Environmental Ethics

Volume 30, Issue 4, Winter 2008

Ty Raterman
Pages 417-434

An Environmentalist’s Lament on Predation

That some animals need to prey on others in order to live is lamentable. While no one wants predators to die of starvation, a world in which no animal needed to prey on others would, in some meaningful sense, be a better world. Predation is lamentable for four primary reasons: (1) predation often inflicts pain on prey animals; (2) it often frustrates prey animals’ desires; (3) anything other than lamentation—which would include relishing predation as well as being indifferent to it—is in tension with sensitivity to many other forms of hardship and suffering; and (4) lamenting is demanded by the virtues of compassion and gentleness. One can lament predation even while acknowledging respects in which predation is genuinely praiseworthy. One can esteem admirable traits developed through and displayed in predation without esteeming the mechanism through which they are developed or the activity in which they are displayed. In addition, appreciating the check on population that predation provides does not preclude lamenting predation. While holding these positions does involve (in some sense) opposing nature itself and failing to appreciate predators for exactly what they are, doing so does not disqualify a person as an environmentalist. Finally, one can lament predation without being logically committed thereby to preventing or disrupting it.