Reducing Wild Animal Suffering Literature Library: Introductory Materials, Philosophical & Empirical Foundations

Th­ese read­ing mod­ules are put to­gether by the mem­bers of the group Wild An­i­mal Welfare Pro­ject Dis­cus­sion as part of the RWAS Liter­a­ture Library Pro­ject.

This se­ries of ar­ti­cles and es­says to­gether lay out cru­cial con­sid­er­a­tions ex­plain­ing and un­der­pin­ning the re­duc­tion of wild an­i­mal suffer­ing (RWAS) as a po­ten­tial fo­cus area for effec­tive al­tru­ists. Th­ese mod­ules are in­tended to serve mul­ti­ple func­tions:

In­tro­duc­tory Material


Brian To­masik. The Im­por­tance of Wild-An­i­mal Suffering

The num­ber of wild an­i­mals vastly ex­ceeds that of an­i­mals on fac­tory farms, in lab­o­ra­to­ries, or kept as pets. There­fore, an­i­mal ad­vo­cates should con­sider fo­cus­ing their efforts to raise con­cern about the suffer­ing that oc­curs in the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. While in the­ory this could in­volve try­ing di­rectly to en­g­ineer more hu­mane ecolog­i­cal sys­tems, in prac­tice I think ac­tivists should con­cen­trate on pro­mot­ing the meme of car­ing about wild an­i­mals to other ac­tivists, aca­demics, and other sym­pa­thetic groups. The mas­sive amount of suffer­ing oc­cur­ring now in na­ture is in­deed tragic, but it pales by com­par­i­son to the scale of good or harm that our de­scen­dants—with ad­vanced tech­nolog­i­cal ca­pa­bil­ity—might effect. I fear, for in­stance, that fu­ture hu­mans may un­der­take ter­raform­ing, di­rected pansper­mia, or sen­tient simu­la­tions with­out giv­ing much thought to the con­se­quences for wild an­i­mals. Our #1 pri­or­ity should be to en­sure that fu­ture hu­man in­tel­li­gence is used to pre­vent wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing, rather than to mul­ti­ply it.


Brian To­masik. Should We In­ter­vene in Na­ture?

I think we have an obli­ga­tion to ex­er­cise our rare po­si­tion in the his­tory of life to do the best we can in re­plac­ing the con­se­quences of evolu­tion’s sin­gu­lar fo­cus on re­pro­duc­tive sur­vival of species with a hu­mane ap­proach that val­ues in­stead the emo­tions of in­di­vi­d­ual sen­tient or­ganisms.

Jacy Reese (2015). Wild an­i­mals en­dure ill­ness, in­jury, and star­va­tion. We should help.

Ce­cil the lion cap­tured the world’s at­ten­tion ear­lier this year when an Amer­i­can den­tist hunted and kil­led him. Peo­ple were jus­tifi­ably out­raged at this tragedy — so much so, in fact, that they turned against the en­tire prac­tice of tro­phy hunt­ing. Numer­ous air­lines re­sponded by ban­ning the trans­port of a range of hunt­ing tro­phies on their flights. In Oc­to­ber, peo­ple were again in­furi­ated when a Ger­man hunter shot a 40- to 60-year-old elephant in Zim­babwe. Although this hunt was le­gal, un­like Ce­cil’s, the un­nec­es­sary kil­ling of wild an­i­mals con­tinues to draw pub­lic out­cry.

Our out­rage and com­pas­sion shouldn’t stop there. Hu­man ex­ploita­tion of an­i­mals is hor­rific and needs to be stamped out, but we should con­sider tak­ing ac­tion against an­other con­sid­er­able source of pain and suffer­ing for wild an­i­mals — na­ture it­self.

Jor­dan Ross (2016) Why The Suffer­ing of all Sen­tient Be­ings Should be Equally Considered

This line of rea­son­ing ex­plains why the suffer­ing of all sen­tient in­di­vi­d­u­als should be given eth­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tion.

