Palmer, Ch 8: Puzzling Through Some Cases & Conclusion


1.      Explores cases where assistance

         a.      Is morally required

                   i.       Anthropogenic wild elk disease

         b.      Morally permitted

         c.      Permitted and desirable, not required

                   i.       Cat

                   ii.      Squirrel 1

         d.      Not permitted

                   i.       Non-anthropogenic wild elk disease

                   ii.      Magpie

                   iii.     Nonanthropogenic wild-elk disease



3.      How CC endangers them

4.      Should we assist them?

         a.      But we are not intending to harm them

         b.      Though it is predictable and foreseen

5.      But still CC is ongoing, wouldn’t our duty (like in case of agricultural animals) be to stop this harm rather than assist them?

         a.      But not easy to stop CC and harms are back-loaded and will continue for a while

6.      How help?

         a.      Reduce hunting (but it’s by native peoples who are themselves harmed by CC)

         b.      Slow down/stop oil extraction in their habitat or pull out existing operations (assuming it harms them)

7.      CC show all wild animals owed assistance?

         a.      If we must assist them because we harmed them, then wouldn’t this mean that all wild animals are owed assistance, since CC affects all of them?

         b.      No, because duties of assistance only arise from specific type of “contact” : harming or creating vulnerabilities or dependencies

         c.      Many animals not affected this way by CC, and some actually benefit from it



9.      Elk get disease that will wipe out herd unless kill some to create a buffer zone so disease does not spread to many more others

10.    Reagan’s rights view says don’t do this

         a.      Both because the harm is not being caused by a moral agent (so no rights violated, no injustice occurring)

                   i.       And no duties to assist unless rights being violated

         b.      And this involves harming some to save others and there is duty not to infringing rights of the animals

                   i.       Note that if case was different, if one could violate the rights of the few to prevent violation of the rights of the many, one should do this (Regan’s mini-ride principle)

                   ii.      Regan prohibition of rights infringement is not absolutist

11.    Utilitarian view: Should do this, for sure

12.    No-contact LFI

         a.      No duty to assist as no contact

         b.      Permissible to assist

         c.      But since there is a duty not to harm and killing some to save others is a harm

         d.      Assisting in this way is not permissible


13.    But what if disease was human introduced, spread from domesticated animals to wild populations?

         a.      Then disease is an extension of human activity, a failure of duty to take care

         b.      No longer a case of killing some to assist others

         c.      Whatever happens some elk will be killed by human activity, so better to kill fewer

         d.      So assistance is required, we have a duty to cull the herd

                   i.       Version of Regan’s mini-ride



15.    Wild squirrel suffering

16.    Should assist by quickly killing it or find a vet for it?

17.    No-contact LFI says no duty to assist, but permitted

18.    Is it desirable, good, virtuous to assist?

         a.      Yes

         b.      What kind of a person would fail to have compassion/sympathy and simply walk by?

                   i.       A person who is unsympathetic or insensitive to others’ pain

19.    With immediately encountered suffering, in a one-on-one case, person should feel compassion and assisting would be virtuous

         a.      So this provides a weak reason for approving of assistance in this case

         b.      Not sure why should think of this as a weak reason

20.    Objection: why not revealing good character to feel compassion without immediate encounter with suffering?

         a.      Truly compassionate person would feel compassion just as much to distant as to encountered suffering

         b.      This would undermine LFI (policy to prevent wild suffering)

21.    Reply: Different disposition/virtue in response to encountered suffering versus non-encountered (distant) suffering

         a.      “Compassion towards nonhumans need not involve disposition to actively seek out opportunities to prevent suffering of wild animals it may involve dispositions to assist wild animals when appropriate opportunities present themselves” (Ron Sandler)

                   i.       Help dolphins beached nearby


22.    SQUIRREL 2

23.    Squirrel injured by a car someone else drove

24.    Do you have an obligation to assist? (Yes, weak one)

25.    You benefit from system of road transportation with the know result that some innocent animals will be harmed

         a.      Entanglement such as this can provide weak reasons to assist

26.    So morally better not to walk on by, even if only assistance is to kill the suffering animal



28.    Utilitarian & Capability approach obliged to stop both magpie eating and cat attacking

29.    Regan’s negative rights view, since none moral agents, no rights violated, no injustice, not duty to assist

30.    Palmer’s view

         a.      But they are in contact zone, human interaction deeply involved here with all these creatures

         b.      No obligation to assist the tits from magpie

                   i.       Is an obligation to keep feeding tits once one has started

         c.      Not permissible to assist tits

                   i.       As harm magpie

                   ii.      Duty not to harm (magpie)

                   iii.     No duty to assist

                   iv.     A case of harming to assist

                            (1)    Sometimes okay but not here

                   v.      Virtuous person would feel compassion for tits

         d.      Cat and tits

                   i.       Is the owner of the cat harming the tits via the cat?

                            (1)    Like an owner of a dog who trains to be vicious is when that dog bites a person

                            (2)    No: Cats attack birds independently of their domestication and training

                            (3)    So no duty to stop cat as part of making sure one doesn’t harm the tits

                   ii.      Should owner assist the tits (as opposed to not harming them)?       

                            (1)    Yes

                            (2)    Loose sense in which owner is responsible for cat (it’s location and being let outside)

                            (3)    Owner benefits from the cat and these benefits are gained at expense of tits

                            (4)    Virtuous sense of compassion for tits further reason to assist (since not harming the cat)

31.    Duty not assist

         a.      Where assistance not required as no a past harm or created vulnerability

         b.      And were assistance will risk causing harm

32.    Should assist

         a.      Assistance not cause harm

         b.      Some human causal entanglement in animal suffering

         c.      Humans should assist



33.    Palmer on meat eating

         a.      When animals have good lives and killed relatively painlessly, there may be good arguments justifying eating them

                   i.       If accept the view (she rejected) that painlessly killing a sentient animal does not harm it

         b.      Only 1% of current meat production in U.S. fits this category

         c.      Few plausible arguments justifying 99 percent of U.S. meat production from perspective of almost any ethical theory

         d.      Even most forms of speciesism would reject factory farming

                   i.       1: Human interests generally more important than animal interests

                   ii.      2: Conflicts between similar human and animal interests should always be resolved in favor of human interests

                   iii.     Each of these would reject factory farming