The presence of wolves REDUCES animal suffering

Tobias Leenaert is at it again. Speaking about wolves coming back into Europe, his strict utilitarianism led him to the statement: „As far as I’m concerned, those wolves can just get lost“. He posted a picture of a sheep presumably killed by a wolf and accompanied that with the usual propaganda of animal industries and the hunting fraternity. You would have thought a person promoting the cause for animals should know better. But the repeated attacks on wildlife from this corner of the movement is nothing new, see https://martinballuch.com/a-summary-why-life-in-the-wilderness-is-better-than-in-a-technological-mass-society/

Ok, so lets approach this issue from the same angle as Leenaert. We disregard autonomy, we disregard basic rights, and we just compare suffering with and without the presence of wolves. A good example for an area with wolves are the Southern Carpathians. Wolves have always lived there and were never exterminated. And besides, I know this area very well and have been out there on weeks hiking with a tent for more than 10 years. I take that as the basis for my comparison.

Wolves kill the weak, the frail and the sick

While for a society with a monopoly of power, like ours, the weak, frail and sick must be supported, this is not so easy in the wilderness, where at most such support can come from the social circle of an individual. Make no mistake: sickness is far less common for wild animals than for humans and their domestic animals in a mass society, because in mass societies bad germs constantly go around and new illnesses are produced on a regular basis. In addition, wild food is generally far healthier and more nutritious than the food rich in fat and sugar, as in our society. But still, sometimes some wild animals are weak and sick.

So, if we have old or particularly weak individuals in the wild, they might suffer, as they cannot get food or move about easily. The wolves do kill such individuals far more often than healthy individuals. Hence they reduce suffering for them.

Furthermore, if weak individuals are able to procreate in the wild, their offspring are more likely to be weak and less healthy as well. Fact is, wolves therefore have the effect to produce more healthy communities of their prey species‘. This effect was already documented with the first Austrian wolf pack.

Wolves help reduce exploding animal populations

In Austria without wolves, there are far more stag and deer than nature can support. Without predators, such populations would crash one day with a pandemic of starvation and disease. Wolves therefore help to prevent such a desaster.

Leenaert, though, might argue, that human hunters prevent those crashes. And human hunters are supposedly more humane than wolves. But this is not so. I have been observing hunts for 3 decades. In fact, human hunters are not more humane. I have done statistics of how often hunts only maim but not kill their game animals. Only 33 % of deer are dead straight away, when they are shot at, but 11 % live on for a while and 56 % escape injured, only to die much later in agony. For wild boar, 53 % escape injured and for pheasants that number is 27 %. With wolves the opposite is true. If the animal can escape the wolf, than he or she is unharmed, and if the wolf gets him or her, then they are dead. They do not escape injured, especially not in as large numbers.

In Austria and elsewhere, hunters want to have large numbers of game animals, and therefore feed them almost everywhere. This feeding causes untold animal suffering. That is because the animals suffer from stress in so close proximity of each other, the animals become dependent on the feeding and stay in the nearby area instead of spreading out, the animals become sick due to germs spreading at such densely populated areas and especially because at the feeding sites there is a lot of dung and there are parasites abound. And the animals damage their natural environment especially by eating young trees and the bark of older trees. If wolves are present, those feeding sites are abandoned, because otherwise the wolves would just wait there for their prey. And with that, all the problems and the suffering associated with those feeding sites disappear.

Wolves cause less fear than human hunters

A number of scientific studies have shown that game animals are constantly in stress when they are hunted by humans. This is because guns have a long range and the animals are not equipped to deal with that. Hence, death can happen unforeseen anytime. The opposite is true when wolves are present. Generally, the prey species hunted by wolves are well equipped to escape a wolf and they feel therefore safe. In addition, they can see, hear or smell the wolf coming, and they can stay in an area where they are sure to realise the presence of wolves before they come dangereously close. Hence, wolves reduce the suffering due to fear by animals.

The presence of wolves leads to fewer deaths of domestic animals

What might sound contradictory at first sight is actually true: wolves reduce the death toll of domestic animals. In Switzerland, about 10.000 sheep die each year on their pastures due to bad wheather and neglect. When the wolves arrived, the sheep were better shepherded. In consequence, today only 5000 sheep die each year on their pastures, most of them still due to bad wheather and neglect. But the numbers have come down because the sheep husbandry has improved with the presence of wolves.

Apart from that, if a domestic animal dies due to a wolf attack, this is arguably with less suffering than if this animal was slaughtered by humans. Especially sheep, the primary domestic victim of wolves, are often sent on long live animal transports, especially into the Middle East. And there the slaughter is horrendeously cruel, in addition to the suffering on the duration of the travel. But also in European slaughterhouses, there is a lot of cruelty involved at the slaughter. The sheep are first driven together, which causes panic. Then they are put on transport lorries, which makes them panic even more. At the slaughterhouse, usually the sheep have to wait long periods of time, always smelling the death of the other animals and hearing their screams. When it comes to their slaughter, they often are not stunned, or not stunned properly, and sometimes regain consciousness during the bleeding from their cut throats. Death in a slaughterhouse is the most horrific death imaginable. The death due to wolves is a mercy in comparison.

