Applying speciesism to wild-animal suffering

Two terms to define here first:

Wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing is the idea that an­i­mals in the wild ex­pe­rience some amount of suffer­ing nat­u­rally, e.g. from par­a­sites, ex­po­sure, hunger, be­ing kil­led slowly by preda­tors, etc. Some ar­gue that the life of an av­er­age wild-an­i­mal (es­pe­cially when you con­sider marine an­i­mals and in­sects) is so full of suffer­ing that they ex­pe­rience more suffer­ing than wellbe­ing. This might lead to the con­clu­sion that their lives are not worth liv­ing, and would be bet­ter off not be­ing born, so to speak. (Note this doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally mean we should kill all preda­tor an­i­mals, as some straw­man mak­ers of this would ar­gue)

Speciesism I’ll leave to Peter Singer to define (from his book An­i­mal Liber­a­tion): “a prej­u­dice or at­ti­tude of bias in fa­vor of the in­ter­ests of mem­bers of one’s own species and against those of mem­bers of other species”. It is a similar idea to racism, sex­ism, or any other ‘ism’.

Many ar­gue (and I’d agree) that caus­ing harm to an­i­mals for small amounts of hu­man plea­sure (such as eat­ing their flesh or se­cre­tions) is speciesist. I pre­fer the util­i­tar­ian frame­work, but I con­cede that this is speciesist as much as the mis­treat­ment of other races would be racist.

I’ve seen re­cently some peo­ple ar­gue that think­ing we have the right to in­ter­vene in the lives of wild an­i­mals in any way to try and alle­vi­ate suffer­ing is speciesist. I ar­gue here the op­po­site.

When a hu­man is in­ten­tion­ally harmed by an­other hu­man, we nat­u­rally think that this is bad. Most peo­ple also be­lieve that a hu­man in­ten­tion­ally harm­ing a non-hu­man is bad (though some will ex­empt cer­tain an­i­mals from this care!). When a hu­man suffers through some nat­u­ral cause, e.g. ex­po­sure, hunger, dis­ease, we tend to also think this is bad, and will do our best to help them. Why should we think that the same suffer­ing, ex­pe­rienced by a wild an­i­mal, is not bad, or that we shouldn’t also try to pre­vent it?

Suffer­ing is bad re­gard­less of the cause, as the in­di­vi­d­ual ex­pe­rienc­ing the suffer­ing doesn’t in­trin­si­cally care where the suffer­ing came from. And so I ar­gue that car­ing about nat­u­ral hu­man suffer­ing but not nat­u­ral non-hu­man suffer­ing is speciesist.

Cross posted from - http://​​www.michaeldello.com/​​is-not-car­ing-about-wild-an­i­mal-suffer­ing-speciesist/​​