Os­car Horta (2015). Why the Si­tu­a­tion of An­i­mals in the Wild Should Con­cern Us

In fact, there are rea­sons to think most an­i­mals have to en­dure lives which in­clude more suffer­ing than pos­i­tive well-be­ing. This doesn’t just hap­pen out of some con­tin­gent cir­cum­stances. Rather, it’s due to evolu­tion­ary and ecolog­i­cal fac­tors which have been re­searched in depth. To see this we can con­sider some very ba­sic facts about an­i­mal pop­u­la­tion dy­nam­ics.

Os­car Horta (2012). De­bunk­ing The Idyl­lic View of Nat­u­ral Processes

It is com­monly be­lieved that an­i­mal ethics en­tails re­spect for nat­u­ral pro­cesses, be­cause non­hu­man an­i­mals are able to live rel­a­tively easy and happy lives in the wild. How­ever, this as­sump­tion is wrong. Due to the most wide­spread re­pro­duc­tive strat­egy in na­ture, r-se­lec­tion, the over­whelming ma­jor­ity of non­hu­man an­i­mals die shortly af­ter they come into ex­is­tence. They starve or are eaten al­ive, which means their suffer­ing vastly out­weighs their hap­piness. Hence, con­cern for non­hu­man an­i­mals en­tails that we should try to in­ter­vene in na­ture to re­duce the enor­mous amount of harm they suffer. Even if this con­clu­sion may seem ex­tremely counter-in­tu­itive at first, it can only be re­jected from a speciesist view­point.

To­bias Bau­mann (2016). Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing Re­search: Mission

So­ciety has be­come in­creas­ingly aware of the suffer­ing that non­hu­man an­i­mals ex­pe­rience at the hands of hu­mans. Many are aware of the shock­ing re­al­ities of fac­tory farm­ing, or have seen ter­rible videos and images of an­i­mals be­ing ne­glected, abused, sub­jected to vi­o­lent and trau­matic ex­per­i­ments, ex­ploited for en­ter­tain­ment, or kil­led sys­tem­at­i­cally in slaugh­ter­house lines. But what is even more ne­glected, and even greater in scale, is the suffer­ing of an­i­mals in the wild.

Abra­ham Rowe (2017). An Ethic of Intervention

Our fo­cus is on wild an­i­mals, be­cause they bear the brunt of suffer­ing on Earth at pre­sent. And, to that end, the only ac­cept­able ac­tion for us is the one which re­duces their suffer­ing the most. We must ex­plic­itly en­dorse an ethic that is in di­rect con­flict with wilder­ness con­ser­va­tion. The wild that is con­served through these efforts has pre­ventable suffer­ing, so we have an obli­ga­tion to pre­vent it. Na­ture holds no value in and of it­self, and no value at all out­side of hu­man­ity’s per­sonal at­tach­ment to it. And while the loss of some­thing hu­man­ity is at­tached to cer­tainly causes suffer­ing for hu­mans, it seems safe to say that this suffer­ing is min­i­mal com­pared to that of an­i­mals in the wild. The moral crisis of na­ture is not that the sta­tus quo is threat­ened, but that the sta­tus quo is ter­rible.

Philo­soph­i­cal Foun­da­tions (epistemics, ethics, meta-ethics, etc.)

Brian To­masik—Car­ing about An­i­mal Suffering

The im­por­tance of an­i­mal suffer­ing seems to be one sig­nifi­cant la­cuna in the eth­i­cal views of most elite thinkers. It’s helpful to ex­pand peo­ple’s hearts and minds on this is­sue, al­though we need to make sure to do so in a way that ac­tu­ally helps suffer­ing an­i­mals in na­ture rather than re­in­forc­ing some of the other ideas of the an­i­mal-rights move­ment, like that we should “leave an­i­mals alone in all cases.”

