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Abstract

Animals form a central part of the story in Life of Pi: Pi’s early years are spent in his family’s zoo, and the cast of animal characters play an important role in his experiences on the lifeboat. There are many different topics arising from the representation of animals in this story that could be discussed, but one issue raised - and perhaps the one of most importance for animal ethics - is the quality of life for animals in captivity and in the wild. That is: whether or not animals in captivity can ever have good lives, or if they will only ever be deprived. This mirrors an ongoing controversy surrounding the ethics of keeping exotic animals in captivity, within institutions such as zoos, aquariums and sanctuaries.
Confined Freedom and Free Confinement:
The Ethics of Captivity in
Life of Pi
Heather Browning and Walter Veit
I have heard nearly as much nonsense about zoos
as I have about God and religion. (Martel 15)
1 The Captivity Debate
Animals form a central part of the story in Life of Pi: Pi’s early years are spent in his family’s zoo,
and the cast of animal characters play an important role in his experiences on the lifeboat. There
are many different topics arising from the representation of animals in this story that could be
discussed, but one issue raised - and perhaps the one of most importance for animal ethics - is the
quality of life for animals in captivity and in the wild. That is: whether or not animals in captivity
can ever have good lives, or if they will only ever be deprived. This mirrors an ongoing controversy
surrounding the ethics of keeping exotic animals in captivity, within institutions such as zoos,
aquariums and sanctuaries.
There is increasing scrutiny of the practices of zoos, and a strong rising movement to close
down such institutions. The 2012 film Blackfish, for example, purported to show the reality behind
the keeping and breeding of captive orcas at SeaWorld, and the ensuing public outcry led to the
cessation of breeding of the species at many facilities. The main motivating factor for the anti-zoo
lobby is concern about the welfare of animals kept in captivity. Those who criticize zoos argue
that the welfare of animals is necessarily decreased when they are housed there. In particular, they
usually take this to be a result of two related features the lack of freedom, and the lack of
naturalness. They argue that instead of being held captive, animals should be ‘free’ to flourish in
the wild and to pursue their natural lives: “It is surely true that in being taken from the wild and
confined in zoos, animals are deprived of a great many goods. For the most part they are prevented
from gathering their own food, developing their own social orders and generally behaving in ways
that are natural to them” (Jamieson 97). Supporters of zoos, on the other hand, emphasize the
benefits of zoos, both to the animals and to human societies. Like Pi Patel, they argue that the wild
is far less free or pleasant than many may imagine. It seems that detractors may “fall into the trap
of thinking that a natural life is better simply because it seems more romantic to us from the
outside” (Dawkins 52).
In this chapter, we will examine this debate in more detail. Particularly, we will side with
the arguments put forward by Pi Patel and use evidence from animal welfare science and the
biological sciences to support the claim that the lives of many captive animals will indeed be better
than those of their wild counterparts. It is important here to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’
zoos. There are of course still plenty of poorly run institutions, holding captive animals for the
This is a preprint. Please cite the published version:
H. Browning, H. and Veit, W. (2020). Confined Freedom and Free
Confinement: The Ethics of Captivity in Life of Pi. In Á. T. Bogár and R. S.
Szigethy (Eds.), Critical Insights: Life of Pi, pp. 119134.
wrong reasons, or without the resources to properly care for them. We are against these sorts of
zoos, as everyone should be, and would seek to see them improved or closed down. To quote Pi,
“A plague upon bad zoos with bad enclosures! They bring all zoos into disrepute” (Martel 40).
However, there are also a growing number of good zoos: those which place a strong emphasis on
the welfare of the animals in their care, and aim to have a positive impact on both animals and
humans. It is these sorts of zoos that we shall defend here, arguing that it is possible for captive
animals to have very good lives when properly cared for.
2 Captivity in
Life of Pi
You have known the confined freedom of a zoo most of your life;
now you will know the free confinement of a jungle. (Martel 286)
2.1 ‘Freedom’ and Captivity
The primary line of argument put forwards by zoo detractors is that zoos necessarily limit
the freedom of animals (Jamieson). Animals held in zoos are limited to a confined space, often
much smaller than the home range they would have in the wild. They thus cannot choose where
they travel. They are typically not free to make decisions about when or what they eat, which other
members of their own (or other) species to spend time or mate with, or which activities to
participate in. By contrast, wild animals have these freedoms, and thus are supposed to be far
better off. We can think of Pi’s three-toed sloths, living a “peaceful, vegetarian life in perfect
harmony with its environment” (Martel 2). Pi criticizes “[w]ell-meaning but misinformed people”
for thinking that wild animals “are ‘happy’ because they are ‘free’. These people usually have a
large, handsome predator in mind, a lion or a cheetah (the life of a gnu or of an aardvark is rarely
exalted). They imagine this wild animal roaming about the savannah on digestive walks after eating
a prey that accepted its lot piously, or going for callisthenic runs to stay slim after overindulging”
(1516). Thinking that these animals have been denied their freedom, they think that the animal
will inevitably become “a shadow of itself, its spirit broken” (16).
