Working for a future with fewer harms to wild animals

There are a number of things we can do in a direct way to reduce the harms that animals undergo in the wild. There would be ways to give them even greater assistance if we had more knowledge and means.

For this to be possible, the most important thing is for our societies to care about helping animals in the wild. It is possible that if societies never see helping wild animals as important, the needs of animals in the wild will never be addressed. The longer our society delays in taking this issue seriously, the more billions of nonhuman animals will be left without help. Some people believe it’s impossible to help animals in nature. As we will show below, this is wrong. There are numerous ways we can help animals already. There are other ways we will be able to help animals if we decide it’s important to us.

There are people who oppose helping animals in nature because they claim it’s natural for animals in the wild to suffer or because we shouldn’t be concerned about the plight of animals, but rather about ecosystems or other natural entities.1 The argument from relevance explains why those views must be rejected, since when it comes to being harmed or benefited, what matters is whether an individual can feel suffering and joy. In fact, views that we should allow animals to suffer are almost always due to a speciesist bias, since they are not held when it comes to humans: most of us think humans should be aided when they need it. We don’t refuse to help humans because we think it’s natural for humans to suffer and die (for instance, from starvation or diseases).

There are several things that can be done currently to help nonhuman animals:


1. Promoting aid to animals in nature whenever it is possible

There are many examples of ways animals can be helped and are actually helped nowadays. In many other cases, however, little is done even when we have the knowledge and means to help. We should make sure that we aid animals when we can. And when we learn about cases of intervention to help animals, we should let others know about them. In this way, we can all contribute to spreading concern for animals in the wild, and help make it possible that animals in nature will get the help they so badly need.


2. Challenging speciesism

The biggest obstacle to increasing aid for nonhuman animals who live in the wild is the very little consideration that most nonhuman animals are currently given, due to speciesist views that are widely accepted today. A very important step is working towards the rejection of speciesism. This includes spreading the arguments questioning speciesism. To help achieve this, we can support current antispeciesist organizations so they can continue their work, and help to increase their support.


3. Increasing the depth of our knowledge about the ways that nonhuman animals can be helped in nature

A common argument against providing aid to animals in the wild is that we may not have enough knowledge to help animals suffering different harms in nature. This is true in many cases, but it’s mistaken to deduce that this means we shouldn’t do anything for them. What it means is that we must acquire the knowledge that is necessary to start solving the problem as far as it is possible.


4. Distinguishing clearly between antispeciesism and environmentalism

The two views are commonly thought to be compatible, or even linked. We need to make clear that since environmentalism prioritizes things other than the wellbeing of sentient individuals, it is incompatible with antispeciesism. As the argument from relevance explains, only from positions that are opposed to speciesism can sentient animals be truly defended.


5. Ceasing to contribute to the idea that nature is a paradise for animals

In the same vein, it’s necessary that the question of the suffering of wild animals be treated seriously, and considered an issue that requires our attention. It’s very important that we spread the word about how serious the situation of animals in the wild is and how important it is that we have a positive attitude toward helping them.

Further readings

Alonso, W. J. & Schuck-Paim, C. (2017) “Life-fates: Meaningful categories to estimate animal suffering in the wild”, Animal Ethics [accessed on 29 September 2019].

Carpendale, M. (2015) “Welfare biology as an extension of biology: Interview with Yew-Kwang Ng”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 197-202 [accessed on 6 November 2015].

Cowen, T. (2003) “Policing nature”, Environmental Ethics, 25, pp. 169-182.

Cunha, L. C. (2015) “If natural entities have intrinsic value, should we then abstain from helping animals who are victims of natural processes?”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 51-53 [accessed on 11 November 2016].

Dorado, D. (2015) “Ethical interventions in the wild: An annotated bibliography”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 219-238 [accessed on 6 November 2015].

Faria, C. (2016) Animal ethics goes wild: The problem of wild animal suffering and intervention in nature, Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

Faria, C. & Paez, E. (2015) “Animals in need: The problem of wild animal suffering and intervention in nature”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 7-13 [accessed on 6 November 2015].

Fleming K. K. & Giuliano W. M. (2001) “Reduced predation of artificial nests in border-edge cuts on woodlots”, Journal of Wildlife Management, 65, pp. 351-355.