Brian To­masik. In­ten­tion-Based Mo­ral Re­ac­tions Dis­tort In­tu­itions about Wild Animals

In­tu­itions about the in­ten­tion­al­ity of harm are rele­vant for moral judg­ments, but in the case of an­i­mals, in­ten­tions don’t gen­er­ally bear on how bad the harm feels to ex­pe­rience. It seems plau­si­ble that in­tu­itions about the moral rep­re­hen­si­bil­ity of in­ten­tional harm cause peo­ple to over­am­plify the raw bad­ness of in­ten­tional harm rel­a­tive to un­in­ten­tional. If so, this has the un­for­tu­nate side effect that peo­ple down­play the im­mense amounts of un­in­ten­tional suffer­ing in na­ture. Per­son­ify­ing na­ture’s cru­elties is one strat­egy we could test for deal­ing with this.

Jeff McMa­han (2010). The Meat Eaters

Viewed from a dis­tance, the nat­u­ral world of­ten pre­sents a vista of sub­lime, ma­jes­tic placidity. Yet be­neath the fo­li­age and hid­den from the dis­tant eye, a vast, un­ceas­ing slaugh­ter rages. Wher­ever there is an­i­mal life, preda­tors are stalk­ing, chas­ing, cap­tur­ing, kil­ling, and de­vour­ing their prey. Ago­nized suffer­ing and vi­o­lent death are ubiquitous and con­tin­u­ous. This hid­den car­nage pro­vided one ground for the philo­soph­i­cal pes­simism of Schopen­hauer, who con­tended that “one sim­ple test of the claim that the plea­sure in the world out­weighs the pain…is to com­pare the feel­ings of an an­i­mal that is de­vour­ing an­other with those of the an­i­mal be­ing de­voured.

Jeff McMa­han (2010). Preda­tors: A Response

There are cer­tain re­sponses to the ar­gu­ments in my post, “The Meat Eaters,” that re­cur with sur­pris­ing fre­quency through­out the com­ments. The fol­low­ing four ob­jec­tions, listed in the or­der of the rel­a­tive fre­quency of their ap­pear­ance, are the most com­mon.

Tor­res, M (2015). The Case for In­ter­ven­tion in Na­ture on Be­half of An­i­mals: a Crit­i­cal Re­view of the Main Ar­gu­ments against Intervention

If we as­sume that all sen­tient an­i­mals de­serve equal moral con­sid­er­a­tion and, there­fore, that their in­ter­ests are morally rele­vant, what should be our at­ti­tude re­gard­ing nat­u­ral phe­nom­ena like pre­da­tion or star­va­tion which are harm­ful for many wild an­i­mals? Do we have the prima fa­cie moral obli­ga­tion to try to miti­gate un­nec­es­sary, avoid­able and un­jus­tified an­i­mal suffer­ing in na­ture? In this pa­per I as­sume two main the­ses: (1) Hu­mans and (many) an­i­mals de­serve equal moral con­sid­er­a­tion; this im­plies that (2) We have the prima fa­cie moral obli­ga­tion to try to miti­gate un­nec­es­sary, avoid­able and un­jus­tified an­i­mal suffer­ing. Based on these as­sump­tions, I ar­gue that we are morally obli­gated to aid an­i­mals in the wild when­ever do­ing so would not origi­nate as much or more suffer­ing than it would pre­vent.

Eze Paez (2015). Re­fus­ing Help and In­flict­ing Harm. A Cri­tique of the En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist View

Due to a va­ri­ety of nat­u­ral causes, suffer­ing pre­dom­i­nates over well-be­ing in the lives of wild an­i­mals. From an an­ti­speciesist stand­point that con­sid­ers the in­ter­ests of all sen­tient in­di­vi­d­u­als, we should in­ter­vene in na­ture to benefit these an­i­mals, pro­vided that the ex­pectable re­sult is net pos­i­tive. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist view the aim of benefit­ing wild an­i­mals can­not jus­tify in­ter­ven­ing in na­ture. In ad­di­tion, harm­ful hu­man in­ter­ven­tions can some­times be jus­tified. This view as­sumes that (i) cer­tain en­tities such as ecosys­tems or species have in­trin­sic value, and that (ii) at least some­times these val­ues are more im­por­tant than non­hu­man well-be­ing. In this ar­ti­cle I re­view the ar­gu­ments in sup­port of this view ad­vanced by three promi­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists (Albert Sch­weitzer, Paul W. Tay­lor and J. Baird Cal­li­cott) and show how none of them suc­ceed at ground­ing these as­sump­tions.

