumes an idyllic view of nature, that is, that the life of animals in the wild is, on balance, positive (Faria, 2016;Horta, 2010c). The evidence against this view, however, is compelling enough to reject it. ...
Article
In this article, we claim that animal ethics and environmental ethics are incompatible ethical positions. This is because they have incompatible criteria of moral considerability and they have, at least in some cases, incompatible normative implications regarding the interests of sentient individuals. Moreover, we claim that environmentalist views lead to an insurmountable dilemma between inconsistency and implausibility and fail to properly account for the importance of wild animal suffering. From this it follows not only that (a) we can endorse one of the two views but not both at the same time but also that (b) we have overriding reasons to reject environmentalism and endorse some animal ethics view.
... Life in nature is not idyllic. Because of the natural harms nonhuman animals undergo, most of them have lives of net suffering (Ng, 1995;Horta, 2010;Tomasik, 2015;Faria, 2016). Presently, there is little that human beings can do about wild animal suffering on a large scale. ...
... We certainly share Paez's concern about sentient beings and their anthropogenic suffering in nature. Various other authors have raised these concerns, even arguing for massive welfare interventions in nature against predation, disease or malnutrition (Horta, 2010;Horta, 2013), with some calling "for the gradual supplanting of the natural by the just" (Nussbaum, 2006, p. 400). However, one of the most powerful insights from ecology is that nature is composed and regulated by trade-offs: Conditions of scarcity are ubiquitous, so life requires the consumption of other life to flourish. ...
... For the impacts on nonhuman nature more broadly and the ethical significance of these impacts, seePalmer (2011) andNolt (2011). 6 See Horta (2018, this volume); see alsoHorta (2010);Horta (2015). 7 As an anonymous reviewer points out, resolving this question is crucial to the practical project of determining the effect of climate change on animals. ...
Article
The full text of this paper is publicly available at https://www.erudit.org/en/journals/ateliers/2018-v13-n1-ateliers04192/1055117ar/
... This example is based upon the calculation procedure given byLuper (2014).9 Drawing upon population biology and Baysian epistemology, and using the prevalence of suffering as a yardstick,Horta (2010) claims that the lives of most wild animals are disvaluable. If Horta's kind of analysis could be extended to invertebrates, and if biopreference satisfaction or frustration was used as the measure of value, then death would not be a harm for most wild animals. ...
... Please note how in the part of the physical universe currently known to us, one explosion of negative phenomenology has already taken place, via the process of biological evolution on this planet. Through the evolution of complex nervous systems, properties like sentience, self-awareness, and negative phenomenology have already been instantiated in an extremely large number of biological individuals, long before Homo sapiens entered the stage and eventually began building intelligent machines [Horta, 2010;Iglesias, 2018]. In humans, the prevalence of negative a®ect is excessive [Gilbert, 2016], cognitive biases and mechanisms of self-deception make us largely unable to see this phenomenological fact clearly [Trivers, 2011;von Hippel and Trivers, 2011]. ...
Article
This paper has a critical and a constructive part. The first part formulates a political demand, based on ethical considerations: Until 2050, there should be a global moratorium on synthetic phenomenology, strictly banning all research that directly aims at or knowingly risks the emergence of artificial consciousness on post-biotic carrier systems. The second part lays the first conceptual foundations for an open-ended process with the aim of gradually refining the original moratorium, tying it to an ever more fine-grained, rational, evidence-based, and hopefully ethically convincing set of constraints. The systematic research program defined by this process could lead to an incremental reformulation of the original moratorium. It might result in a moratorium repeal even before 2050, in the continuation of a strict ban beyond the year 2050, or a gradually evolving, more substantial, and ethically refined view of which — if any — kinds of conscious experience we want to implement in AI systems.
... Nature, however, is the source of too many harms to wild animals. Indeed, suffering most likely characterises the lives of wild animals not because of human action but simply because of the ordinary workings of natural processes (Faria 2016;Horta 2010;Ng 1995;Tomasik 2015). If this is true, nature is an axiological catastrophe by design. ...
