The Speciesism of Leaving Nature Alone, and the Theoretical Case for “Wildlife Anti-Natalism”
Sentient beings should be granted moral consideration based on their sentience and nothing else. Fortunately, most of us now seem to realize this when it comes to humans: the sentience of human individuals alone implies that they should be granted full moral consideration. Neither their intelligence, gender, nor race is relevant. What we have yet to acknowledge, however, is that there is no justification for not extending this insight to non-human beings too. Discriminating against individuals based on their species membership is no more justified than discriminating against individuals based on their race or gender. In other words, speciesism must be rejected.1 From this simple starting point – that speciesism is indefensible – the indefensibility of refusing to help non-human beings in nature follows quite directly, as such a refusal is transparently speciesist.
The Speciesism of Non-Intervention
The speciesism of leaving alone non-human beings who suffer in nature is not difficult to see if we turn our attention to the case of humans subjected to the torments of nature. For when it comes to humans, we realize that we have an obligation to help individuals who suffer from natural ills such as starvation and disease, regardless of whether humans played any role in bringing these conditions about. Not only is it not wrong to help humans who suffer from these ills, it is wrong not to do so. Consider, for example, the case of smallpox: given that we were able to eradicate this horrible disease and save people from the suffering and death it caused, we clearly should. Withholding the cure would be beyond cruel. The same holds true in the case of humans who are being eaten by predators. If a man is about to be eaten by lions, and we are able to interrupt this horrible event, we clearly should.2