Tyler Cowen (2003). Polic­ing Nature

Utility, rights, and holis­tic stan­dards all point to­ward some mod­est steps to limit or check the preda­tory ac­tivity of car­nivores rel­a­tive to their vic­tims. At the very least, we should limit cur­rent sub­sidies to na­ture’s car­nivores. Polic­ing na­ture need not be ab­surdly costly or vi­o­late com­mon-sense in­tu­itions.

Ole Martin Moen (2016). The ethics of wild an­i­mal suffer­ing

An­i­mal ethics has re­ceived a lot of at­ten­tion over the last four decades. Its fo­cus, how­ever, has al­most ex­clu­sively been on the welfare of cap­tive an­i­mals, ig­nor­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of an­i­mals: those liv­ing in the wild. I sug­gest that this one-sided fo­cus is un­war­ranted. On the em­piri­cal side, I ar­gue that wild an­i­mals over­whelm­ingly out­num­ber cap­tive an­i­mals, and that billions of wild an­i­mals are likely to have lives that are even more painful and dis­tress­ing than those of their cap­tive coun­ter­parts. On the nor­ma­tive side, I ar­gue that as long as we have du­ties of as­sis­tance to­wards hu­mans suffer­ing from nat­u­ral causes, and we re­ject an­thro­pocen­trism, we also have du­ties of as­sis­tance to­wards an­i­mals suffer­ing in the wild.

Ben Davi­dow (2013). Why Most Peo­ple Don’t Care About Wild-An­i­mal Suffering

Var­i­ous in­tu­itions pre­vent peo­ple from tak­ing wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing as se­ri­ously as it de­serves, in­clud­ing sta­tus-quo bias, just-world hy­poth­e­sis, and lack of in­ten­tional harm. For­tu­nately, most pro­gres­sive move­ments have suc­cess­fully over­come deep-seated bias, so hope re­mains for the wild-an­i­mal move­ment.

Kyle Jo­hannsen (2017). An­i­mal Rights and the Prob­lem of r-Strate­gists.

Wild an­i­mal re­pro­duc­tion poses an im­por­tant moral prob­lem for an­i­mal rights the­o­rists. Many wild an­i­mals give birth to large num­bers of un­cared-for offspring, and thus child mor­tal­ity rates are far higher in na­ture than they are among hu­man be­ings. In light of this re­pro­duc­tive strat­egy – tra­di­tion­ally referred to as the ‘r-strat­egy’ – does con­cern for the in­ter­ests of wild an­i­mals re­quire us to in­ter­vene in na­ture? In this pa­per, I ar­gue that an­i­mal rights the­o­rists should em­brace fal­li­bil­ity-con­strained in­ter­ven­tion­ism: the view that in­ter­ven­tion in na­ture is de­sir­able but should be con­strained by our ig­no­rance of the in­ner work­ings of ecosys­tems.

Though au­thors some­times as­sume that large-scale in­ter­ven­tion re­quires turn­ing na­ture into an enor­mous zoo, I sug­gest an al­ter­na­tive. With suffi­cient re­search, a new form of gene edit­ing called CRISPR (Clus­tered Reg­u­larly In­ter­spaced Short Pal­in­dromic Re­peats) promises to one day give us the ca­pac­ity to in­ter­vene with­out per­pet­u­ally in­terfer­ing with wild an­i­mals’ liberties

Ca­tia Faria (2016, doc­toral the­sis). An­i­mal Ethics Goes Wild: The Prob­lem of Wild An­i­mal Suffer­ing and In­ter­ven­tion in Nature