Wolves kill animals who kill animals

The last argument I want to put forth now, I dislike profusely. But Leenaert and other Utilitarians must accept it. Foxes kill mice. In fact, a study revealed that each fox kills about 20 mice a day or 7000 mice a year. And they kill sometimes hares and birds and amphibians and so forth. Similar statistics are true for jakals and lynx. Fact is that wolves do kill foxes, jakals and lynx. It is well known that the number of foxes, jakals and lynx is balanced out with the number of wolves. The more of the latter the fewer of the former and the other way round. Hence, wolves do, by killing those predators, save the victims of them. A similar argument could be made with wild boar. In areas where wild boar are abundant, they are the primary prey species of wolves. But wild boar eat a lot of animals, especially ground dwelling ones, like amphibians, mice, moles and so forth. By killing wild boar and reducing their numbers, wolves are saving those animals.

Summary

Wolves are at the moment in Europe returning to their original habitat on their own accord. Before, they have been systematically exterminated by humans with the most cruel methods, in order to breed live stock that humans can use and abuse. In fact, humans have exterminated all mammals larger than foxes in Europe, with the exception of very few species, and those they saved mostly for hunting purposes. In Europe, there used to be different species of elefant, some species of mammoth, also 3 species of rhino and 3 species of bison, and there were horses, lions, sabre tooth cats, hyenas, 2 species of bear, tigers, elk, 5 species of stag, antilopes and so forth. This multitude of animals all disappeared so that humans could breed their livestock unhindered and eat the body and mother milk of those species. Humans would have exterminated all mammals, probably, if they had managed. But those species smaller than foxes they could not get easily enough.

This wave of exterminations led to a barren landscape, devoid of big animals. Otherwise it would be in Europe as lively as today in Africa. Slowly, humans do realise what they have done. And slowly measures are taken to stop this mass slaughter of wild animals. One sign is the return of the wolf into his natural habitat. So far, wolves are still protected from being attacked again by humans. Statements like the one from Tobias Leenaert play into the hands of the exterminators. Animal industries and the hunting fraternity try to twist the truth and claim that wolves are terribly dangereous and blood thirsty, while in reality those characteristics apply to humans much more.

Actually, wolves have a right to life and protection, so that they can live their lives in a self-determined way. But even if these rights are denied, I have argued that the presence of wolves leads to a lot less suffering for the other animals. If reducing suffering was our primary concern, the best we could do as humans is withdraw from the natural habitats around us as much as we can and let wildlife take its own course. That would be for the better of everyone involved. And suffering would be reduced enormously.

11 thoughts on “The presence of wolves REDUCES animal suffering

  1. Martin Balluch says:

    First a few comments to what you said and second a new approach to make our differences clear:

    ad 2) I find it unbearably arrogant of you to say that the western state (or some such) is a not-failed state and the others are inferior. This is a very colonialist attitude, which I thought we had overcome. It is the very same attitude that white US-Americans had when they subdued the native Americans. Wild living tribes were considered „failed“ states and where thought to „gain“ from being assimilated into Western civilisation, because they were fighting each other, did not do agriculture and had no schools and no medicine. Funny thing, though, that when benevolent whites tried to assimilate them, they caused misery and suffering to no end. If I read stuff from the native American movement, I get the impression they think that the Western way of being is a failed state and their culture 100s of years ago was ethically superior. Even if I did not agree with that, I have to accept that they should not be forced to assimilate and take on a different way of life. This is the opposite of autonomy. I am convinced that the same applies to nonhumans living equally wild. They do not look like as if they want us to intervene at all.

    And besides, the distinction Kymlicka makes is not arbitrary at all. There is a gigantic difference if you hand over all power to a central institution, which then has the monopoly of power, or if you do not. This is essentially what it is all about.

    Do you know Björn Freter? A new animal rights philosopher, who spoke at CARE. And he says that our supression of nonhumans is akin to colonialisation. And the solution, ie liberation, means to undo that damage we did by our supremacist intervention. He compares colonialism in the human-human context to the supression of non-humans and finds enough similarities to merit a similar solution: withdraw. And we have to withdraw within our minds especially, so that we do not consider them as a „failed“ state and ours as the better state. Isn’t it worrying that you both claim you want ethically the best for nonhumans, but you have the opposite solution? I side with Freter.

    I am obviously not claiming that animals in wilderness have always a happy and peaceful life. But I definitely do think that statistically they are on average quite a lot happier than humans in Western civilisation. In the wilderness, depression, suicide, adipositas, diabetes, coronary heart disease, influenza and other illnesses are basically unknown. Whereas in Western civilisation, according to the WHO 30 % of people suffer from depression and almost as many take anti-depressants.

    I recently saw a driven shoot on a 200 hectar area, where 12 deer were killed. All the 12 deer were happy and healthy up until they were killed by humans. Do you claim that in the same 200 hectar area there were at the same time more than 12 other deer, who were ill and suffering? No, they were not, because the dogs went through the whole undergrowth and found all deer there. Hence we have proof: on these 200 hectar area, all deer were happy and healthy up until this hunt. This is what I mean when I say, on average most wild animals are happy most of the time.

    If a wolf was to kill one of those deer, that would not change anything in this statement. A traumatic death at one point does not undo happyness up until then. In contrast, most humans or at least a large percentage of humans in Western civilisation and especially most nonhumans within Western civilisation are unhappy most of the time, even if they do not suffer a traumatic death. Although most people and nonhumans do suffer such a death. Hence I conclude that wilderness is, from the point of view of suffering, a better place to be, than Western civilisation.