One major problem with this argument is that it presumes that animals in the wild are far
more free than they actually are. But animals in the wild are restricted to strictly delineated
territories, the boundaries of which are enforced by their neighbors, and often with aggression.
They can only eat that food they are able to find within their territory, limited by season, availability,
competition with other animals, and their own ability to hunt or otherwise process what is available
to them. They can only mate if and when they find a suitable partner that will also choose to mate
with them, and many animals (males in particular) will never have such an opportunity, being
rejected by females and out-competed by other males. Animals in the wild often have limited
choices in their actions and must get by with what opportunities are made available to them. Wild
animals live highly constrained lives “of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social
hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high” and as Pi emphasizes “territory must
constantly be defended and parasites forever endured” (16) thus challenging us to think whether
it makes to speak of freedom here: “[a]nimals in the wild are, in practice, free neither in space nor
in time, nor in their personal relations (16).
Another misconception is that animals actually value that freedom and do poorly without
it. In reality, many animals dislike too much freedom. They prefer the predictability and routine of
their known territories and habits. As Pi points out: “animals are, conservative, one might even
say reactionary. The smallest changes can upset them. They want things to be just so, day after
day, month after month”, going so far as to stick to the same paths for the same pressing reasons,
season after season (16).
Additionally, the lives that animal activists often presume zoo animals are yearning for, are
those which they have never experienced. Most zoo animals have been bred in captivity the
collection of wild animals being exceedingly rare and have never lived in the wild at all. They are
unable to miss what they have never experienced. Freedom itself is an abstract concept, and one
which animals do not possess. Freedom to an animal simply means the ability to follow its needs
and desires and where these are met, the notion of ‘freedom’ itself, for its own sake, does not mean
anything to them. Even where animals have the ability to escape, they often do not, as they prefer
familiarity and safety to freedom: “Animals that escape go from the known into the unknown—
and if there is one thing an animal hates above all else, it is the unknown. Escaping animals usually
hide in the very first place they find that gives them a sense of security” (41). Though Richard
Parker did not hesitate to escape, both when on the algae ‘island’ and then again when reaching
the shores of Mexico, here he was not escaping from a well-provisioned zoo enclosure, but from
a small and lonely lifeboat.
The final problem is that this argument overlooks the amount of freedom animals in
modern zoos actually receive. A zoo enclosure that has been well-designed, Pi argues, “is just
another territory, peculiar only in its size and in its proximity to human territory” (17). The
territories of wild animals are not large due to an inherent desire to defend and forage within large
territories (though some animals do enjoy these activities), but because they are required to cover
their needs. Pi compares zoo enclosures to human houses which similarly “bring together in a
small space what in the wild is spread out”, with an animal taking “possession of its zoo space in
the same way it would lay claim to a new space in the wild” (17–18).
The welfare of zoo animals has always been of concern to their keepers. In early zoos, this
primarily took the form of caring for health, but over the years there has been an increasing
awareness of the importance of behavior and psychological health to animal welfare. Many zoos
now employ animal welfare specialists, tasked with assessing the welfare of animals within the
collection, and leading advances in the science and practice of zoo animal welfare. One such
advancement has been a focus on choice and control for zoo animals. Research has shown that
many animals do enjoy having some measure of control over their environment (Brando and
Buchanan-Smith). For example, monkeys given access to a lever that changes the light in their
enclosure will use it, regardless of what the starting light level was, demonstrating that they are
simply enjoying the ability to control their environment (Moon and Lodahl). Zookeepers now look
for ways to provide choices to animals to give them control whether they sit in the sun or the
shade, lie on a hard or a soft surface, receive a shower, interact with cagemates, eat from a variety
of foods, or play with an ever-changing array of novel objects and puzzles. This emphasis on
choice and control means that captive animals have more freedom than ever within the ‘confines’
of their enclosures, and in many ways may even be more free than their wild counterparts.
