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The Harvard Review of Philosophy

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published on September 12, 2018

Clare Palmer
DOI: 10.5840/harvardreview201891015

Should We Offer Assistance to Both Wild and Domesticated Animals?

In this paper, I consider whether we should offer assistance to both wild and domesticated animals when they are suffering. I argue that we may have different obligations to assist wild and domesticated animals because they have different morally-relevant relationships with us. I explain how different approaches to animal ethics, which, for simplicity, I call capacity-oriented and context-oriented, address questions about animal assistance differently. I then defend a broadly context-oriented approach, on which we have special obligations to assist animals that we have made vulnerable to or dependent on us. This means that we should normally help suffering domesticated animals, but that we lack general obligations to assist wild animals, since we are not responsible for their vulnerability. However, we may have special obligations to help wild animals where we have made them vulnerable to or dependent on us (by habitat destruction or by captivity, for instance). I consider some obvious difficulties with this context-oriented approach, and I conclude by looking more closely at the question whether we should intervene, if we could do so successfully, to reduce wild animal suffering by reducing predation.