If you follow the comments here at Tet Zoo you’ll already have seen the thread that’s been developing on the ‘Giant killers: macropredation in lions’ article (originally posted back in February, and itself a re-post of a ver 1 article from November 2006). If you don’t follow the comments, the following will be new to you. It seems that philosopher David Pearce is honestly proposing that we should feel ethically compelled to eradicate all suffering and cruelty from the natural world in order to create a sort of global vegan paradise where predators don’t exist. Pearce terms this the Abolitionist Project (for more on Pearce and his ideas see this wikipedia article). His plans are, as discussed in depth on his website, theoretically plausible and involve such things as the use of brain implants, behaviour-modifying drugs, and genetic manipulation. Eventually, the lion will, literally, lie down with the lamb, hyaenas will not feel compelled to eat baby elephants alive, and – I presume – ladybirds will not eat aphids, and so on [adjacent image from Catztours].
I personally feel that the philosophy behind the proposal is completely wrong for many reasons. It imposes sentimental ideas and human moral judgment on other species; it (if carried through to eventuality) would mean an end to a great deal of natural selection; it is fundamentally contrary to the history of life and would result in the ultimate bastardisation of the natural world; and, perhaps most offensive of all, it PROMOTES the extinction and biological modification of thousands (or tens of thousands or more) of species. It would also result in the total collapse of the global ecosystem, but I think that’s a minor detail. I cannot help but feel that these ideas are amoral and utterly, utterly wrong. I might not like the sight of slow, lingering death and of animals being eaten alive by others, but I celebrate such processes as part of the natural world, and as a vivid illustration of evolution and adaptation. Death is part of life; we are surrounded by it. If I were religious I would regard predation, death, brutal selection and so on as part of God’s plan. On that note I initially assumed that Pearce was inspired by some kind of religious fundamentalism; so far as I can tell this is not at all the case – instead he represents a sort of ‘extreme vegan’ movement.
While considering this issue, my assumption has been that so few people (especially those involved in conservation, wildlife management and field biology in general) will take it seriously that it will never go anywhere – even if it does become theoretically possible – and that those of us who find it ridiculous and/or offensive don’t have to worry or even think about it. Furthermore, by the time we do have the ability to do the sorts of things proposed by the Abolisionist Project, I think we will most likely need our funding, resources and technology for other things. And, sorry for repeating myself, but modifying wild creatures to suit our ideals hardly sounds enlightened or ethical. It reminds me of efforts to expunge homosexuality by way of electric shock therapy, or of attempts to westernise aboriginal people by banning their customs, traditional dress and languages.
However, I’m interested to see how representative my views are, or are not. A few readers have already made comments, but now is the chance to voice your concerns. Sockpuppetry will not be tolerated – yes your behaviour has already been noticed.