Article
Most non-human animals live in the wild and it is probable that suffering predominates in their lives due to natural events. Humans may at some point be able to engage in paradise engineering, or the modification of nature and animal organisms themselves, to improve the well-being of wild animals. We may, in other words, make nature ‘red in tooth and claw’ no more. We argue that this creates a tension between environmental ethics and animal ethics which is likely insurmountable. First, we argue that concern for the environment can be compatible with helping individual wild animals but should see redesigning nature as morally impermissible. Second, we argue that if we are concerned with animal well-being, we may reject that we have a duty to help wild animals even to the point of redesigning nature, but we must nevertheless concede that it is permissible to do so under certain circumstances. We show how this permissibility can be derived from three animal rights views: Tom Regan’s, a novel account inspired by Thomas Pogge and a libertarian approach to animal rights.
... They likely have lives of net suffering due to naturogenic causes. See Horta (2010); Ng (1995); Tomasik (2015); Faria (2016); Groff and Ng (2019); and Johannsen (2020). Even absent domination, the latitude or opportunity dimension of their freedom would be close to nil. ...
Article
Most nonhuman animals live on the terms imposed on them by human beings. This condition of being under the mastery of another, or domination, is what republicanism identifies as political unfreedom. Yet there are several problems that must be solved in order to successfully extend republicanism to animals. Here I focus on the question of whether freedom can be a benefit for individuals without a free will. I argue that once we understand the grounds that make freedom a desirable property of choices, we can see how it is appropriate to predicate it of those made by any sentient agent.
... 8 These debates look at animal suffering tout court, and not just the forms of suffering that humans directly cause. Some conclude that people concerned with animal suffering might have much more to do than abstaining from consuming animal products or working toward the end of animal use in scientific experiments (e.g., Horta, 2010;MacMahan, 2015). 9 See, for instance, how efforts to improve the livelihoods of women can negatively impact farm animals: https:// www.hendr ix-genet ics.com/en/news/new-partn ershi p-sees-susta inabl e-poult ry-intro duced -small -farme rsmozam bique -and-zambi a/ [17.11.2020]. ...
... Many wild animals suffer due to various natural causes: disasters, starvation, disease, just to name a few (Animal Ethics, 2016;Horta, 2010;Ng, 1995). On the assumption that sentient wild animals are morally considerable, 1 are we required to assist them in their struggle to live lives free from suffering? ...
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Is there a moral requirement to assist wild animals suffering due to natural causes? According to the laissez-faire intuition , although we may have special duties to assist wild animals, there are no general requirements to care for them. If this view is right, then our positive duties toward wild animals can be only special, grounded in special circumstances. In this article I present the contribution argument which employs the thought that the receipt of benefits from wild animals is one such kind of special circumstance. If this argument is correct, then the circle of moral agents required to assist some wild animals is significantly widened.
... This is linked to the issue is that "evolution optimizes for reproductive success rather than individual wellbeing", which leads to enormous suffering of nonhuman animals [63]. In the on-going debate about whether humans may attempt to intervene in nature to reduce suffering of wild animals there are proponents [63,64] and opponents [65]. While the opponents, for example, warn of unintended ecological consequences, Tomasik states that "cancer, malaria, sexual violence, and depression are all 'natural' outcomes of evolution's optimization process, yet we rightly consider them evils to be resisted; we should encourage people to realize that the cruelties that nature inflicts on its nonhuman inhabitants are just as ethically intolerable-indeed more so, since the number of organisms affected in the latter case is orders of magnitude higher" [63]. ...
Article
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This article is about a specific, but so far neglected peril of AI, which is that AI systems may become existential as well as causing suffering risks for nonhuman animals. The AI value alignment problem has now been acknowledged as critical for AI safety as well as very hard. However, currently it has only been attempted to align the values of AI systems with human values. It is argued here that this ought to be extended to the values of nonhuman animals since it would be speciesism not to do so. The article focuses on the two subproblems—value extraction and value aggregation—discusses challenges for the integration of values of nonhuman animals and explores approaches to how AI systems could address them.
