Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1075–1088 | Cite as

Harm in the Wild: Facing Non-Human Suffering in Nature

  • Beril İdemen SözmenEmail author


The paper is concerned with whether the reductio of the natural-harm-argument can be avoided by disvaluing non-human suffering and death. According to the natural-harm-argument, alleviating the suffering of non-human animals is not a moral obligation for human beings because such an obligation would also morally prescribe human intervention in nature for the protection of non-human animal interests which, it claims, is absurd. It is possible to avoid the reductio by formulating the moral obligation to alleviate non-human suffering and death with two constraints: The first concerns the practicability of intervention and establishes a moral obligation to intervene only in cases where this is humanly possible. The other constraint acknowledges that lack of competence in humans can risk producing more harm than good by intervening. A third way of avoiding the problematic version of the natural-harm-argument considers whether human and non-human suffering and death are sufficiently different to allow different types of responses. I argue that the attempt to avoid the reductio of the natural-harm-argument by disvaluing non-human death can only work with an anthropocentric bias, which accords to non-human suffering and death a fundamentally different value and that it fails to dismiss the moral obligation created by the harm that non-human animals face in the wild.


Applied ethics Animal rights Intervention Moral obligation 



I would like to thank Cátia Faria for her inspiration and contribution. I would also like two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIstanbul Technical UniversityIstanbulTurkey

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