    If you say that might be so for deer, but what about frogs. Most of them die long before they reach maturity. Still, most of them are happy most of the time. Where I live there is a little natural pond with a lot of frog spawn in spring and a lot of tadpoles now (still!). Most of the eggs and the tadpoles have died before they become frogs. But I have been there every day and they had a happy life most of the time. I saw them swimming around and frolicking, I did not see them starve or suffer at all. Then a snake came and killed many of them. A traumatic moment, no doubt, but still it remains true: most of them were happy most of the time. Which you cannot say of humans in Western civilisation.

    So which is the „failed“ state?

    ad 3) Please try blueberries or strawberries or carrots from the supermarket and then collect them in the wild. The civilised versions taste like water in comparison. They essentially have no taste. After eating a lot of wild berries, my daughter would not touch the berries from the supermarket.

    ad 4) You did understand what I was saying, did you? The Westerners had smallpox pandemics and the few that survived were resistent. So the immune system of the Westerners, who came to America, knew this particular (and many other typically civilised) germ. The Natives did not, as their population density was so low that none of those illnesses had ever developed. This is why so many of them died the moment they got in touch with it. That proves that those illnesses are based on civilisation and they do not exist in the wild.

    ad 6, 7, 8) Human hunting is the worst of the worst, when it comes to suffering. Firstly, a reference: Christine Miller writes in her (very much pro hunting) review of the scientific literature of stress of deer and stags caused by wolves (pages 83-100 in this book: https://martinballuch.com/der-wolf-ein-neues-buch-vonseiten-der-oesterreichischen-jaegerschaft/) of a study in Poland of stress hormons in the dung of deer and stags in areas with wolves compared to areas without wolves but with human hunting and roads. And the stress was much lower with wolves present. She says litterally that for deer and stags stress is foremost a factor of human intervention and not of wolves.

    But here is now my new approach to produce a fruitful discussion: You say that Western civilisation should intervene in the wild. Sometimes you seem to say „in principle“ but not now. Sometimes you seem to say we need to intervene now, as the wild animal suffering is the foremost problem. So, what sort of intervention are you thinking about? If it is going into the wild and just feeding wild animals, then I can tell you with a lot of scientific support that this is the worst you can do. You cause an untold amount of suffering and remove autonomy by creating dependance. If you suggest we should kill or remove predators, again, you cause huge suffering to the predators as much as to their prey species. If you say leave the killing to human hunters and protect and medicate wild animals, then this is exactly what Austrian hunters are doing now and it is the worst of all worlds and we fight it with our campaigns with all our might. If you say we should catch some predators and fiddle with their genes and release them to exchange populations, and do the same with their prey species, so that all turn vegan and none reproduces too much, then this is also an absolute horror scenario for me, but at least it is so unrealistic that I am happy to leave this debate until such a day when someone for the first time wants to try such a thing in reality.

    Just one little question: would you think it ethically ok to fiddle with human genes, even with the genes of humans who have not agreed to this, to make them peaceful, non-aggressive and maybe vegan by nature? Or for any other benevolent purpose you think is ethically better? If so, you must be aware that this is something that almost everybody totally disagrees with and finds a terrible crime. Genetic modification of humans to change their character and such like is something banned in the whole worldwide community. It reminds me of eugenics of the worst kind in the Third Reich. No-one has the right to artificially manufacture living beings with consciousness to suit their ideals. That is the worst of all nightmares. Do you agree or is that something you would want to do, even forcefully, as in the case of nonhumans, without their consent, presumably considering them too stupid to understand your high ethical stance and philosophy?

    So, before continuing a back and forth debate on theoretical principles, we should clarify the practice. I say to leave wild animals totally untouched brings the most autonomy and minimizes suffering the most. You seem to disagree. So, which practical approach to wild animals would now increase their autonomy and reduce their suffering more? In the here and now!

    ad 9) 50.000 years is not arbitrary. It is the time humans started to exterminate whole species and it is a time when the climate (minus ice age) could be compared to today.

  2. Alex Winter says:

    I´ve been following the discussion between you and Stijn Bruers, and I think you´re both wrong in some points. I cannot imagine how any predator can increase the happiness of its prey. that sounds absurd to me. If that was the case, would you favour more and more outdoor cats that kill birds and mice? why not? what is the difference between housecats and wolves? just that they weren´t there „naturally“? that makes no difference to the hunted animals. if predators increase animal happiness, then millions of roaming cats must increase the happiness of birds and mice. but they clearly don´t. bird organisations will contradict this claim. as far as the position that we must intervene, that is also completely wrong. because we can´t. we simply do not know enough about the ecosystem. any intervention can cause effects like extinction on some species. these consequences are out of our knowledge and can cause a lot of harm. so, we can neither romanticize a nature full of carnivores, because, yes, it is cruel and does not increase happyness, but neither can we stop it. we just have to accept it as it is.

    as far as not intervening with human tribes, I think that depends. if you visited a human tribe that is extremely cruel towards its children, by committing infanticide, which is very common, or by mistreating animals, which is also very common, why would you not try to change their minds? what is the difference between these humans and our socitey? do you think they are just too stupid to understand that what they do might be morally wrong because it causes suffering of innocent victims? wouldn´t that be condescending? if you think you can enlighten our socitey about human and animal rights, then I see no reason why you couldn´t also do that with other societes. even if they live in the woods. they aren´t completely stupid and they can probably understand.