2.2 Natural Behavior
He killed beyond his need. He killed meerkats that he did not eat. In animals, the urge to kill is separate from
the urge to eat. To go for so long without prey and suddenly to have so manyhis pent-up hunting instinct was
lashing out with a vengeance. (Martel 269)
Another primary line of argument against keeping animals captive in zoos is an appeal to
natural behavior. The idea here is that wild animals are in a natural state, able to express their
natural behavior, whereas zoos are an artificial environment and thus the animals are necessarily
prevented from doing so. Wild animals are considered to have the capacity to ‘flourish’ in a natural
way that captive animals do not (Nussbaum). Often, the word ‘telos’ is used, to describe the natural
essence of an animal, and those conditions and behaviours that it has naturally evolved to
experience or perform (Rollin).
There are a number of problems with this type of argument. The first is that it is not clear
that there is any real ‘telos’ that one can appeal to when talking about an animal. Within the
literature, there are multiple different definitions used, ranging from those behaviors that the
species will normally perform, to those that are evolved adaptive behaviors. Ruling out some sort
of spiritual or metaphysical ‘nature’ that an animal may possess, instead we are left with a set of
behaviors and environmental conditions typical for the species. There are then a range of
additional problems involved in deciding exactly which behaviors get to count as natural for these
purposes, and how to discover or measure them (Veasey et al., “On Comparing” ; “Using the
Giraffe” ).
There is also a question as to whether animals kept in zoos are actually even the same as
their wild counterparts. Captive exotic animals are not domesticated as pets or agricultural animals
are, bred for hundreds or thousands of years to adapt to the conditions of living with humans.
Yet, neither are they wild, free from human influence. Instead, they sit somewhere in the middle.
They are domesticated in a more developmental sense through the conditions of their birth and
rearing rather than in an evolutionary sense, involving genetic change. Still, this is enough to
make them meaningfully different from their wild conspecifics. Zoo animals have learned to thrive
in the captive environments in which they find themselves, and are thus another step removed
from the struggles of the wild. The difficulties faced by training animals their wild behaviors for
reintroductions into their natural environments stand as proof of that. Captive-bred animals
require significant training in order to have the skills and abilities necessary for survival within their
wild habitats. These differences between wild and captive exotic animals stand as another reason
why animals are not harmed through being held in captivity it changes their very nature such
that they are adapted to this environment.
The more serious problem with appealing to natural behavior is that even if there were
such a ‘telos’, it is unclear why this should matter (Browning, “Debate” ). That is, why animals are
better off when expressing their telos than those that do not. One way of reading this claim is
simply that animals feel better when they are in a natural state. They have evolved to experience
particular conditions and perform certain behaviors, and so they like these things. They may feel
deprived, or frustrated, when they are prevented from following through on this. Indeed, this is
commonly observed for example, pigs in the wild spend a lot of time ‘rooting’ (digging up the
soil with their snout) and when captive pigs are kept on hard floors and are unable to perform this
behavior, they will begin to display signs of frustration (Broom et al.). However, what is important
here is not that the behavior is ‘natural’, but instead that it is something that the pigs want and like
to do. The naturalness is beside the point, so long as all the needs are met, they are as Pi argues
neither “subjectively neither better nor worse for an animal than its condition in the wild” (Martel
18). Naturalness may be a useful way of identifying the behaviors that an animal might like to
perform (and is often a shorthand used by zookeepers looking to design effective environmental
enrichment for their animals) but is not itself what matters. It is only the promotion of positive
feelings of satisfaction, and the prevention of negative feelings of frustration, that we really care
about (Browning, “Debate” 11). Of course, prevention of boredom is an important part of keeping
captive animals happy without their normal pursuits of finding food, mates and shelter, other
methods must be found to occupy the time. This is discovered first-hand by Pi when on the
lifeboat with endless hours to fill: “My greatest wish—other than salvationwas to have a book.
A long book with a never-ending story” (Martel 207). However, it is the occupation itself that
matters, not its naturalness, and we have already discussed some of the many ways zookeepers
strive to keep their animals active and engaged.
The second way of reading the claim is that the telos is somehow additionally valuable in
and of itself, regardless of how the animal feels about it. This is a strange claim, because it leads us
to think that natural conditions that may actually be harmful to animals such as fighting with one
another, escaping from predators, or being infested with parasites are necessary for their
wellbeing (Mellor). These examples make it obvious that many wild states are clearly bad for
animals, causing problems for their health and welfare: many wild animals are physically injured,
malnourished, stricken with disease and exposed to unfavorable environmental conditions. It is
hard to see that any of these things could be intrinsically valuable simply for being natural.