... Love flows easily toward beautiful mountains and pristine forests, and is less obviously present in relation to swamps or arid lands void of esthetically appealing vegetation. 'The idyllic view of nature' offers an excessively harmonious take on nonhuman existence, void of e.g., suffering (Horta, 2010), and may strengthen biases toward the tranquil instances of nature. As pointed out above, even conservation work often highlights attractive species, whilst hordes of less attractive species all too easily gain less focus. ...
Article
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Love of nonhuman animals and nature is often presumed to have positive moral implications: if we love elks or forests, we will also better appreciate their moral value and treat them with more respect and care. This paper investigates perhaps the most common variety of love – here termed “the biological definition of love” – as applied to other animals and nature. Introducing the notion of “the love paradox”, it suggests that biological love of other animals and nature can also have deeply negative and anthropocentric moral consequences, due to the self-directedness and biases inherent to it. The need for more other-directed definitions of love is underlined.
... (1994: 2) Granted, such a radical claim needs more defense, though we don't have room to provide such arguments here. (For additional considerations in favor of this dark hypothesis, see Ng 1995;Horta 2010;Tomasik 2015.) For present purposes, let's simply take for granted that this is a possibility deserving further exploration. ...
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We know that animals are harmed in plant production. Unfortunately, though, we know very little about the scale of the problem. This matters for two reasons. First, we can’t decide how many resources to devote to the problem without a better sense of its scope. Second, this information shortage throws a wrench in arguments for veganism, since it’s always possible that a diet that contains animal products is complicit in fewer deaths than a diet that avoids them. In this paper, then, we have two aims: first, we want to collect and analyze all the available information about animal death associated with plant agriculture; second, we try to show just how difficult it’s to come up with a plausible estimate of how many animals are killed by plant agriculture, and not just because of a lack of empirical information. Additionally, we show that there are significant philosophical questions associated with interpreting the available data—questions such that different answers generate dramatically different estimates of the scope of the problem. Finally, we document current trends in plant agriculture that cause little or no collateral harm to animals, trends which suggest that field animal deaths are a historically contingent problem that in future may be reduced or eliminated altogether.
... Given that most animals that live in the wild follow this strategy, data suggest that suffering and early death likely predominate in the wild (e.g. Ng, 1995;Tomasik, 2009Tomasik, /2015Horta, 2010b). In addition, animals that do survive to adulthood endure a variety of natural harms. ...
Book
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This is the first book on climate change denial and lobbying that combines the ideology of denial and the role of anthropocentrism in the study of interest groups and communication strategy. Climate Change Denial and Public Relations: Strategic Communication and Interest Groups in Climate Inaction is a critical approach to climate change denial from a strategic communication perspective. The book aims to provide an in-depth analysis of how strategic communication by interest groups is contributing to climate change inaction. It does this from a multidisciplinary perspective that expands the usual approach of climate change denialism and introduces a critical reflection on the roots of the problem, including the ethics of the denialist ideology and the rhetoric and role of climate change advocacy. Topics addressed include the power of persuasive narratives and discourses constructed to support climate inaction by lobbies and think tanks, the dominant human supremacist view and the patriarchal roots of denialists and advocates of climate change alike, the knowledge coalitions of the climate think tank networks, the denial strategies related to climate change of the nuclear, oil, and agrifood lobbies, the role of public relations firms, the anthropocentric roots of public relations, taboo topics such as human overpopulation and meat-eating, and the technological myth. This unique volume is recommended reading for students and scholars of communication and public relations.
... Dawkins (1995),Horta (2010) andTomasik (2015). Also see an overview at http://www.animal-ethics. ...