  3. Martin Balluch says:

    @Alex Winter
    In your comparison of wolves and house cats as predators, you miss a very important point: the ecological balance. House cats are fed in addition to hunting and most often don’t eat their victims at all. So there cannot be a balance, which is vital for an ecological system to work out, which is in turn the basis for the benefit of the prey species.
    I have argued at length in which way the wolves reduce animal suffering. Those facts do not refer to all predators in principle, but to wolves in nature in Austria as it is now. One of the most detrimental aspects of wild animal management today in Austria is the feeding of deer and stags. It causes a lot of suffering in many aspects. And this feeding might be a thing of the past, if wolves are around again, because they would just wait at the feeding sites for their prey, hence the deer and stags would not go there anymore and the feeding sites would be abandoned.

  4. Alex Winter says:

    Yes, housecats are fed, but I read an interesting book about cats called „cat sense“ by John Bradshaw. He says that housecats do not hunt just for fun, like we are told, but because they need to provide for the future. Because hunting is so exhausting for them that in the wild, they could not hunt enough if they were hunting only when they are hungry. Therefore they must hunt whenever they have an opportunity, even if they aren´t hungry. But that does not matter to the mouse or bird anyway. But, yes of course, what austrian hunters do is the worst for all animals.

  5. Miriam Kraft says:

    Very interesting points, however, there are few things that are not clear to me. Firstly, do you have any scientific citations for what you present as ecological facts? For example, in the debate about fox hunting, I heard AR activists use the argument quite often that hunting doesn’t decrease the number of foxes, but rather leads to more young foxes migrating and thus spreading diseases like scabies. Thus, hunting pressure by wolves would lead to more kills AND increased spreading diseases, ergo more suffering. To be fair, I haven’t seen a proper scientific citation for this claim either, so I would be very intested to see where you got your data from. Same for the claim that wolves significantly reduce the populations of their prey animals.

    Secondly, if you say that killing old or sick animals is good, would you also say this is true for old and sick humans? There are plenty people suffering even despite the achievements of our modern medicine – would you say it would be right to kill them (without their consent)? If not, what is the differnce between human suffering and wild animal suffering?
    Also, if we had the possibility to prevent diseases and hunger in wild animals one day by providing food, medical treatment, birth control, etc, would you still consider it okay for them to be killed by predators?

  6. Martin Balluch says:

    @Miriam Kraft
    Fox number reduction: David Macdonald cites scientific studies in his book „Running with the fox“ that fox numbers are reduced if the death toll is more than 70 %. The spreading happens when territories are emptied of foxes. Wolves will not kill 70 % of a fox population, but will change the size and quality of their territory (make them larger) and in this way reduce the fox population. And they will not further the spreading of diseases, as they do not kill whole families, but single animals, when they are weak, very young or old.
    This argument about reducing suffering by killing predators (like wild boar) I find totally unconvincing as a moral argument, because I do not find the amount of suffering the moral baseline. If somebody suffers due to lightning strike or an avalanche, I do not find that morally relevant. Also, the example in the film matrix, were all humans are living in petri dishes being well nourished but experience only what a computer is feeding their brains as fantasy, has no suffering, but it is the morally most abhorrent situation I can imagine, as the humans have lost their autonomy 100 %. Every liberation movement, like women liberation, slave liberation or liberation from colonialism, had as aim not the reduction of suffering but the increase in autonomy. I see the animal liberation movement in the same vain.
    In the last animal rights conference, namely CARE from 14th-16th August 2020, Björn Freter, an animal rights philosopher from the Univ of Berlin, now in Knoxville USA, argued that the oppression of nonhuman animals is akin to colonisation. It is based on the idea of superiority, of bringing your own culture and your values, as well as your medicine and your well-wishing and your idea of rights, to the colonized, and not let them develop everything on their own. Björn Freter argues that liberation means to de-colonize. I might not fully understand all that Björn Freter is meaning with that, but I can see the point and agree: we (civilized society) should strive to pull out of 90 % of nature and let the nonhuman animals there develop their own life, autonomously. Will Kymlicka argues in Zoopolis similarly: wilderness should be seen like an autonomous country, where our society should not intervene. I have argued based on a New Scientist article in the same way: https://martinballuch.com/should-we-force-uncontacted-tribes-of-humans-into-the-modern-world/.
    What do you think: should we force uncontacted tribes into the modern civilized world? Should we bring them medicine, rights and a police guarding against interpersonal violence and locking up culprits? I think the general consensus has changed from yes we should in 1900, when there was a white supremacy attitude prevailing, to no we should not today. On an Indian island recently the tribes there have killed a white missionary, who went over in a boat, and the Indian state authorities have said no, they will not go there and investigate a murder, but let this tribe live in their own way.
    This attitude is slowly gaining ground with respect to non-human wild animals too, in Europe. In Austria, 200 areas have been set aside for being completely left to themselves, so that wilderness can take over. Whatever happens there will not lead to human intervention. In addition, the same should be true for the much bigger national parks, but there is still too much human interest involved, so that the national parks are still under human influence. But this is getting less.
    This is my utopia, my morally ideal world: 90 % of the land in Europe is left for wilderness and wild animals to be run by themselves autonomously. On the remaining 10 % humans grow their vegan organic food.
    Actually, in Austria there are a number of relatively small patches of primieval forests, never touched by humans. These places have absolute magic. Not only for me, but for the nonhuman animals there too. If they wanted to live near humans, they could, like many animals do. But most others don’t, and we should respect that.

  7. Miriam Kraft says:

    You bring again interesting points, but they do not answer any of my questions. I agree that it is unlikely that wolves kill over 70% of foxes (so the disease spreading effect will hopefully not kick in), but how do we know they reduce their numbers in order to get the effect of decreased suffering that you describe? Same for the other ecological consequences you take for given but show no data for.
    Also, you did not answer any of my other questions.