As the naturalness of their lifestyle and behaviors is not what matters to animals, but rather
the opportunities to experience those things which bring them positive feelings of comfort,
satisfaction, curiosity, joy etc., then it is entirely possible for a well-designed enclosure and
husbandry program including environmental and behavioral enrichment to provide all of this for
captive animals. “It is not so much a question of constructing an imitation of conditions in the
wild as of getting to the essence of these conditions” (Martel 40). This means that animals kept in
zoos do not suffer simply from the lack of naturalness in their lives, and indeed can be quite happy
and flourish in captivity when all their needs are met.
2.3 Human-Animal Relationships
What you don't realize is that we are a strange and forbidding species to wild animals. We fill them with fear.
They avoid us as much as possible. It took centuries to still the fear in some pliable animalsdomestication it's
calledbut most cannot get over their fear, and I doubt they ever will. (Martel 296)
Another concern often raised about the keeping of animals in captivity is the problematic
relationships that it engenders between humans and animals both the keepers and the general
public. The relationship between the viewing public and animals is often conceived as one of
superiority in which people come to zoos to view animals as entertainment and to reinforce their
views of themselves as the ‘top’ of the natural order (Jamieson). Sometimes this is the case
viewing public can be disrespectful, noisy and even aggressive towards animals. All keepers are
familiar with having to repeatedly ask unruly visitors not to bang on the glass or throw things at
animals to try and make them move. Pi describes similar despicable visitors to their zoo, those
who feed dangerous objects to the animals, or even attack them directly. More generally, however,
the relationship between public and animals is one of awe, respect and love. Many visitors will
repeatedly visit their local zoo in order to view their favorite animals, knowing their names and
habits, and will reach out to express their grief when the animal dies. Far from a feeling of
superiority, they are instead seeking a connection.
Of perhaps more interest is the relationship between animals and their keepers. The
concern is that this is an unequal relationship, based on dominance and control, and can never
hold respect or love. However, this is a gross mischaracterization of what happens in zoos. Instead,
zoo staff work hard to develop good relationships with their animals as Pi says, “Getting animals
used to the presence of humans is at the heart of the art and science of zookeeping” (Martel 39).
Most keepers hold a deep love for their animals, those beings they spend their days alongside,
getting to know each of their individual personalities and habits. The power and strength of this
affection can be seen in Pi’s reaction to the loss of his animal companions, particularly Richard
Parker, and his feeling of sadness that there was no real closure or goodbye. Zookeepers’ time is
entirely committed to making life better for the animals they care for, in any way they can. In many
ways, it is the keepers who are subservient to the animals, as is captured as Pi describes the zoo
animals as akin to unruly hotel guests:
One has to wait until they saunter to their balconies, so to speak, before one can clean
their rooms, and then one has to wait until they tire of the view and return to their rooms
before one can clean their balconies; and there is much cleaning to do, for the guests are
as unhygienic as alcoholics. Each guest is very particular about his or her diet, constantly
complains about the slowness of the service, and never, ever tips . . . Are these the sorts
of guests you would want to welcome to your inn? (1314)
Most current interactions are based on building relationships of trust and use of positive
reinforcement training to encourage animals to participate in important husbandry procedures,
such as being safely locked into dens for cleaning, presenting body parts for health inspections,
and even voluntarily allowing injections or blood draws. They develop friendships in which the
animals seem to accept them as ‘one of their own’ what Pi describes as ‘zoomorphism’ (84). This
friendly acceptance can be demonstrated by animals in a variety of ways, such as grooming (like
Pi’s orangutans), or vocalizations (like Richard Parker’s ‘prusten’). Keepers know their animals well
and are able to pick up on these signals to know when they are accepted by their animals.
Where there are relationships of dominance or control, these are not necessarily harmful
to the animals. Pi describes the most basic ‘training’ of this type, which is simply getting animals
to allow keepers to come close to them, to diminish their ‘flight’ distance and reduce fear in keeper
presence. Additionally, all social animals have intricate hierarchies, in which some animals will be
dominant over others, gaining priority access to preferred resources and being safe from attack.
