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Why wild animal suffering matters

Many people have a rosy view of the wild. Some think nonhuman animals live in some kind of paradise in the wild. However, animals living in nature have lives that are far from idyllic, and most of them have to deal with the reality of constant threat of tremendous suffering. Many people do not see or think about this aspect of living in the wild. Others believe that wild animals can cope with their suffering better than domesticated animals. Most of us may accept that nonhuman animals experience suffering, yet it may be easy to think they suffer less than they really do. This, however is not so.

If sentient beings matter, we shouldn’t be indifferent towards this. Moreover, we should bear in mind that the amount of suffering and premature death present in the wild is very significant. Most animals die in painful ways when they are very young, so they have no chances for enjoyment, for pursuing their aims or fulfilling their capacities. This is so mainly due to the reproductive strategies prevalent in nature due to evolutionary reasons. The following texts explain this in detail.

Population dynamics and animal suffering

The reproductive strategy that is overwhelmingly prevalent in the wild consists of having huge numbers of offspring of which the vast majority die not long after coming into existence. This means most animals in nature have little time for enjoying positive experiences and often die in ways that involve significant suffering (such as starvation, dehydration, cold or being eaten alive). In this way, population dynamics suggest that suffering prevails over happiness in nature.

Evolutionary reasons why suffering prevails in nature

Natural selection works when different individuals come into existence but only some of them survive, as there are not sufficient resources available for everyone. Because of this, many individuals come into existence only to die shortly after, and a reproductive strategy maximizing the number of new individuals that are born may prevail for evolutionary reasons, even if it entails that suffering and premature death increase tremendously.

Can animals in the wild be harmed in the same ways as domesticated animals and humans?

Animals living in nature endure significant suffering. Humans are not the only beings that can feel suffering and welfare. The section on animal sentience explains this in detail. There is no reason to have attitudes towards animals living in nature different from the ones we would have if they were domesticated animals or humans, so we should try to help animals in nature whenever possible.

You can also read the following collections of articles about the harms suffered by animals in the wild and the ways to help them.

The situation of animals in the wild

Helping animals in the wild




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