    How much to get involved with other (human or non human) societies sure is a daring question and we need to be very careful to make no mistakes. But I doubt that completely giving up any responsibilities we might have for them is the correct way.
    If a natural disaster is about to kill everyone of an uncontacted tribe, would you find it morally right not to help them (if we have the power to)? Aren’t you taking away their autonomy by not giving them a choice whether or not to be saved by us?
    If something were to happen to earth that would kill people or make us suffer, I would want well-intentioned aliens to intervene and help instead of „respecting our autonomy“ and leaving us to our problems.

    Also, if someone is about to be struck by lightning and you can stop that from happening, please just do it. It doesn’t morally matter what is the cause of suffering, just whether or not you can do something about it.

  8. Martin Balluch says:

    @Miriam Kraft
    Your questions starting from „secondly“ in your first post all refer to the difference in treatment between wild animals living in the wilderness and humans living in a society, where the monopoly of violence has been handed over to an institution. I think the different treatment I propose is due to the different setting, not the species. As I said with the wild living human tribe, we should not intervene. Equally, we should intervene with nonhuman animals living in the society with a monopoly on violence.
    With absolute catastrophies, I think we should intervene. Equally, if a wild animal suffers directly in front of me. But that help should not be done systematically. It should be the complete exception, and not the norm. There is a book on that of which the title escapes me this moment. Equally, I have not got the time to chase up the references for the facts I mentioned. When I find more time, I will.
    For me, it suffices to say that IF the facts are like that, the consequences are this. If everybody agrees on that, it remains a question of natural science to answer, which is good enough for me.

  9. Stijn Bruers says:

    I strongly disagree with what you say. About disregarding autonomy and basic rights: let us include these considerations. A sheep, captured in the claws of a wolf, loses all its autonomy: that sheep cannot move anywhere (compared to livestock animals who still can move at least some decimeters in the cage) and loses all its choices that it could have made in the future. The most fundamental basic right is the right to bodily autonomy, that your body should not be used against your will as a means to someone else’s ends. All animals have this right. That is why using animal products is wrong. Now, the wolf is violating this basic right of the sheep. And not just one sheep: a wolf kills many prey animals. So please be consistent and consider the basic right for all animals, not just for predators.
    You suggest that the weak animals must not be supported, but I guess you are in favor of supporting weak humans. That is speciesist. In fact, everytime you mention a prey animal, you have to turn that into a human child. If you then still agree with your statements, then you are basically a cruel monster. If you disagree, you are basically extremely speciesist.
    You say that sickness is far less common for wild animals than for humans. That is not correct: humans have drastically increased their lifespans and reduced child mortality. More than five out of six newborn children survive. In nature, more than nine out of ten newborns die prematurely. There is an extreme non-human overpopulation problem. https://stijnbruers.wordpress.com/2019/02/09/non-human-overpopulation-is-the-real-problem/
    You suggest that wild food is generally healthier. The opposite is true: over centuries of agriculture, we selected and grew the best, most nutritious and productive crops containing fewer toxins. Wild fruit is small, doesn’t contain much nutrients and contains more toxins. That is why wild food cannot support so many humans or animals, compared to agriculturally derived food. And with genetic modification, precision fermentation and other new food technologies, we can make food that is even much more nutritious and safe.
    It is unethical to kill individuals who are weaker or less healthy, but wolves also kill healthy animals. Suppose in the current situation A, a wolf kills 90 weak animals and 10 healthy animals. Now suppose in situation B a wolf requires ten times less food, and there were no weak animals. This second situation would be at least as good as the first: the wolf needs fewer killings, and the population of prey would only consist of healthy individuals. But in this second situation, the wolf kills only healthy animals: 100% of its prey are healthy animals. Your logic suggests that this situation is worse, that the wolf is now doing something worse.
    About the procreation of weak animals: predators simply create extra evolutionary pressure. Considering this predatory pressure, you will interpret weakness basically as slowness: the wolves kill the slowest animals. (The animals with the weakest immune systems are already selected by the bacteria and viruses, the animals with the most inefficient metabolisms are already selected by the food shortages, so no predators are required for these selection pressures…) Now, maybe you prefer speed and the selection of fast animals, maybe you like to see fast animals, maybe you prefer a world with faster animals, but the animals themselves don’t care about your value of speed. The argument that killing the weakest (i.e. slowest) is good, is an extreme extreme-right ideology, where you impose your own values on others. Why not simply genetically modify wolves and deer such that they can run even faster?
    Your argument that wolves prevent overpopulation of prey animals is exactly the propaganda argument that hunters give. This is very ironic, because you were complaining about Tobias Leenaert’s post, that it was “the usual propaganda of the hunting fraternity”.
    You believe that wolves cause less fear than human hunters. The scientific studies indicate that prey animals are in constant stress from predators. See the “ecology of fear”. As prey animals don’t smell, see or hear the human hunters, they are not afraid. Basically, wild animals cannot tell the difference between a human who is a hunter and a human who is a nature loving animal rights activist walking in the wild. Animals are afraid of human hunters, indeed, but they are also equally afraid of human vegans. I worked for years in a wildlife rescue center: some wild animals literally died of panic when I, a vegan, wanted to help them. And they didn’t panic when they didn’t saw or smell that human hunter in full camouflage. When you are walking around in the wild, you clearly see many animals running away from you. You scared them away. A well camouflaged hunter, on the other hand, does not scare away so many animals. If you point at the loud sound of the gun: imagine a hunter who has a silencer on his gun. Animals are more afraid of you than of this well-camouflaged hunter with a silencer. And as you mention: with human hunters, the animals didn’t foresee anything, and hence they didn’t have time to feel fear. With a wolf, on the other hand, they run away, and while they are running, they have plenty of time to feel fear.
    Your argument about wolves being more humane than hunters: first, both wolves and human hunters are hunters, and the fact that some hunters (i.e. humans) cause more suffering than other hunters (wolves) does not justify the suffering caused by those other hunters. Second, according to your logic, when a human hunter would be able to immediately kill all its targeted prey, that human hunter would be more humane than wolves, and that would imply that you would have to support that kind of hunting by humans (if you support hunting by the less humane wolves). So you are not consistently against all hunting. Third, wolves never respect some of the most basic animal welfare laws, like stunning animals before killing them (which is the law for slaughterhouses). So suppose there were no live animal transports, no animals driven together, and all animals in the slaughterhouse were completely stunned. That treatment of animals by humans would be more humane than the treatment of animals by wolves. Still, we are against that more humane slaughter of animals. It would be discrimination to say that wolves have more rights, i.e. that they have the right not to humanely kill others, that they have the right to violate animal welfare laws.
    The argument that you dislike, about wolves killing animals who kill animals, is the only good argument worth considering. Now, if you believe that predators like wolves contribute to more welfare, more flourishing, more animal rights being respected, more autonomy of wild animals, then consider reintroducing the T-rex, like Jurassic Park. Or more realistically: let’s introduce tigers in Western-Europe.
    About your statement that wolves have the right to life: so do all the prey animals. It would be speciesist to not take the rights of prey animals into equal consideration.