When a keeper can position themselves in this role, they are better able to safely work with their
animals. This is the technique used by Pi to safely coexist with Richard Parker, by establishing
himself as in control and the top of the tarpaulin as his territory, using loud noise, unpleasant
stimuli (the nausea induced by the rocking of the boat) and even marking with his own urine. This
was combined with the provision of food and water to demonstrate his abilities to provide as an
‘alpha’. Reading an animal’s body language and reacting appropriately can help avoid conflict, as
Pi learns: “[e]ventually I learned to read the signals he was sending me . . . his ears, his eyes, his
whiskers, his teeth, his tail and his throat, he spoke a simple, forcefully punctuated language that
told me what his next move might be” (207).
Indeed, Pi’s relationship with Richard Parker was much closer to a typical zookeeper-
animal relationship than one between wild animals, both because of the nature of the care Pi
provided for his tiger (feeding, watering and cleaning) but because of Richard Parker’s previous
history as a captive animal and his willingness to accept the continuation of these conditions. “It
occurred to me that with every passing day the lifeboat was resembling a zoo enclosure more and
more: Richard Parker had his sheltered area for sleeping and resting, his food stash, his lookout
and now his water hole” (188–9). The above training techniques are becoming rarer as keepers
tend to have only ‘protected contact’ with dangerous animals and instead rely on positive training
methods to influence behavior. Zookeepers are taught a healthy respect for the potential damage
that can be done by even the most seemingly harmless animals in their care; the same lesson that
Pi’s father graphically teaches his young sons for their own protection, by feeding a live goat to
the tiger and going through the zoo to describe the potential harms each and every animal can
inflict. For this reason, zookeepers are often more fearful and respectful of animals than the
viewing public, despite their care for them.
3 The Benefits of Zoos
But I don't insist. I don't mean to defend zoos. Close them all down if you want (and let us hope that what
wildlife remains can survive in what is left of the natural world). I know zoos are no longer in people's good
graces . . . Certain illusions about freedom plague them. (Martel 19)
In the previous section, we have shown that zoos (and similar forms of captivity) are not harmful
for exotic animals, and indeed can often be beneficial. Here, we will examine some of the benefits
that can arise from the keeping of animals in zoos, both to the animals themselves, as well as to
human society.
3.1 Benefits to Animals
In the first instance, zoos provide a number of benefits to animals. They benefit both the
animals held within the institutions, as well as their wild counterparts. As we have discussed above,
animals held within zoos may actually have better lives than those out in the wild. Pi argues that
many animals would choose to live in a zoo if they could rationally make such an evaluation, “since
the major difference between a zoo and the wild is the absence of parasites and enemies and the
abundance of food in the first, and their respective abundance and scarcity in the second” (18). Pi
suggests putting yourself in the ‘shoes’ of the animals: “[w]ould you rather be put up at the Ritz
with free room service and unlimited access to a doctor or be homeless without a soul to care for
you?” (18). Additionally, some zoo animals come from even worse lives, and are rescued into zoos
those animals that were previously kept as pets and discarded by their owners when they become
too difficult to manage (like the orangutan Orange Juice), or those taken by poachers. Zoo animals
are provided with regular, nutritious and varied food, and always have access to fresh water. They
are kept free from diseases and parasites and have veterinary care available to deal with any health
problems that arise, particularly as they age. They have access to warm sheltered places to sleep in
cold weather, and cool, shady places to rest in hot weather. They have opportunities to interact
with other members of their species, often including the chance to breed. They are safe from
predators, hunters, and habitat destruction. And they are given increasingly sophisticated forms of
cognitive and behavioral enrichment, to provide mental stimulation and encourage performance
of a range of behaviors. Zookeepers work with their understanding of animals to give them the
best lives they are able: our tools . . . are the knowledge we have of an animal, the food and shelter
we provide, the protection we afford. When it works, the result is an emotionally stable, stress-
free wild animal that not only stays put, but is healthy, lives a very long time, eats without fuss,
behaves and socializes in natural ways andthe best sign—reproduces” (3940). With regular
welfare audits conducted and improvements implemented, most zoo animals experience lives of
positive welfare.
Zoos help wild animals in a number of ways through direct and indirect conservation
outcomes (Browning, “No Room” ; Gray). Directly, zoos can hold and breed endangered species
for reintroduction back into their natural habitat in order to boost numbers. This process has been
successful for a number of species, including Przewalski’s horses, golden lion tamarins and black-
footed ferrets, to name a few. These breeding programs can be expensive and difficult, as animals
require a lot of training and monitoring in order to ensure a successful release. However, where
there is safe habitat to return to, this can be an extremely effective way of boosting wild population
numbers. Where there is no safe habitat, zoos can act as ‘arks’, to safely hold wild species
indefinitely, until there is somewhere for them to return to. This requires careful genetic
management of the population to ensure they remain healthy and viable, and most zoos are part
of regional management programs to try and maximize genetic diversity in their animal
populations.
