Driven by concern about the suffering of animals in nature, Christopher Belshaw (2016) argued that if we were exclusively concerned with these animals’ good, we should reduce the number of free-living animals. We should prevent free-living animals from coming into existence and, if this is not possible, we should painlessly end their lives as soon as we can. This holds, according to Belshaw, even if the future lives of these animals would contain much more enjoyment than suffering. Belshaw’s argument rests on two premises. First, he assumes that death does not harm an animal in a way that matters. Second, he takes it that most free-living animals lead a life of uncompensated suffering because the enjoyments in an animal’s life, even if more predominant, cannot outweigh the animal’s suffering. Therefore, since uncompensated suffering exists in about every animal’s life and matters morally and killing the animal does not harm the animal in a way that matters, killing the animal is an appropriate intervention with the aim of preventing its suffering. This article criticizes both assumptions of Belshaw’s argument and shows that his conclusion is insufficiently supported.


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pp. 78-95
Launched on MUSE
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