Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 333–345 | Cite as

Animal Rights and the Problem of r-Strategists

  • Kyle JohannsenEmail author


Wild animal reproduction poses an important moral problem for animal rights theorists. Many wild animals give birth to large numbers of uncared-for offspring, and thus child mortality rates are far higher in nature than they are among human beings. In light of this reproductive strategy – traditionally referred to as the ‘r-strategy’ – does concern for the interests of wild animals require us to intervene in nature? In this paper, I argue that animal rights theorists should embrace fallibility-constrained interventionism: the view that intervention in nature is desirable but should be constrained by our ignorance of the inner workings of ecosystems. Though authors sometimes assume that large-scale intervention requires turning nature into an enormous zoo, I suggest an alternative. With sufficient research, a new form of gene editing called CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) promises to one day give us the capacity to intervene without perpetually interfering with wild animals’ liberties.


Animal rights R-strategists Wild animals CRISPR 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at Queen’s University’s “Justice League” research group, the 2015 World Congress of the IVR, the 60th Annual Congress of the Canadian Philosophical Association, and the North American Society for Social Philosophy’s 33rd International Social Philosophy Conference. I’m greatful to the members of my audiences for their comments; as well as to Sue Donaldson, Oscar Horta, Will Kymlicka, and three anonymous reviewers from Ethical Theory and Moral Practice for written comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Department of PhilosophySaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada

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