Ty Raterman, “An Environmentalist’s Lament on Predation”


1.      Laments predation

         a.      P. 417-418 predation story of 4 hyenas taking down wildebeest after 50km chase over 3km

                   i.       The hyenas tried to bite him in the hindquarters, sides, and especially the testicles, while he in turn struggled to horn his attackers. . . . All four [hyenas] bit him simultaneously at the loins, testicles, and anal region of the wildebeest, paying little attention to his horns. The mobility of the victim was much impaired by the four pursuers hanging onto his hindquarters. Another two minutes later the wildebeest had a large gash in the right loin, the testicles had been bitten off, and he stood as if in a state of shock. Occasionally he made some frantic movements and was able to struggle free from the hyenas, but then some member of the pack would renew the attack. . . . Eight minutes after the wildebeest had stopped running he went down and the hyenas stood over him pulling out his insides. Another two minutes later, the wildebeest died.

         b.      Suffering and death in predation

                   i.       Unease, sorrow, unfortunate, regrettable,

                   ii.      World in which no animal needed to prey on others would be a better world

                   iii.     Wishes that no animal had to die so others could live


2.      Lamentable because

         a.      Often inflicts pain on prey

                   i.       Pain is not always lamentable but in this case it is

         b.      Often frustrates prey’s desires

                   i.       Not just pain of prey, but their death frustrates their desires

                   ii.      Satisfaction or frustrations of desire is morally relevant

         c.      Positively valuing predation (fascination, wonderment, enthusiasm, praise, thrill) or being indifferent to it “is in tension with” sensitivity to other forms of hardship

                   i.       “It is unlikely that one who admires one animal killing another would be sensitive to all other hardships that plague family, friends, children and decent people should e attuned to these”

                   ii.      “Savoring, relishing, praising predation is inconsistent with a praiseworthy sensitivity to suffering all around one

         d.      Virtues of compassion and gentleness require one to see predation as lamentable

                   i.       People who don’t lament predation are morally deficient in this regard

                   ii.      A genuine compassionate person will sympathize with the wildebeest that is being eaten alive.


3.      Some aspects of predation are praiseworthy

         a.      Admirable traits developed by and displayed in predation

                   i.       Predation can benefit the prey species (not the individual)

                            (1)    The individual might benefit if was going to slowly die painfully (old, diseased/sick)

                   ii.      Produces clever, swift, and strong prey (and predators)

                   iii.     Controls population and resulting problems (starvation, ecosystem degradation, interference with humans)

4.      Valuing these products and dimensions of predation does not require one to admire mechanism by which developed or through which displayed

         a.      False idea that one who wills the end must will the means

         b.      Addiction example: One can value the strength of character that comes form a woman’s long battle with addiction, without valuing the addiction itself

                   i.       One can value the population control result of starvation and disease without valuing the starvation and disease itself

         c.      Clever bank robber example: One can value the cunning display of the bank robber without valuing the suffering and death involved in it.

5.      Objection: Stripping all the good away from predation (treating it as separable from predation) and insisting that everything negative pain/death is essential to it

         a.      He thinks admirable traits of prey/predators and consequences of predation are separable from predation while suffering and death are not

                   i.       Worry: It could be that we could have predation w/o death or suffering of prey.....(prey have anaesthesia and only eat part of prey)



7.      Does involve opposing nature in a sense

         a.      But nothing wrong with opposing nature

         b.      We do it all the time when we put up screens, prune back shrubs, put on rain gear

         c.      Worries:

                   i.       Examples are of protecting ourselves from nature not objecting to things happening in nature separate from us

                   ii.      Predation is very fundamental feature of nature and objecting to it is to object to something deep about how nature works

8.      Admirers predators but does not appreciate predators for all of, or exactly what, they are

         a.      Can value them for much of what they are

         b.      Just like can value one’s child but object to some of his/her features (be a more serious student, be more sociable)

         c.      Can be an enthusiastic admirer of lions (gorgeous, majestic, impressive creatures) w/o valuing every one of their aspects

         d.      Does not lament their existence, but does lament that they are carnivorously constituted

         e.      Worries:

                   i.       Carnivory/predation is not a minor feature of lions/predators, but essential to them and so lamenting it is to lament them

                   ii.      Could one value one’s son if instead of minor deficiencies he were a vicious killer?


9.      Can still be an environmentalist, “a lover of the wild,” and oppose/lament predation?

         a.      Yes: He loves to hike/camp, encourages wilderness, wary of toxins, loves to identify plants/birds, fascinated by biodiversity

                   i.       That he laments predation does not by itself undermine his credentials as an environmentalist

         b.      Worry: Again, this depends on how fundamental predation is to nature


10.    Lamenting predation does not commit one to preventing or disrupting it (policing nature)

         a.      Agrees if lamenting predation implies we should prevent it, this would show lamenting predation is absurd

         b.      Two reasons not to prevent predation

                   i.       It’s costly

                   ii.      Violate’s nature’s autonomy

                            (1)    Like lament what adult child is doing but does not interfere out of respect for her autonomy

         c.      Preventing predation is costly for humans and the animals involved (overpopulation of prey)

         d.      Cowen’s argument that sometimes its not all that costly doesn’t undermine Raterman’s claim, for he is not claiming that one should never interfere with predation

                   i.       So Raterman thinks interfering with predation is sometimes permissible?

         e.      Interfering with predation is to violate the respect for nature’s autonomy or predator’s autonomy

11.    Worry: Given how bad he thinks predation is, unless he values nature’s autonomy very, very strongly, he should be committed to prevent it, in theory.