Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The question of predators...............

I have often thought about the animal people that prey on other animal people. The fear, pain and death they cause......

If this is a question that has bothered you, a very interesting piece of writing just appeared in the New York Times. The author is Dr. Jeff McMahan, a professor of ethics at Rutgers. At one point in the essay, he writes:
Our primary duty with respect to animals is therefore to stop tormenting and killing them as a means of satisfying our desire to taste certain flavors or to decorate our bodies in certain ways.  But if suffering is bad for animals when we cause it, it is also bad for them when other animals cause it.  That suffering is bad for those who experience it is not a human prejudice; nor is an effort to prevent wild animals from suffering a moralistic attempt to police the behavior of other animals.  Even if we are not morally required to prevent suffering among animals in the wild for which we are not responsible, we do have a moral reason  to prevent it, just as we have a general moral reason to prevent suffering among human beings that is independent both of the cause of the suffering and of our relation to the victims.
I sort of liked his conclusion: "it would be instrumentally good if  predatory animal species were to become extinct and be replaced by new herbivorous species, provided that this could occur without ecological upheaval involving more harm than would be prevented by the end of predation."

Thanks to this post at Vegan Soapbox for referencing the essay, you might want also to read the post because it points out that the essay had another sub-theme about the destruction caused by our appetite for food from animals.

5 comments:

Krissa said...

I've never been able to watch those nature shows where say a zebra gets taken down and killed by lions or crocodiles...Once, I accidentally saw more than a few seconds of a deer who had been bitten by a komodo dragon who was in the process of stalking/killing her. I was upset for a long time. But I love all creatures, great and small and I do wish there were a way that we could all live together with no one causing harm to anyone else. Years ago my husband was convinced that any carnivore (I think we were discussing wolves at first when this came up, if I remember correclty) could be taught to eat vegetables and survive on that diet. Sadly, as we know, this is not true. Still can't watch anything like a shark killing a seal, but I do love sharks, too. Oh yeah, and I once made a huge mistake of watching a documentary about Jane Goodall (not sure how I did that) and chimpanzees and I cried a lot over that. Chimpanzees can be SO cruel to each other. It was horrible. It was pretty much like watching mankind. So I can't even say that there is no intent to torture, because with some of our fellow creatures, there is. But for some reason, I don't hold them accountable the way I do humans. Maybe this is a prejudice on my part. I don't know.

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting Krissa. Prejudice? I don't know either yet I do know that the all cruelty inflicted by chimpanzees and all other animal people is minuscule compared to what human animals have been and are doing...the imposition of unnecessary pain or suffering or fear by any living being on another being is reprehensible.

Bea Elliott said...

The end of predation... The lion lies with the lamb. A Peaceable Kingdom. I love the idea. But wouldn't it change the very nature of the lion and wolf? Would they mind if we did? I have no clue - But I do admit to an unjust "prejudice" in favor of beings who can exist without causing great harm. I know it's wrong - But I do love the gentle animals more. :(

Of interest is this article that studies the war-like activities of Ngogo chimpanzees.
http://advocacy.britannica.com/blog/advocacy/2010/10/chimpanzee-warfare-in-kibale-national-park/
It brings up other concerns of mine that aggressiveness is a dominant pattern in males... In which case - might the cure to predation be in adjusting testosterone levels in human people and animal people? And that possibility brings up an entirely new wrinkle.

I just don't know if we're allowed to tamper with such things... Meanwhile I'm sure there are scientists somewhere trying to create a mindless, violent automaton used specifically for combat. All they'd have to do is tweak the empathy gene and presto... We'd have the "universal soldier". It's frightening what we're becoming capable of. :(

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting Bea. I wonder about the use of tools. Were we an animal that didn't cheat by using tools....could we have expanded and be as destructive as we are?

Bea Elliott said...

Maybe all our power is in our thumbs? It allowed for manipulating matter - then eventually manipulating beings. (?) I can only hope we re-train our brains to use this "power" for the loving good of others. Then we would truly "evolve".