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Most people believe that suffering is intrinsically bad. In conjunction with facts about our world and plausible moral principles, this yields a pro tanto obligation to reduce suffering. This is the intuitive starting point for the moral argument in favor of interventions to prevent wild animal suffering (WAS). If we accept the moral principle that we ought, pro tanto, to reduce the suffering of all sentient creatures, and we recognize the prevalence of suffering in the wild, then we seem committed to the existence of such a pro tanto obligation. Of course, competing values such as the aesthetic, scientific or moral values of species, biodiversity, naturalness or wildness, might be relevant to the all-things-considered case for or against intervention. Still, many argue that, even if we were to give some weight to such values, no plausible theory could resist the conclusion that WAS is overridingly important. This article is concerned with large-scale interventions to prevent WAS and their tractability and the deep epistemic problem they raise. We concede that suffering gives us a reason to prevent it where it occurs, but we argue that the nature of ecosystems leaves us with no reason to predict that interventions would reduce, rather than exacerbate, suffering. We consider two interventions, based on gene editing technology, proposed as holding promise to prevent WAS; raise epistemic concerns about them; discuss their potential moral costs; and conclude by proposing a way forward: to justify interventions to prevent WAS, we need to develop models that predict the effects of interventions on biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and animals’ well-being.
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Effective altruists call us to apply evidence-based reasoning to maximize the effectiveness of charitable giving. In particular, effective altruists assess causes in terms of their scope, neglectedness, and tractability, and then recommend devoting resources to the cause that scores best on these criteria. So far, effective altruists concerned with animal suffering have seen these criteria as supporting interventions that improve the lives of layer hens, and they now seem to think that these criteria support directing efforts toward broilers. In this paper, however, we argue that the effective altruist framework commits animal advocates to focus at least much attention—if not more—on fish.
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Pedro Galvão claims that, on the ideal rule-consequentialist code, all sentient humans have rights, whereas animals do not. Because agents are not impartial, total well-being would be lower if they were aware of a general disposition to harm in order to promote the good. Animals cannot be aware of that disposition, so it would be justified to harm them when that is best. Galvão also claims it is wrong to help an animal, even when optimific, if that harms another animal. I argue he is misguided. First, impartial agents would err in the moral calculus, causing falsely optimific harms. To compensate for that, all sentient individuals must have rights – though those protecting some humans may be stronger. Second, when helping is optimific, it is at least permitted. Moreover, since most sentient beings are wild animals with net negative lives, agents should be generally disposed to intervene in nature on their behalf.
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Many sentient beings suffer serious harms due to a lack of moral consideration. Importantly, such harms could also occur to a potentially astronomical number of morally considerable future beings. This paper argues that, to prevent such existential risks, we should prioritise the strategy of expanding humanity’s moral circle to include, ideally, all sentient beings. We present empirical evidence that, at micro- and macro-levels of society, increased concern for members of some outlying groups facilitates concern for others. We argue that the perspective of moral circle expansion can reveal and clarify important issues in futures studies, particularly regarding animal ethics and artificial intelligence. While the case for moral circle expansion does not hinge on specific moral criteria, we focus on sentience as the most recommendable policy when deciding, as we do, under moral uncertainty. We also address various nuances of adjusting the moral circle, such as the risk of over-expansion.
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¿A quién pertenece la naturaleza? La pregunta podría ser menos importante que la cuestión de la reducción del sufrimiento en ella. Da igual si la naturaleza no pertenece a nadie (o nos pertenece a todos) o si pertenece solo a algunos, dado que en ambos casos debería haber limitaciones ligadas con el bienestar animal a lo que debemos hacer en la naturaleza. Los seres con capacidad de sentir tienen intereses que debemos considerar al diseñar políticas medioambientales. Como ni los ecosistemas ni las plantas poseen intereses, conservar la naturaleza es menos importante que reducir el sufrimiento en ella. La cuestión moralmente importante, entonces, consiste en saber qué sucede a los animales sintientes en la naturaleza, diseñando políticas para reducir sus sufrimientos. Esto significa que tenemos la obligación moral de intervenir en la naturaleza con el fin de reducir los sufrimientos que los animales padecen en ella, por lo que políticas medioambientales de conservación de la naturaleza como las defendidas por los ecologistas son moralmente inaceptables.
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