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Animal Ethics Essay Prize


Animal Ethics invites submissions for the 1st Animal Ethics Essay Prize on the suffering of animals in nature and intervention in the wild.

Concern for the situation of animals in the wild is becoming a major issue in animal ethics today. Although according to a relatively common naïve view, animals in the wild live mostly good lives and natural processes are good simply because they are natural, there is an increasing awareness that wild animals encounter many sources of suffering and early death, and that this is something humans should be concerned about.

Moreover, there are reasons to think the lives of most animals have more suffering than positive wellbeing. Most animals reproduce by having a huge number of offspring, while on average only one per parent survives. The majority of the others die shortly after coming into existence, commonly in painful ways, such as starving or being killed by other animals. Their lives are so short that there is little wellbeing in them, while they include the suffering of the animals’ often painful and sometimes frightening deaths.

Although human intervention in the wild can sometimes increase the harms animals suffer, it can also help to reduce them significantly. There are many examples of initiatives that have been implemented already, from wild animal rescue centers to vaccination and feeding programs. Other programs on a larger scale may be developed as concern for nonhuman animals increases.

While this topic has often been neglected, the literature on it has been growing significantly in recent years. This prize aims to contribute to this by encouraging further research on it. We welcome submissions up to 9,000 words long. They must not have been previously published or accepted for publication. The winner will be awarded $1,500.

Essay topics may include:

  • Estimates of the degree of sentience in animals (especially fishes and invertebrates) when they die shortly after coming into existence and at other ages, and studies in life history theory estimating the proportion that die at those ages.
  • Case studies showing the structural reasons for animals’ suffering and early deaths in the wild.
  • The relationship between sources of primary production and nutrient availability and nonhuman animal suffering.
  • Factors affecting the ways the predominance of animals traditionally classified as r-strategists over K-strategists varies that can inform actual policies.
  • Forms of intervention to help animals in the wild that do not cause more harm than good and that can be carried out effectively today on a small or medium scale.
  • How large scale decisions or possible future trajectories can lead to greater or lesser amounts of harm for animals living in the wild.
  • The development of welfare biology theory.
  • Estimates of value and disvalue in the wild.
  • Ethical arguments for intervention for the benefit of wild animals.
  • Political theory and the issue of intervention to aid wild animals.
  • Psychological reasons why people may fail to take seriously the harms animals suffer in nature and to support acting to aid them.
  • How to increase research on these topics in academia.
  • How to spread concern for wild animals and the idea that they should be helped, among the general public and animal advocates.

Since there are many possible topics, essays can have a wide range of approaches. Both strongly empirically-based and more speculative essays will be eligible for the prize, including for instance essays in natural science addressing applied welfare biology problems, in practical philosophy considering the arguments for helping animals in the wild, and in social science assessing how to better spread concern about this topic.

Contributions will be assessed with special consideration given to their potential impact, such as:

  • Encouraging further academic work on the subjects of the suffering of wild animals and interventions in the wild;
  • Increasing interest in the subjects among the general public and animal advocates;
  • Informing actual policies aimed at reducing the harms that nonhuman animals suffer in the wild.

Contributions (in English) must be sent as email attachments to essay.prize ( a ), with the subject “Animal Ethics  Essay Prize.” Submissions  should not include the name of the author on the essay itself. Instead, the author should state her or his contact details and the name of the essay in the body of the email. The deadline is December 15, 2015.

The winning essay will be chosen after a blind review process. The winner of the prize will be announced during the first quarter of 2016. However, if none of the submitted papers meets an acceptable standard of quality, the prize will not be awarded.

If there are enough high quality submissions, authors will have the option of having their essays considered for inclusion in a book to be edited by Animal Ethics in which the winning essay will be published.

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