  10. Martin Balluch says:

    @Stijn Bruers
    I actually totally disagree with absolutely everything you say. And I think you are completely mixing up the facts. It requires quite some work to undo the mix up you made.
    1) Right and Autonomy versus Utilitarianism. In order to debate Tobias Leenaert, we have to argue from the same moral theory. If I argued from rights and he from utilitarianism, then we cannot exchange arguments about the given situation but only about the underlying moral theories. Therefore, in this argument, I only talked about suffering.
    If you want to debate that issue from the point of view of rights, I think you misunderstand the concept of rights. In your view, it seems, rights are a natural entity attached to certain beings. Where should that come from? I totally disagree with natural rights, as it seems to me to require some sort of deity. Rights are in reality only a claim by a member of a society, which has handed all power over to an institution, against this institution, which has the monopoly of power. In a wild setting without monopoly of power, there are no rights.
    This view is non-speciesist, as it treats humans and non-humans equally. In fact, not to intervene in interpersonal violence of „non-civilized“ (for want of a better word) human tribes is pretty much accepted today. Why then intervene with non-humans? I have written about that: https://martinballuch.com/should-we-force-uncontacted-tribes-of-humans-into-the-modern-world/
    Also, the fate of Native Americans is an example. Civilisation has tried to force them to assimilate, by putting them under the law and into schools. It did them no good at all. The result was a complete disaster. I think neigh everybody agrees that it would have been better to leave them be, although that included a lot more interpersonal violence than what is happening today.
    2) Do you know the book zoopolis and the difference that is made in it between wild living communities and civilised ones? I do not think at all that one should intervene from a civilisation into the wild. That is a fundamental breach of their autonomy, as is argued in the book. Fact is, if we look on from outside and study the result: wild living communities are healthier (there was a study of the health of stags in the Austrian Allensteig region before and after wolves arrived, and the health has clearly increased). You might ask at what cost. The argument is very convincing for me: evolution is neither good per se nor does it produce the best result by chance, but there is a driving force. those animals, who manage to be happy under the given circumstances, reproduce the most, which leads to animals, who are mostly happy in the wild. Those that are not happy do not reproduce and their genes drop out of the gene pool. The result is that most wild animals are happy (which includes healthy) most of the time.
    3) If you don’t think wild food is healthier than typical civilisational food then read Jared Diamond and his studies on the Natives of Borneo. They lived healthy lives with their food until they were „civilised“. Then they often developed adipositas and diabetes. There is far too much sugar and fat in civilised food. But even if you compare the nutritional content of human breeds of certain plants with their wild counterparts, its the wild version that wins: wild strawberries are much healthier than the bred ones (which taste like water), wild carrots are much tastier, wild berries of every kind the same. Anyone, who tries that by her/himself will immediately agree.
    4) In our civilized society, everyone is sick all the time. Everyone has permanently flue, 3 times a year influenza, high temperature, bad teeth etc. In the wild, germs cannot develop that easily. Proof is again the situation of the Native Americans. All those illnesses typical for the civilised world at the time, from black death to smallpox and so forth, were unknown for the Natives. And 90 % of them died because of those illnesses after contact with Europeans. That proves: all these illnesses, which have killed countless humans in the civilised world, were inexistent in the wild. Their germs could not survive if it was not for a high enough population density. The same is true for bad teeth. Without the huge amounts of sugar that is eaten in civilisation, teeth do not get as bad as in civilised society.
    5) Your strange idea about wolves forcing evolutionary pressure on their prey species to develop nothing but speed is wrong. If you are sick, old and frail you cannot run as fast, even if you could when you were healthy and young. The consequence is that the evolutionary pressure of wolves on their prey species is that they are happy and healthy and have a good and strong immune system.
