On the day US President, Barack Obama, is praised for launching US$10 million bid to cut illicit wildlife trafficking in Africa(1)(2), Robert Johnson, an outspoken animal ethicist and author of "Rational Morality - a science of right and wrong" (Dangerous Little Books) asks people to look beyond the “pretty face” of endangered animals to find the true moral value of wildlife charities.
Scarcely a week goes by without a plea from conservation charities for donations to help prevent a species from facing extinction. Even media giants Sky are getting involved, partnering with a conservation group in the Rainforest Rescue campaign(3). If this tells us anything, it’s that conservation has “box office” charity appeal.
Robert Johnson, an animal ethicist and author of the book, 'Rational Morality - a science of right and wrong', believes that despite the good intentions of these charities, there is a real danger that people are getting carried away with the beauty of these “pretty” animals and missing the moral point that suffering of any animal, no matter how attractive or abundant its species, is a bad thing.
Johnson says: “The campaigns themselves tend to focus on so-called endangered species, where there are relatively small numbers of individuals left.” He continues, “The problem is that if these groups are genuinely concerned about the suffering of these magnificent creatures, why aren’t they just as concerned about smaller ones on farms?”
The answer, Johnson asserts, is that “there are fewer individuals in the species left and this scarcity gives them value.”
But he believes this rationale is wrongheaded:
“There are billions of pigs raised and killed every few years whereas, for example, there are only around 15,000 jaguars left in the wild.
“If we are bothered more by the fate of jaguars than pigs, just because there are fewer of them, then we’re valuing ‘scarcity’ and ‘aesthetics’ over ending individual suffering. We’re valuing the variety of species and striving to maintain that variety for the aesthetically pleasing results they give us.” More....