Indirectly, zoos assist in conservation efforts through raising awareness and funds, and
inspiring action. When people visit zoos, they learn about and connect with the animals there,
which increases their enthusiasm to do something to help conserve wild animals and their habitats.
Zoos then also provide education on what steps people can take to help conservation efforts, from
donating money to relevant conservation programs to changing their purchasing habits to
sustainable products. Modern zoos now conduct research to ensure their educational initiatives
are effective in motivating care and action in their visitors (e.g. Powell and Bullock). Many zoos
even take this action outside their own walls, using wide-reaching education and activism
campaigns to encourage changes benefitting the natural world, such as labeling of palm oil to help
protect the rainforest habitats of Indonesia or calls to reduce plastic usage to protect ocean life.
Thus, both captive animals and their wild counterparts can benefit from zoos.
3.2 Benefits to Humans
Zoos also provide a number of benefits to humans recreational, educational and perhaps
most importantly, connection to animals. These are all closely connected. Zoos began as
‘menageries’, places of pure recreation, where animals (typically the private collections of kings
and emperors) were placed on display for the curiosity of the viewing public (Mazur). However,
even here, there was a driving sense of curiosity and awe the sense of seeing animals, learning
what they were like. Pi describes his time growing up within the zoo as idyllic - a bustling, vibrant
wild space, full of color and surprise. Over time, the educational role of zoos gained emphasis,
with small labels at each exhibit giving way to larger graphics and signs, aimed to engage interest
and provide information not only on the species, but on the challenges facing them and their place
within the natural world. The Mr. Kumars in Life of Pi both visit the zoo in a sort of educational
capacity. The teacher Mr. Kumar wonders at the scientific marvels of nature, reading every label
and description in the zoo, and approving of their finely-tuned evolved design. He took the zoo
as an exceptionally fine illustration of science leaving the zoo feeling scientifically refreshed
(Martel 2526). In a parallel way, the mystic Mr. Kumar takes his visit to the zoo as providing
education in the ways of creation: “how carnivores were supplied with herbivores and herbivores
with grass, how some creatures crowded the day and others the night, how some that needed sharp
beaks had sharp beaks and others that needed limber limbs had limber limbs” – it left him
reinforced in his faith quoting the Qur’an: “In all this there are messages indeed for a people who
use their reason (82). While both disagree about the ultimate explanation of adaptation in nature,
both are nevertheless learning.
Primarily, though, people visit zoos for the sense of connection with the animals they see
(Browning, “No Room”). Zoos represent one of the few places where people can actually see
exotic animals up close and in person. This awe can be seen in the young Pi’s awe towards the
animals he shares his zoo home with when he describes the ordinary yet unforgettable encounters
with the their diverse as astonishing behavior: “I discovered in a leisurely way what it's like to have
an elephant search your clothes in the friendly hope of finding a hidden nut, or an orang-utan pick
through your hair for tick snacks, its wheeze of disappointment at what an empty pantry your head
is” (Martel 14). Such encounters can radically transform one’s view on animals. Indeed, there is a
strong human drive for connection with nature, and in particular with animals (Gray). This explains
the rising popularity of ‘up-close’ animal encounters, in which members of the public are able to
meet zoo animals, sometimes to even feed or touch them, and build a connection with the animals
as individuals. They come away with a feeling of awe and love, which in turn helps inspire the sorts
of conservation action discussed above. This sense of wonder found in animals can be seen in the
preference of Pi, and his Japanese interviewers, to accept his first version of events, that which
contained the animals.
We have shown here that zoos can provide a number of benefits to both humans and
animals. As the animals kept in (good) zoos have good lives, this gives us reason to support such
institutions and their practices. Perhaps a time will come when animals in the wild can live without
threat of human encroachment; then we may no longer need zoos for their conservation benefits
and they may cease to exist. However, we argue that this need not be the case as, as we have shown
here, zoos are not causing harm indeed are often benefitting the animals they keep and
therefore, could keep existing indefinitely.
