Animal Ethics in the Wild
AuthorCatia Faria
SubjectsAnimal ethics, wild animal suffering
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication placeUnited Kingdom

Animal Ethics in the Wild: Wild Animal Suffering and Intervention in Nature is a 2022 book by the philosopher Catia Faria published by Cambridge University Press. It examines wild animal suffering as a moral problem. Faria contends that if we have a moral obligation to aid those in need, we should intervene in nature to prevent or alleviate the suffering of wild animals, as long as it is practical and leads to a net positive outcome.


The book explores wild animal suffering as a moral issue and argues that there is a moral obligation to intervene in nature to alleviate this. It begins by establishing two main assumptions: suffering is bad, and if we can prevent or reduce suffering without causing greater harm and without jeopardizing other important values, we have an ethical obligation to do so. The first chapter emphasizes that nonhuman animals, including wild animals, are morally considerable beings due to their sentience and well-being, which should be equally valued regardless of species membership. The book contends that if death is bad for humans, it may also be bad for nonhuman animals, providing additional reasons to act on behalf of wild animals to prevent their suffering and death.

The subsequent chapters address various objections to intervention in nature, such as perversity and futility arguments, which suggest that intervention could make things worse or is bound to fail. The book rejects these objections, asserting that intervention should occur when the expected outcome is net positive for wild animals. Additionally, the concept of speciesism is examined, with the book arguing against unjustified disadvantages based on species membership. It rejects anthropocentrism as a justification for speciesism and criticizes flawed accounts of moral considerability, advocating for a broader understanding of positive obligations toward wild animals.

The book also discusses the prevalence of suffering in the lives of wild animals, detailing the ways their interests are systematically frustrated by natural events. It concludes that intervening to reduce wild animal suffering is both feasible and morally justified. Overall, the book calls for a more compassionate and proactive approach towards wild animals, urging readers to extend their ethical obligations beyond merely refraining from harm and actively intervening to help animals in need.


In a review, Christopher Bobier praises the book for its engaging discussion of wild animal sentience and moral considerability. He asserts that it presents a compelling case for intervening in nature to mitigate the suffering and death experienced by wild animals and that scholars from various animal-related fields, including animal ethics, environmental ethics, ecology, conservation, and animal law, would find the book to be accessible and valuable. However, he notes that the book raises important questions about the practical implications of intervention, especially for individuals living in urban areas far removed from wilderness. Additionally, while the book does not address zoos directly, he queries whether they could serve as a means to reduce suffering for some wild animals, though ethical concerns about captivity should be explored further. Overall, he commends Faria's work for its contribution to the discourse on wild animal welfare, leaving readers with deeper insights and thought-provoking inquiries.[1]

Josh Milburn's review praises the book for providing a comprehensive and rigorous philosophical argument for the notion that humans have a moral obligation to intervene in nature to reduce wild animal suffering. Milburn highlights Faria's responses to various objections raised against this, including the perversity and futility objections, which Faria counters with the "reversal test." Additionally he draws attention to Faria's response to the jeopardy objection, which suggests that intervention could jeopardize other non-suffering-based values. The review commends Faria's adept handling of relational arguments, where she identifies tensions in certain relationalist views and how she explores the issue of priority, perfectionist challenges, and the tractability of reducing wild animal suffering. Overall, Milburn notes that Faria's book offers a detailed and thought-provoking examination of the complex ethical considerations surrounding intervention in nature to alleviate wild animal suffering.[2]

The book has received endorsments from the philosophers Kyle Johannsen, Jeff McMahan, Siobhan O’Sullivan, Clare Palmer, Valéry Giroux, Núria Almiron, Paula Casal, Alasdair Cochrane, Peter Singer and Oscar Horta.[3] The biologist Marc Bekoff praised the book, stating that it should be "required reading for field researchers and anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors watching other animals".[4]


Further reading