2nd Animal Ethics Essay Prize on Animal Suffering in the Wild

2nd Animal Ethics Essay Prize on Animal Suffering in the Wild

19 Nov 2016

Animal Ethics invites submissions for the 2nd Animal Ethics Essay Prize. Eligible essays must be unpublished and examine the question of the suffering of animals in nature and ways to help them, or related issues. The winner will be awarded $1,500.

There is increasing awareness that wild animals encounter many sources of suffering and premature death. It has been argued that the lives of most animals in nature may have more suffering than positive wellbeing. Most animals reproduce by having a huge number of offspring, and on average only one per parent survives. The others die shortly after coming into existence. Their lives are so short that there is little wellbeing in them, but include the suffering of the animals’ deaths. This often occurs in painful ways, such as starvation, due to hostile weather conditions or by being killed by other animals. Nevertheless, intervention to aid animals is often possible, as shown by initiatives such as rescues, vaccination, and feeding programs. This prize aims at encouraging research in this topic, as well as in the best ways to increase concern about it.


Essays can have a wide range of approaches. Both strongly empirically-based and more speculative essays will be eligible for the prize. Topics include the following:

Biology and animal sentience

  • Studies in life history theory estimating the proportion of animals who die at different ages, especially shortly after coming into existence;
  • Case studies illustrating the structural causes of 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 predominance of large clutches over small ones in nature;
  • Estimates of value and disvalue in the wild;
  • 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;
  • Estimations of the impact of different forms of intervention in nature to help animals such as massive vaccination efforts;
  • Research in animal consciousness and estimates of the degree of sentience in animals, especially invertebrates.


  • What ethical arguments for intervention for the benefit of wild animals can be presented?;
  • How speciesism, which is a main reason for animals in the wild not being taken into account, can be addressed and challenged;
  • Political theory and animals;
  • The different approaches of animal ethics and environmental ethics;
  • Philosophy of mind and the origin of sentience.

Social sciences

  • What the most cost-effective courses of action are to raise concern about the situation of animals in nature among the general public and animal advocates, considering our resources and time limitations;
  • How large scale decisions or possible future trajectories could lead to greater or lesser amounts of harm for animals living in the wild;
  • Psychological reasons why people may not consider the harms wild animals suffer and support aiding them;
  • How to increase research on these topics in academia;
  • How to connect concern for sentient animals suffering in nature with concern for other (present or future) sentient beings;
  • How cognitive biases can affect our consideration of the importance that the interests of animals in the wild have, and how those biases may be overcome.


  • How the development of new technologies can be influenced so that they are less likely to increase animal suffering and death in the wild, and more likely to reduce it;
  • How the development of artificial life can help to increase or reduce the suffering and premature death of sentient beings;
  • The potential impact of artificial intelligence in future suffering.

Expected impact of the essays

Contributions will be assessed with special consideration given to their expected impact, particularly on:

  • Encouraging further academic work in this field;
  • Increasing interest in this issue among the general public;
  • Increasing interest for wild animals and future forms of sentience among animal advocates;
  • Informing policies making a difference concerning speciesism and its consequences for both animals exploited by humans and animals in nature.


Contributions must be written in English. Non-native English speakers are welcome to send their submission, as the jury will pay no consideration to linguistic expression but only to the content of the essays. Submissions should be sent as email attachments to essay.prize ( a ) animal-ethics.org, with the subject “Submission: [Title of the Essay]”. The author’s contact details and the name of the essay should appear only in the body of the email. The essays must not include self-identifying information.

The deadline is September, 15, 2017. The winning essay will be chosen after a blind review process and announced during the last quarter of 2017. If none of the submitted essays meets an acceptable standard of quality, the prize will not be awarded.

The winning essay may be published by Animal Ethics, although the author will keep the right to publish it elsewhere before or afterwards.

Animal Ethics is a nonprofit organization which aims at increasing concern for the moral consideration of all sentient beings both in academia and among the general public.