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... What will matter to animals impacted by de-extinction projects -the de-extinct animals, research animals, and wild animals -is the ways in which their specific interests are harmed. Just as zoo animals are not necessarily harmed from being housed in captivity (Browning & Veit, 2020), so is it not clear that human control of de-extinction must be necessarily bad. It is the animal's interests themselves that should concern us most, rather than merely anthropocentric interpretations of the situations. ...
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Katz (2022) provides arguments drawn from the environmental philosophy literature to criticize the conceptualisation and practice of de-extinction with a focus on the ontological and epistemological issues - the human dimension of de-extinction, using concepts relevant only to us and our understanding of the world. In this commentary we wish to draw attention to how this can erase the animals as subjects, instead taking them as objects that are instantiations of other values – naturalness, authenticity, wildness, human artifice, domination. We need also to include the perspective and interests of the animals themselves as additional sources of value for consideration.
... Animal welfare researchers have long recognised that animal ethics detached from our knowledge of biological science is at best illinformed and at worst harmful. [8][9][10][11][12][13] Cases involving humans should not be treated any differently. iv If the biological sciences reveal that there is no morally salient difference between a newborn and a fetus, that is, that they are iii Largely due to progress in our understanding of mammalian pregnancy more generally. ...
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... This parallels a discussion within the animal ethics literature, where certain kinds of freedom for animals are advocated without asking whether this is in their bests interests or what they value; in fact, different animals are likely to value control over their circumstances or other forms of agency in different ways and to different degrees, and this should inform how they are treated(Browning & Veit 2020;. ...
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A core challenge for contemporary bioethics is how to address the tension between respecting an individual’s autonomy and promoting their wellbeing when these ideals seem to come into conflict.This tension is often reflected in discussions of the ethical status of guardianship and other surrogate decision-making regimes for individuals with different kinds or degrees of cognitive ability and (hence) decision-making capacity, specifically when these capacities are regarded as diminished or impaired along certain dimensions (or with respect to certain domains). In this essay, we raise some key considerations for how to evaluate potential tradeoffs between wellbeing and autonomy should these arise.
... Here, I don't mean the sort of moderate naturalism found in Racine (9) but a strong commitment to the idea that there should be continuity between the sciences and arts, or in our case biology and bioethics. Animal welfare researchers have long recognized that animal ethics detached from our knowledge of biological science is at best ill-informed and at worst harmful (10)(11)(12)(13)(14)(15). Cases involving humans should not be treated any differently. ...
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This paper is a response to a recent paper by Bobier and Omelianchuk in which they argue that the critics of Giubilini and Minerva’s defence of infanticide fail to adequately justify a moral difference at birth. They argue that such arguments would lead to an intuitively less plausible position: that late-term abortions are permissible, thus creating a dilemma for those who seek to argue that birth matters. I argue that the only way to resolve this dilemma, is to bite the naturalist bullet and accept that the intuitively plausible idea that birth constitutes a morally relevant event is simply mistaken and biologically misinformed.
... From personal conversation.13 Animal welfare has historically been understood in this narrow way of physiological health or wellfunctioning[41][42][43].14 Though what may be assumed to be a necessary requirement of experimental design has not stopped publication of various experimental philosophy papers with astonishingly small sample sizes[44]. ...
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If one had to identify the biggest change within the philosophical tradition in the 21st century, it would certainly be the rapid rise of experimental philosophy to address differences in intuitions about concepts. Yet, it is within the philosophy of medicine that one particular conceptual debate has overshadowed all others: the long-standing dispute between so-called ‘naturalists’ and ‘normativists’ about the concepts of health and disease. It is, therefore, surprising that the philosophy of medicine has, so far, not drawn on the tools of XPhi. I shall use this opportunity to defend and advocate the use of empirical methods to inform and advance this and other debates within the philosophy of medicine.
... Here, I don't mean the sort of moderate naturalism found in Racine (9) but a strong commitment to the idea that there should be continuity between the sciences and arts, or in our case biology and bioethics. Animal welfare researchers have long recognized that animal ethics detached from our knowledge of biological science is at best ill-informed and at worst harmful (10)(11)(12)(13)(14)(15). Cases involving humans should not be treated any differently. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
This paper is a response to a recent paper by Bobier and Omelianchuk in which they argue that the critics of Giubilini and Minerva’s defence of infanticide fail to adequately justify a moral difference at birth. They argue that such arguments would lead to an intuitively less plausible position: that late-term abortions are permissible, thus creating a dilemma for those who seek to argue that birth matters. I argue that the only way to resolve this dilemma, is to bite the naturalist bullet and accept that the intuitively plausible idea that birth constitutes a morally relevant event is simply mistaken and biologically misinformed.
