Animal Rights and the Problem of r-Strategists

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (2):333-45 (2017)
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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 promises to one day give us the capacity to intervene without perpetually interfering with wild animals’ liberties.

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Kyle Johannsen
Trent University


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