    6) I am not sure you are in debates with hunters, considering what you say. Fact is that ALL hunters I ever met are totally anti wolf. They argue that wolves hurt their prey animals so badly, that it is more humane to kill the wolves and kill the prey species as well by rifle. This is what they say in Austria every day. They also say that the poor animals suffer in the cold winter, so they need to be fed. And then they need to be shot, because otherwise they would be too many. Ideally, the hunters in Austria would like to keep all stag and deer and wild boar in enclosures, feed them, comfort them, give them medication when ill and protect them from predators. That is actually what they do. There are 100 such enclosures in my district alone. Its seems, that is exactly what you argue for. If I had no clue who Leenaert is, I would have thought he must be a hunter. NO SINGLE DAY GOES BY IN AUSTRIA WITHOUT A HUNTER PUBLISHING EXACTLY SUCH A PICTURE OF A SHEEP KILLED BY WOLVES AND SAYING THAT ANIMAL LOVERS MUST BE ANTI WOLF. Not a single day. And hunters typically consider themselves the greatest animal lovers of all. In their view they reduce the suffering of wild animals to an absolute minimum.
    7) It has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN that stags, deer and wild boar suffer less from fear in the presence of wolves than in the presence of human hunters. There has a book been published by the hunting fraternity on the wolf, which, obviously, is totally anti-wolf, but still quotes science literature, see https://martinballuch.com/der-wolf-ein-neues-buch-vonseiten-der-oesterreichischen-jaegerschaft/. And even they admit this difference in fear, grudgingly. I promise you they wouldn’t at all, if it was not proven. But it is. They also quote the literature, which I could look up for you, if you do not believe that.
    You talk about fear of wild animals from animal activists. Am not sure what you are talking about. I am all the time in the mountains and I keep meeting especially chamois, capercaillie, marmots, swans, wild boar and ibex, for example, who are all hunted, and who are all NILL afraid of me and even my dog friend, when I meet them. I sat in the middle of a large group of ibex, with youngsters happily playing, and the ibex were not afraid at all. I have millions of pictures to prove that. Also for bison, actually. Very different with hunters. The animals know very well when the hunting season starts and then they are really afraid. In Geneva in Switzerland, hunting is banned. The animals spread far and wide. The moment the hunting seasons for stags starts in neighbouring France, all the stags come over to Geneva and the flight distance increases dramatically.
    I worked for years in wild animal rescue. Sure, the injured animals are afraid if I come to pick them up. They feel helpless. And as such they are afraid for a good reason. If they were fully capable, they would not be afraid, or at least not as much.
    The University Prof. Josef Reicholf from Munich gave a talk in Vienna some while back on hunting. And at the end he showed pictures of wild animals, who are not afraid of humans at all. And he said that in a world without human hunting, this would be the norm.
    8) As a matter of fact, as of now, wolves are a lot more humane than hunters. I have seen countless animals being injured by hunters in all sorts of ways. And wolves are a lot more humane than farmers. Again, I have documented so much farming cruelty over the years that I say there is no comparison. Nothing in the wild compares remotely to the suffering caused by humans today to animals all over the world. With so many humans wanting to eat nonhumans, I think it is totally impossible to produce that amount of meat in any humane way. The suffering caused will in practice always be a lot more than ever in the wild, even for each single individual.
    9) Fact remains that with wolves present, there are fewer other predators and fewer wild boar. It might well be that then a lot fewer animals are violently killed by predation.
    Funny that you find the idea of re-introducing (I say RE-introducing) tigers into Europe so ludicrous that you think I could not be in favour. But I am. I have recently written about my utopian ideal Europe on this blog, see https://martinballuch.com/europa-ein-plaedoyer-fuer-wildnis-und-gegen-die-invasive-nutzung-der-natur/. The utopia is borrowed from Tim Flannery in his book „Europe. The first 100 Million Years“. In this utopia, humans have removed themselves from 90 % of the land in Europe and left it for a fauna of 50.000 years ago, with a number of elefant species, rhino species, bison species, antilope as much as tigers, lions and hyenas. Humans grow their vegan food in big greenhouses in the outskirts of their mega cities, which are connected through underground tunnels. There is no hunting by humans. But humans can live in the wild too, if they are prepared to do that without weapons and without killing anyone and without invasive land usage. I have long sought for an utopia, which would really make me happy. And thanks to Flannery, I have found it. I would live in the wild amongst the tigers and lions in primieval forests, and it would make me boundlessly happy. And I am absolutely convinced that scenario would make the non-human animals equally happy, would reduce suffering to a minimum, and maximise autonomy for everyone. Flannery thinks that utopia could become true within 280 years. I would love humanity, if that was the case. But I fear our moral development is not fast enough to achieve such a level in that time, that humans take themselves back and leave non-humans their own territory.