In this the­sis I claim that, on the as­sump­tion that we have rea­sons to as­sist other in­di­vi­d­u­als in need, there are de­ci­sive rea­sons to in­ter­vene in na­ture to pre­vent or re­duce the harms wild an­i­mals suffer, pro­vided that it is fea­si­ble and that the ex­pected re­sult is net pos­i­tive. More­over, I claim that these rea­sons are as strong as those we would have to in­ter­vene in or­der to help hu­man be­ings that were in similar cir­cum­stances. This is be­cause: (a) all sen­tient in­di­vi­d­u­als, in­clud­ing non­hu­man an­i­mals, are morally con­sid­er­able, ir­re­spec­tive of their species or other alleged species-spe­cific at­tributes; (b) the in­ter­ests of wild an­i­mals are sys­tem­at­i­cally frus­trated by differ­ent nat­u­ral events, so that most of them have lives of net suffer­ing; and (c) the var­i­ous ob­jec­tions that may be put for­ward against in­ter­ven­tion in na­ture ul­ti­mately fail to show that our rea­sons against in­ter­ven­ing are suffi­ciently strong.

Anti-In­ter­ven­tion:

Jozef Keu­lartz (2016). Should the Lion Eat Straw Like the Ox? An­i­mal Ethics and the Pre­da­tion Problem

Stephen Clark’s ar­ti­cle The Rights of Wild Things from 1979 was the start­ing point for the con­sid­er­a­tion in the an­i­mal ethics liter­a­ture of the so-called ‘pre­da­tion prob­lem’. Clark ex­am­ines the re­sponse of David Ge­orge Ritchie to Henry Stephens Salt, the first writer who has ar­gued ex­plic­itly in fa­vor of an­i­mal rights. Ritchie at­tempts to demon­strate—via re­duc­tio ad ab­sur­dum—that an­i­mals can­not have rights, be­cause grant­ing them rights would oblige us to pro­tect prey an­i­mals against preda­tors that wrongly vi­o­late their rights. This ar­ti­cle nav­i­gates the reader through the de­bate sparked off by Clarke’s ar­ti­cle, with as fi­nal des­ti­na­tion what I con­sider to be the best way to deal with the pre­da­tion prob­lem. I will suc­ces­sively dis­cuss ar­gu­ments against the pre­da­tion re­duc­tio from Singer’s util­i­tar­ian ap­proach, Re­gan’s de­on­tolog­i­cal ap­proach, Nuss­baum’s ca­pa­bil­ity ap­proach, and Don­ad­son and Kym­licka’s poli­ti­cal the­ory of an­i­mal rights.

Yew Kwang-Ng (1995) - Towards welfare biol­ogy: Evolu­tion­ary eco­nomics of an­i­mal con­scious­ness and suffering

Welfare biol­ogy is the study of liv­ing things and their en­vi­ron­ment with re­spect to their welfare (defined as net hap­piness, or en­joy­ment minus suffer­ing). De­spite difficul­ties of as­cer­tain­ing and mea­sur­ing welfare and rele­vancy to nor­ma­tive is­sues, welfare biol­ogy is a pos­i­tive sci­ence. Evolu­tion­ary eco­nomics and pop­u­la­tion dy­nam­ics are used to help an­swer ba­sic ques­tions in welfare biol­ogy: Which species are af­fec­tive sen­tients ca­pa­ble of welfare? Do they en­joy pos­i­tive or nega­tive welfare? Can their welfare be dra­mat­i­cally in­creased? Un­der plau­si­ble ax­ioms, all con­scious species are plas­tic and all plas­tic species are con­scious (and, with a stronger ax­iom, ca­pa­ble of welfare). More com­plex niches favour the evolu­tion of more ra­tio­nal species. Evolu­tion­ary eco­nomics also sup­ports the com­mon-sense view that in­di­vi­d­ual sen­tients failing to sur­vive to mate suffer nega­tive welfare. A kind of God-made (or evolu­tion-cre­ated) fair­ness be­tween species is also un­ex­pect­edly found. The con­trast be­tween growth max­i­miza­tion (as may be favoured by nat­u­ral se­lec­tion), av­er­age welfare, and to­tal welfare max­i­miza­tion is dis­cussed. It is shown that welfare could be in­creased with­out even sac­ri­fic­ing num­bers (at equil­ibrium). Since the long-term re­duc­tion in an­i­mal suffer­ing de­pends on sci­en­tific ad­vances, strict re­stric­tions on an­i­mal ex­per­i­men­ta­tion may be counter-pro­duc­tive to an­i­mal welfare.