... From personal conversation.13 Animal welfare has historically been understood in this narrow way of physiological health or wellfunctioning[41][42][43].14 Though what may be assumed to be a necessary requirement of experimental design has not stopped publication of various experimental philosophy papers with astonishingly small sample sizes[44]. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
If one had to identify the biggest change within the philosophical tradition in the 21st century, it would certainly be the rapid rise of experimental philosophy to address differences in intuitions about concepts. Yet, it is within the philosophy of medicine that one particular conceptual debate has overshadowed all others: the long-standing dispute between so-called 'naturalists' and 'normativists' about the concepts of health and disease. It is, therefore, surprising that the philosophy of medicine has, so far, not drawn on the tools of XPhi. I shall use this opportunity to defend and advocate the use of empirical methods to inform and advance this and other debates within the philosophy of medicine.
... Indeed, the above paper emphasizes this conclusion by making an explicitly phenomenological point: "it is only by trying to see the world from their point of view that we will be able to find out what is good for them and hence ensure their welfare" (Browning 2019b, p. 2). A further issue in which the phenomenological perspective will be relevant, is the debate surrounding euthanasia (Browning 2018b), captivity (Browning and Veit 2020c) and slaughter of animals (Browning and Veit 2020a). If an animal can be happy despite being in a pathological state, this should give us pause in accepting euthanasia of sick animals as unproblematic. ...
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What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to be sick? These two questions are much closer to one another than has hitherto been acknowledged. Indeed, both raise a number of related, albeit very complex, philosophical problems. In recent years, the phenomenology of health and disease has become a major topic in bioethics and the philosophy of medicine, owing much to the work of Havi Carel (2007, 2011, 2018). Surprisingly little attention, however, has been given to the phenomenology of animal health and suffering. This omission shall be remedied here, laying the groundwork for the phenomenological evaluation of animal health and suffering.
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One of the major challenges to the welfare of animals in agriculture is the conditions of transport and slaughter. Worldwide, over 70 billion animals are slaughtered for agriculture each year, which places this as a particularly significant ethical issue. In this paper we argue that these harms should be paid special attention over other equivalent types of suffering an animal may experience throughout its lifetime, because of their position at the end of life.
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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.
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The practice of ‘management euthanasia’, in which zoos kill otherwise healthy surplus animals, is a controversial one. The debate over the permissibility of the practice tends to divide along two different views in animal ethics—animal rights and animal welfare. Traditionally, those arguments against the practice have come from the animal rights camp, who see it as a violation of the rights of the animal involved. Arguments in favour come from the animal welfare perspective, who argue that as the animal does not suffer, there is no harm in the practice and it is justified by its potential benefits. Here, I argue that an expansion of the welfare view, encompassing longevity and opportunities for positive welfare, give stronger considerations against management euthanasia, which then require greater benefits to justify its use.
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To assess the validity of using wild behavioural data as a welfare indicator for zoo animals, the time budgets of 19 captive giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), from four zoos were compared with the time budgets of wild giraffe from Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Differences were shown to exist between the behaviour of wild and captive giraffe. However, only the duration of lying differed significantly across zoos. Correlations demonstrated that both enclosure size and feed restriction affected the locomotor activity of giraffe. An attempt to quantify observer influence upon the behaviour of wild giraffe was made. Different methods of observation were shown to significantly affect the time budget established. The extent to which wild giraffe behaviour can be used as a welfare indicator for captive conspecifics is discussed, as are the problems inherent in such a study. The difficulties in constructing an alternative welfare measure using prevalence to veterinary problems, are briefly considered. Methods by which captive giraffe welfare can be improved are discussed, particularly concerning the provision of browse to allow more natural feeding patterns to be established.
Book
This book explores the legal and political issues that underlie the campaign for animal rights and the opposition to it. Addressing ethical questions about ownership, protection against unjustified suffering, and the ability of animals to make their own choices free from human control, its chapters offer numerous different perspectives on animal rights and animal welfare. They show that whatever one's ultimate conclusions, the relationship between human beings and nonhuman animals is being fundamentally rethought. The book offers a modern treatment of that rethinking.
A Comparison of the Welfare of Sows in Different Housing Conditions
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After the Ark? Environmental Policy-Making and the Zoo
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Mazur, Nicole A. After the Ark? Environmental Policy-Making and the Zoo. Melbourne UP, 2001.