Better never to have been in the wild: a case for weak wildlife antinatalism

Paper by Ludwig Raal, published on April 1, 2022 in Stellenbosch University, MA thesis

Most people have an idyllic view of nature and believe that wild animals have good lives. But nature is a hostile place. In addition to the suffering inflicted upon prey by their predators, many wild animals are victims of infectious disease, extreme weather, starvation, and parasitism. Yet it is often claimed that an abundance of wildlife is desirable. The aim of this thesis is to challenge this premise. My argument will proceed in four parts. Firstly, I will show that the lives of most wild animals are characterised by a surplus of negative experiences, and that there are a myriad of ways in which wild animals suffer. Secondly, I will challenge the notion that wildlife has intrinsic value by considering, and arguing against, two related claims: that the lives of individual wild animals have intrinsic value, and that wild species as wholes are of intrinsic value. Thirdly, I will consider whether wildlife has instrumental value, and if so, whether it is sufficient to justify traditional conservation methods. I conclude that this is not the case. Finally, I will argue that it may be best for most wild animals not to be born at all, a view I refer to as weak wildlife antinatalism. While such a conjecture may strike many as deeply counterintuitive, I will make the case that it is both technically feasible and morally desirable.