  11. Stijn Bruers says:

    I reply to your points
    1) You said “If I argued from rights”, suggesting that you due argue from rights, but this contradicts your statement where you deny that wild animals have rights: “Rights are in reality only a claim by a member of a society, which has handed all power over to an institution, against this institution, which has the monopoly of power. In a wild setting without monopoly of power, there are no rights.” Anyway, I can argue from rights and autonomy, Tobias can argue from utilitarian welfare, but in both cases that killing of a wild animal is morally bad: it violated the right not to be killed, it violated the autonomy of that animal and it decreased the welfare of that animal. Note that this badness is independent from who killed the animal, in particular, independent from the species to which the perpetrator belongs. We are not going to say that your autonomy is violated when you were harmed by a member of species X but not when you were harmed by a member from species Y. Also, it doesn’t matter if the victims are humans or non-humans. Hence, when humans such as indigenous people face rights or autonomy violations (e.g. your example of interpersonal violence), I am in favor of interventions to protect their rights and autonomy. Your remark about forcing natives to assimilate is irrelevant in this context, because we were not talking about such forcings.
    2) Yes I’m very familiar with Zoopolis. I have two disagreements with Will Kymlicka: his distinction between citizens, denizens and sovereigns is an arbitrary categorization, and this arbitrariness results in discrimination (a kind of nationalism). Second, we both consider nature is a sovereign state, but I consider nature clearly as a ‘failed state’ which merits intervention (kind of UN peacekeeping), and he doesn’t (yet, or he only does it to a lower degree). About evolution selecting happy animals: that clearly contradicts the evolutionary biologists who study welfare biology of wild animals. There is no evolutionary selection pressure for happiness, and in fact such pressure would be evolutionary costly. That reproducing parents are happy does not guarantee that their children are generally happy, especially not if you know that 99% of their children die prematurely (before reproductive age). For those 99%o of children, there was no evolutionary pressure towards happiness.
    3) About the health of wild food: I disagree and I don’t care, because irrelevant in this context. People are free to eat what they want, and in modern societies people have much more access to healthier foods. I don’t have to eat refined sugars, but I have access to avocados and bananas and vegan smoothies with more kinds of berries than my ancestors could dream of. It is one of the reasons I am likely to live more than twice as long as they lived. But back to the predators…
    4) About the natives getting sick and dying from smallpox: that is basically a contradiction: as you said, the mortality rate among natives (90%) was higher than among ‘civilized’ Europeans. That means the natives got sick all the time. About permanent flu’s in civilized society: then how do you explain that lifespans in civilized societies are much longer? Anyway, you seem to strongly underestimate the disease pressures in uncontacted indigenous tribes. When we see those tribes, we face a survivorship bias: we only see the healthy people because the sick people already died, at a very young age (they have high levels of child mortality). You seem to have a similar survivorship bias when it comes to wild animals: you only see the happy animals in nature, because all the younglings who didn’t survive are already eaten by predators, decomposed by insects,… Remember that for every bird that you hear whistling, that bird had ten brothers and sisters who are not flying and whistling. You didn’t see these brothers and sisters. How does a typical life of those brothers and sisters look like? Very short, with hunger, disease, parasites, predator attack… Be careful not to idealize nature, not to think that nature is idyllic, when you face a survivorship bias.
    5) “If you are sick, old and frail you cannot run as fast, even if you could when you were healthy and young. The consequence is that the evolutionary pressure of wolves on their prey species is that they are happy and healthy and have a good and strong immune system.” -> if the animal is sick, old an frail, that animal is unlikely to reproduce. That means wolves are not necessary for a selection pressure towards happy, healthy animals with strong immune systems. There remains such selection pressure in the absence of predation.
    6) Also not so relevant. Even if there are extremely sadistic human hunters, that doesn’t justify the killings by hunting wolves. You have wolf hunters and wolf hunters, and both kill animals, and those animals didn’t want to be killed, they had rights and autonomy, they suffered from the killing, and they didn’t care at all about the species membership of their attacker. You are making a distinction between human hunters and wolf hunters, but that distinction is morally irrelevant. It is a kind of speciesism.
    7) About animals fearing humans: those studies involved e.g. letting animals hear sounds of humans talking, but that experimental set-up is totally different from the situation of a hunter who is not talking. So we have three situations: 1) an animal that sees a predator at 10 meters away, is really scared and runs away, 2) an animal that sees you sitting there at 10 meters away (probably alone, not talking and definitely not doing things that scares him), and 3) an animal that doesn’t see anyone else, is not aware of the presence of a silent, well-hidden human hunter 100 meters away. And you are telling me that in situation 3 the animal is more scared than in situation 1? Again the ecology of fear: in the presence of animal predators, prey animals are reluctant to graze in open areas where they cannot easily hide. In the absence of animal predators but the presence of human hunters in a far away hunting cabin (such that the animal cannot see, hear or smell the human), prey animals are less fearful to graze in the open areas. But this is also not relevant: even if they were completely panicking, that still doesn’t justify the killings by animal predators.
    “I worked for years in wild animal rescue. Sure, the injured animals are afraid if I come to pick them up.” That is what I meant when I talked about fear of wild animals from animal activists.
    8) About predators being more humane. Many predators start eating their prey, ripping their legs off, tearing open the womb,… while the prey animal is still conscious. Many human hunters immediately shoot in the head when they see the animal cringing in pain. But this si not so relevant: even if predators were more humane, those killings still violate animal rights. You are familiar with the animal welfarist versus abolitionist discussion, I guess you are not a welfarist in the sense that you are not in favor of improving the living conditions of farm animals with new animal welfare laws. You don’t believe in humane slaughter. I don’t believe in humane killing in general (not only limited to slaughter, or to hunting by humans, but to all killings including hunting by animals).
    9) I was considering all predators, so if wolves replace other predators, that is irrelevant.
    Finally, you said: “and left it for a fauna of 50.000 years ago” -> why 50.000 years ago? That choice of date seems arbitrary. Why not 100 million years ago, with dinosaurs? Or 50 years ago, which is more feasible? Or what I was suggesting, and to avoid this arbitrariness: why not reintroducing all predator animals that ever lives in Europe? If you are in favor of predator reintroductions and in increasing predation…

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