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To Assist or Not to Assist? Assessing the Potential Moral Costs of Humanitarian Intervention in Nature

Kyle Johannsen

Environmental Values 29 (2020): 29-45. doi: 10.3197/096327119X15579936382644

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In light of the extent of wild animal suffering, some philosophers have adopted the view that we should cautiously assist wild animals on a large scale. Recently, their view has come under criticism. According to one objection, even cautious intervention is unjustified because fallibility is allegedly intractable. By contrast, a second objection states that we should abandon caution and intentionally destroy habitat in order to prevent wild animals from reproducing. In my paper, I argue that intentional habitat destruction is wrong because negative duties are more stringent than positive duties. However, I also argue that the possible benefits of ecological damage, combined with the excusability of unintended, unforeseeable harm, suggest that fallibility should not paralyse us.


Animal rights, wild animal suffering, Utilitarianism, fallibility, r-Strategists

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Editorial: The Ethics of Human Intervention on Behalf of 'Others'. Claudia Carter

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