A couple of vegetarian philosophers with no knowledge of biology are alarmed…no, horrified at what’s going on out there in the wilderness.
The animal welfare conversation has generally centered on human-caused animal suffering and human-caused animal deaths. But we’re not the only ones who hunt and kill. It is true (and terrible) that an estimated 20 billion chickens were born into captivity in 2013 alone, many of whom live in terrible conditions in factory farms. But there are estimated 60 billion land birds and over 100 billion land mammals living in the wild. Who is working to alleviate their suffering? As the philosopher Jeff McMahan writes: “Wherever there is animal life, predators are stalking, chasing, capturing, killing, and devouring their prey. Agonized suffering and violent death are ubiquitous and continuous.”
They have a solution to this problem, though. We should humanely execute all predators. It’s the most ethical solution!
By killing predators, we can save the lives of the many prey animals like wildebeests, zebras, and buffalos in the local area that would otherwise be killed in order to keep the animals at the top of the food chain alive. And there’s no reason for considering the lives of predators like lions to be more important than the lives of their prey.
To be fair, they consider other alternatives to killing predators.
…even if we care about preventing predators from killing other animals, it is surely better to do this humanely than to kill them. For example, we could take the predators out of their natural environment and give them good lives that don’t involve hunting prey.
Yes. The ethical thing to do would be to put all lions in cages and give them a healthy, nutritious diet made of soy protein.
They also recognize that other contributors to animal suffering are parasites and disease, so they think we should be treating wild animals for these problems as well. Apparently, the only suffering that counts is that of mammals and birds, so knocking off a lot of invertebrates has no ethical consequences, just as killing or otherwise neutralizing animals that eat other animals is acceptable, because they’re causing suffering. We need to turn the world into a giant children’s petting zoo, I guess.
It’s weird. It’s as if they are completely unaware of the fact that predation maintains and increases biodiversity, or that there’s more to wildlife than mammals and birds, or that life is a complex web of interactions — that bears killing salmon is a critical source of phosphorus for trees. Why do they hate forests?
This is a real problem, that dumbass ignorant philosophers can propose idiotic ideas in the guise of ethics — ideas that, if they were even attempted to be implemented, would cause immense destruction and suffering in the non-human world.
Now normally, I wouldn’t suggest this, since I’m usually sympathetic to the importance of philosophy, but when they threaten my biological world, there is only one rational response, and it’s inspired by the MacAskill’s essay. We need to kill all the philosophers. Or, at least, humanely pen them up with their own kind, throwing them occasional lumps of tofu and bales of sprouts, behind soundproof glass walls, so we can occasionally bring our children to the exhibit to watch. “See, kids, this is what will happen to you if you don’t do your biology homework.”
If you’re arguing that the authors intended a bit of Swiftian satire, stop. One of them has replied to me.
So you finally understood that the piece was serious.