Hadley, J. (2006) “The duty to aid nonhuman animals in dire need”, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 23, 445-451.

Harrison, X. A.; Blount, J. D.; Inger, R.; Norris, D. R. & Bearhop, S. (2011) “Carry-over effects as drivers of fitness differences in animals”, Journal of Animal Ecology, 80, pp. 4-18.

Holmes, J. C. (1995) “Population regulation: A dynamic complex of interactions”, Wildlife Research, 22, pp. 11-19.

Horta, O. (2010) “The ethics of the ecology of fear against the nonspeciesist paradigm: A shift in the aims of intervention in nature”, Between the Species, 13 (10), pp. 163-187 [accessed on 12 February 2013].

Horta, O. (2015) “The problem of evil in nature: Evolutionary bases of the prevalence of disvalue”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 17-32 [accessed on 14 October 2015].

Kirkwood, J. K. & Sainsbury, A. W. (1996) “Ethics of interventions for the welfare of free-living wild animals”, Animal Welfare, 5, 235-243.

Kirkwood, J. K.; Sainsbury, A. W. & Bennett, P. M. (1994) “The welfare of free-living wild animals: Methods of assessment”, Animal Welfare, 3, pp. 257-273.

McCue, M. D. (2010) “Starvation physiology: Reviewing the different strategies animals use to survive a common challenge”, Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 156, pp. 1-18.

McMahan, J. (2010a) “Predators: A response”, The New York Times (online), 28 September [accessed on 12 May 2013].

McMahan, J. (2010b) “The meat eaters”, The New York Times (online), 19 September [accessed on 23 March 2013].

Morris, M. C. & Thornhill, R. H. (2006) “Animal liberationist responses to non-anthropogenic animal suffering”, Worldviews, 10. pp. 355-379.

Newton, I. (1998) Population limitations in birds, San Diego: Academic Press.

Ng, Y.-K. (1995) “Towards welfare biology: Evolutionary economics of animal consciousness and suffering”, Biology and Philosophy, 10, pp. 255-285.

Nussbaum, M. C. (2006) Frontiers of justice: Disability, nationality, species membership, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Paez, E. (2015) “Refusing help and inflicting harm: A critique of the environmentalist view”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 165-178 [accessed on 10 November 2015].

Pearce, D. (1987) Can biotechnology abolish suffering?, North Carolina: The Neuroethics Foundation.

Sagoff, M. (1984) “Animal liberation and environmental ethics: Bad marriage, quick divorce”, Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 22, pp. 297-307.

Sapontzis, S. F. (1984) “Predation”, Ethics and Animals, 5, pp. 27-38 [accessed on 21 February 2013].

Sapontzis, S. F. (1987) Morals, reason and animals, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Sittler-Adamczewski, T. (2016) “Consistent vegetarianism and the suffering of wild animals”, Ethics and Animals, 4 (2), pp. 94-102 [accessed on 27 May 2019].

Sözmen, B. İ. (2013) “Harm in the wild: Facing non-human suffering in nature”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 16, pp. 1075-1088.

Tomasik, B. (2013) “Ideas for volunteering to reduce wild-animal suffering”, Essays on Reducing Suffering, Jun 24 [accessed on 19 December 2015].

Tomasik, B. (2015) “The importance of wild animal suffering”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 133-152 [accessed on 20 November 2015].

Vinding, M. (2014) A Copernican revolution in ethics, Los Gatos: Smashwords [pp. 22-25, accessed on 1 July 2014].

Vinding, M. (2016) “The speciesism of leaving nature alone, and the theoretical case for ‘wildlife anti-natalism’”, Apeiron, 8, pp. 169-183 [accessed on 11 November 2016].


1 Rolston, H., III (1992) “Disvalues in nature”, The Monist, 75, pp. 250-278. Sagoff, M. (1993) “Animal liberation and environmental ethics: Bad marriage, quick divorce”, in Zimmerman, M. E.; Callicott, J. B.; Sessions, G.; Warren, K. J. & Clark, J. (eds.) Environmental philosophy: From animal rights to radical ecology, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, pp. 84-94.

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