Brian To­masik—Medicine vs. Deep Ecology

Ecosys­tems are ex­traor­di­nar­ily com­plex and re­quire care to un­der­stand well. How­ever, other sys­tems are com­plex too: Macroe­conomies, na­tional poli­ti­cal struc­tures, and even the hu­man body. Com­plex­ity has not stopped us from rightly aiming to im­prove those sys­tems by care­ful sci­en­tific in­ves­ti­ga­tion, so why shouldn’t we ap­ply a similar at­ti­tude to­ward in­ter­ven­tion in na­ture to re­duce wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing?

Brian To­masik. Ap­plied Welfare Biol­ogy and Why Wild-An­i­mal Ad­vo­cates Should Fo­cus on Not Spread­ing Nature

Ap­plied welfare biol­ogy in­volves as­sess­ing how en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies af­fect net wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing. This re­search is im­por­tant and should be pur­sued, and I out­line some in­ter­est­ing ques­tions in this field for peo­ple to study. That said, ap­plied welfare biol­ogy has some risks, in­clud­ing en­courag­ing poli­cies that are un­pop­u­lar and whose im­ple­men­ta­tion could slightly in­crease in­ter­na­tional con­flict. There­fore, I think the first pri­or­ity of an­i­mal ad­vo­cates should be to ar­gue against fu­ture pro­jects to spread wilder­ness into space or com­pu­ta­tional sys­tems. Not ex­pand­ing wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing is an eas­ier case to make and is ul­ti­mately more im­por­tant in ex­pec­ta­tion.

Michael Plant (2016). The Un­proven and Un­prov­able Case for [Net] Wild An­i­mal Suffering

I’ve been sur­prised to learn re­cently that so many peo­ple I know in the effec­tive al­tru­ism com­mu­nity be­lieve there is more to­tal suffer­ing than hap­piness in the lives of wild an­i­mals. Brian To­masik ap­pears to be the main cur­rent pro­po­nent of this view, de­vel­op­ing the work done by economist Yew-Kwang Ng in the 90s. To­masik has taken his con­cerns with wild an­i­mal suffer­ing (WAS) to its log­i­cal limit, ar­gu­ing we should con­sider de­stroy­ing ecosytems so that fewer an­i­mals ex­ist. This cuts against the pop­u­lar in­tu­ition, fre­quently pro­moted by na­ture doc­u­men­taries, that wild an­i­mals live en­joy­able, if some­what bar­baric, lives and are best left to their own de­vices. As the num­ber of an­i­mals in the wild is so vast, WAS is there­fore po­ten­tially of huge moral im­por­tance. Con­cerned that I had over­looked the area, I in­ves­ti­gated. After some con­sid­er­a­tion, I think the ar­gu­ments in favour of there be­ing net WAS are un­con­vinc­ing. I de­cided to write this es­say to ex­plain why oth­ers should be similarly un­con­vinced.

Ozy Bren­nan (2017). “Fit and Happy”: How Do We Mea­sure Wild-An­i­mal Suffer­ing?

In or­der to un­der­stand wild-an­i­mal welfare, we must be able to mea­sure it. To tar­get the most im­por­tant causes of wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand which an­i­mals suffer the most and what causes their suffer­ing. In this pa­per, I be­gin by re­view­ing the­o­ret­i­cal ar­gu­ments about wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing, then move to dis­cussing var­i­ous em­piri­cal strate­gies for as­sess­ing the welfare of wild an­i­mals. I con­clude with a brief dis­cus­sion of how to re­duce the time and ex­pense of as­sess­ing wild-an­i­mal welfare.

