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Ethical Treatment of Animals (July 2015): Wildlife, Hunting, Species Conservation

By Walter Hogan and Eric Owen

Wildlife, Hunting, Species Conservation

The considerable challenges of maintaining large, intelligent animals in captivity, and the ethical question of whether it is right to do so under any circumstances, were addressed by titles in the previous section.  The following pair of books assesses human treatment of those same kinds of animals—elephants and cetaceans—in all settings, including their respective native habitats.  Elephants and Ethics: Toward a Morality of Coexistence, edited by Christen Wenner and Catherine Christen, presents some twenty-two symposium papers in three parts.  Essays in the first part provide an overview of elephant philosophy and science.  The second part is titled “Elephants in the Service of People,” and the last part concerns conflicts between humans and wild elephants.  In all settings, elephants are in steep decline.  Philosopher Thomas White’s In Defense of Dolphins is the product of his two-decades-long immersion in dolphin studies.  White was concerned initially about reports that some dolphin species were threatened due to fishing practices.  But from his investigations of dolphin capabilities, he arrived at the view that persecution of dolphins not only is a species conservation matter, but amounts to abuse of individual nonhuman persons.

Most people are not likely to directly harm elephants or cetaceans, though some consumer spending choices are kinder to the dwellers of tropical and marine ecosystems than others.  For the average American, opportunities to hunt deer in nearby woodlands or to fish in local lakes and streams represent the terrain where direct “taking” of wild animals is a real option.  Simon Bronner’s Killing Tradition: Inside Hunting and Animal Rights Controversies is a wide-ranging survey of the battleground over which hunters and animal protection advocates caricature one another in the battle for public approval of their respective traditions or ethical stances.  Of the many books published on the environment and species preservation, a few touch significantly on ethical treatment of individual animals.  One such is Edward McCord’s The Value of Species.  McCord’s primary concern is to establish the value of diversity at the species level, but his later chapters also connect general respect for wildlife with moral regard for individual fellow creatures capable of experiencing pain.

Works Cited