Rabbits, stoats and the predator problem: Why a strong animal rights position need not call for human intervention to protect prey from predators

Josh Milburn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Animal rights positions face the ‘predator problem’: the suggestion that if the rights of nonhuman animals are to be protected, then we are obliged to interfere in natural ecosystems to protect prey from predators. Generally, rather than embracing this conclusion, animal ethicists have rejected it, basing this objection on a number of different arguments. This paper considers but challenges three such arguments, before defending a fourth possibility. Rejected are Peter Singer’s suggestion that interference will lead to more harm than good, Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s suggestion that respect for nonhuman sovereignty necessitates non-interference in normal circumstances, and Alasdair Cochrane’s solution based on the claim that predators cannot survive without killing prey. The possibility defended builds upon Tom Regan’s suggestion that predators, as moral patients but not moral agents, cannot violate the rights of their prey, and so the rights of the prey, while they do exist, do not call for intervention. This idea is developed by a consideration of how moral agents can be more or less responsible for a given event, and defended against criticisms offered by thinkers including Alasdair Cochrane and Dale Jamieson.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)273-289
    JournalRes Publica
    Volume21
    Issue number3
    Early online date04 Jun 2015
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

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