Ge­or­gia Ray (2017). Par­a­site Load and Disease in Wild Animals

This piece looks at the scale of the par­a­site load on wild an­i­mals, and the effects of par­a­sites on wild-an­i­mal suffer­ing. There is an ap­pendix on ways in which re­searchers mea­sure par­a­site and dis­ease load and the challenges as­so­ci­ated with these mea­sure­ments.

Brian To­masik (2017). How Many Wild An­i­mals Are There?

This page offers some rough es­ti­mates of the num­bers of wild an­i­mals on Earth. Col­lec­tively, wild land ver­te­brates prob­a­bly num­ber be­tween 10^11 and 10^14. Wild marine ver­te­brates num­ber at least 10^13 and per­haps a few or­ders of mag­ni­tude higher. Ter­res­trial and marine arthro­pods each prob­a­bly num­ber at least 10^18.

Ge­or­gia Ray (2017). How Many Wild An­i­mals Are There?

For such a straight­for­ward ques­tion, the an­swer to how many in­di­vi­d­ual an­i­mals ex­ist is sur­pris­ingly un­ex­plored in sci­en­tific liter­a­ture. A va­ri­ety of rea­son­able es­ti­mates have been made for the num­ber of an­i­mal species, but means of gath­er­ing data on an­i­mal abun­dance in differ­ent en­vi­ron­ments are so varied that the ac­tual num­ber of in­di­vi­d­ual an­i­mals is rel­a­tively un­ex­am­ined. Here, we dis­cuss some es­ti­mates that ap­proach this num­ber, and as­sess their ac­cu­racy.

Wladimir J. Alonso and Cyn­thia Schuck-Paim (2017). Life-fates: mean­ingful cat­e­gories to es­ti­mate an­i­mal suffer­ing in the wild

The study of wild an­i­mal suffer­ing and de­sign of pu­ta­tive strate­gies to miti­gate suffer­ing in the wild can greatly benefit from the de­vel­op­ment of an­a­lyt­i­cal and con­cep­tual tools to mea­sure the ir­reg­u­lar dis­tri­bu­tion of suffer­ing within species and nat­u­ral pop­u­la­tions. To this end, we pro­pose a new con­cept, that of life-fate. A life-fate is a unit that op­er­a­tionally ag­gre­gates in­di­vi­d­u­als from the same species based on the similar­i­ties of crit­i­cal life events and haz­ards be­fal­ling them. The an­a­lyt­i­cal frame­work based on this con­cept is thus one fo­cused on cat­e­go­riz­ing ma­jor differ­ences within the di­ver­sity of ex­pe­riences that sen­tient in­di­vi­d­u­als are ex­posed to dur­ing their ex­is­tence. Such a frame­work forces a fo­cus on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of at-risk groups, or hotspots of in­di­vi­d­ual suffer­ing within a pop­u­la­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, the ap­proach can provide in­sights into po­ten­tial biolog­i­cal adap­ta­tions evolved in re­sponse to sub­sets of haz­ards in­di­vi­d­u­als are ex­posed to, en­able the de­scrip­tion of the di­ver­sity and dis­tri­bu­tion of suffer­ing within species in a sys­tem­atic man­ner, and in­form the pub­lic about a wide­spread, yet ne­glected, as­pect of life in the wild (suffer­ing) based on the no­tion of in­di­vi­d­ual life ex­pe­riences and sto­ries – con­cepts eas­ier to em­pathize with than mor­tal­ity and mor­bidity figures. Fi­nally, the con­cept of life-fates should also prove use­ful to re­veal com­monly hid­den sources of suffer­ing in other con­texts, in­clud­ing those in­volved in the pro­duc­tion of an­i­mal-de­rived prod­ucts and ser­vices.