Rabbits, stoats and the predator problem: Why a strong animal rights position need not call for human intervention to protect prey from predators
journal contributionposted on 14.04.2022, 11:12 by Josh MilburnJosh Milburn
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.
Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland
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