Neither human nor natural: Ethics and feral animals

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26 Scopus citations


There are three major ethical approaches to issues affecting nonhuman animals and the natural environment: an anthropocentric ethic, an ethic of concern for all sentient beings, and a biocentric approach. The ethic of concern for all sentient beings is the most defensible basis for resolving conflicts between the interests of humans and wild animals. There is no ethical basis for discounting the suffering of an animal simply because that being is a member of a different species. On the other hand, it is certainly true that human and nonhuman animals differ in their capacities, and this does make a difference to the ethics of what we may do to them, including rendering them infertile. Since ethics is not a matter of adhering to absolute rules, but rather of doing what will have best consequences, given the constraints under which we act, the ethics of using a specific method of fertility control for feral animals will depend on what other methods are being used, or will be used, if the given method is not available. It will also depend on the consequences of not using any method of controlling the population of the animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-162
Number of pages6
JournalReproduction, Fertility and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


  • Animal liberation
  • Biocentrism
  • Fertility control


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