Full article on Tetropod Zoology.

Abolitionist Project website.

"It seems that philosopher David Pearce is honestly proposing that we should feel ethically compelled to eradicate all suffering and cruelty from the natural world in order to create a sort of global vegan paradise where predators don't exist. Pearce terms this the Abolitionist Project. His plans are, as discussed in depth on his website, theoretically plausible and involve such things as the use of brain implants, behaviour-modifying drugs, and genetic manipulation. Eventually, the lion will, literally, lie down with the lamb, hyaenas will not feel compelled to eat baby elephants alive, and - I presume - ladybirds will not eat aphids, and so on...."

Interesting idea. Insane, but interesting.

Tags: David Pearce, ecology, ethics, extinction, extreamism, genetic engineering, predation

Views: 34

Replies to This Discussion

Yeah, that is completely implausable, and goes against nature. He's a bit of a nut, IMO.
I wonder if the animals really do suffer when they're attacked by predators. I've heard of humans being attacked by wild animals, yet not feeling any pain until much later, because of the adreniline rush and their body going into shock.
Earthlings really upset me, especially the burn experiments on pigs. Even if they were going to use pigs, there was no reason in the world they couldn't have euthanized them first.
Well I'm talking about what happens physologically inside the body when put under extreme stress. Adrenaline triggers the "fight or flight" response and releases endorphins that can lead to a decreased sensation of pain. Think of the number of accounts of shark attacks where a person has an entire limb chopped off yet, to my knowelege, never reports being in pain during the attack. Obviously the animal would be in a paniced state, just as humans are when they're attacked, so there is probably some psychological trauma, but I'm curious as to whether the animal is actually in any physical pain and, if so, how much?

I'm not suggesting that animals don't feel pain, but the way they experiance pain probably differs as much as it does in humans, depending on the situation they're in and what kind of stresses they're under.
I wondered that too, but it turns out David Pearce is a real person.
It looks like I'm in the minority - I think it's a great idea. Realistically, you'd have to deal with a wide range of issues, such as overpopulation, but if we're genetically engineering animals to not be carnivores I assume we can program them not to overpopulate.

People get upset because it's "not natural" but then again homosexuality has been given the same label, and rape certainly does fit the description. The fact is that we've been doing the same thing ever since life began, we're just accelerating it quite a bit.

If you don't think that non-human animals deserve any kind of moral consideration, then that's another debate. Assuming they do deserve moral consideration, and that we have a responsibility not just to avoid bad things but to do good things, and that using genetic manipulation to prevent immoral actions before they begin is ethical, then it would seem to follow necessarily that we have a responsibility to engineer animals to not hurt each other.

Technically, this would result in the mass extinction of basically every currently living species, but they're all going to go sooner or later anyway, so there doesn't seem to be any necessity in protecting them. To put it another way, do we have a responsibility to preserve the genetic diversity that gives rise to, say, sociopathic behavior? Of course not - biodiversity is a means to environmental stability, not an end in itself, and if it were possible to eliminate those genes that result in unethical behavior without destabilizing the environment, obviously that would be the moral thing to do.

Clearly this is science fiction at the moment, but I could imagine us having the technology to accomplish this in a century or three.
IMO, it's not about feelings. I'm not critizing anyone's feelings or desire to be humane. It is just financially impracticle to attempt such a thing. If we're gonna genetically engineer the cruelty out of anyone, it ought to be people. To me, it is not immoral for the lion to kill to eat -- that is the way he evolved. If anyone thinks it is immoral for him to kill, is it then moral to allow his offspring to die because he did not feed them.

Life feeds on life. No, when you look at it, it does not make you feel warm and fuzzy, but that is the nature of life. Who are we to impose our will on it. Imposing our will on nature has been one of the biggest problems we've had, in many many ways (but not all, I suppose).

What I dislike is the joy-killing that man engages in. Still, even cats kill mice only to play with them, but don't end up eating them. My dogs will kill squirrels, but not eat them. Why do they kill them then? Instinct.
I'm not critizing anyone's feelings or desire to be humane. It is just financially impracticle to attempt such a thing.

Well, yes, like I said, this sort of program is still science fiction right now. The question is, hypothetically, if it could be realistically managed, should it be done?


Life feeds on life. No, when you look at it, it does not make you feel warm and fuzzy, but that is the nature of life. Who are we to impose our will on it. Imposing our will on nature has been one of the biggest problems we've had, in many many ways (but not all, I suppose).

Except that it's not exactly like we're imposing our will on animals. When your dog chases the squirrel, does it run? In this hypothetical situation, we wouldn't be imposing our values on animals but, essentially, helping them realize theirs. And, of course, while there's certainly the potential to screw things up, that's a technical issue that would theoretically be solved at some point.


My dogs will kill squirrels, but not eat them. Why do they kill them then? Instinct.

Which is precisely the problem :P
Only if the animal happens to eat exclusively plants. Let's just look at the numbers here. These are just a few of the species that would have to be killed off/sterilized in order for this project to realisticly work:

Between 250-270 species of mammalia.
Most of the 7,600 (aprox) species of lizards and snakes.
3,000 species of amphibion.
All 23 species of crocodilia.
Over 1,500 species of aves.
Most of the 440 species of sharks.
Many of the over 1,000,000 species of arthropod, including spiders and scorpions.
And it goes on....

Note: This list only includes carnivores and inscetovores, but realisticly omnivores and all scavanger species would be included too, as they would adapt to fill the niche of the missing predators.
Woah, woah, woah!!

First off, how can we program animals not to overpopulate? Two methods come to mind. The first is geneticly restricting the time in which an animal comes into heat, there by geneticly reducing their reproductive rate, but we know that this also makes a species more vulnerable to extinction when other factors, such as a changing enviorment, come into play. The second is to make it so animals CAN'T reproduce without human intervention. This also creates a number of problems. If for whatever reason humans are unable to perform artifical insemination, the species goes extinct. Besides, it's just plain cruel to inflict such restrinctions on wild animals.

You also wrote, "Technically, this would result in the mass extinction of basically every currently living species, but they're all going to go sooner or later anyway, so there doesn't seem to be any necessity in protecting them." Let me stand back for a moment to take that all in....

You're in favor of causing a mass extinction - hundreds of millions of deaths - just so that lions will one day eat grass? Do you understand the cruelty inherient in that? The suffering? Natural selection itself is a cruel process, but what you're suggesting is that mankind step in and try to prevent animals from doing what they would do naturally. Would you try to force feed a dog vegitables and grass because his kibble is made of meat? The dog would starve.
No, silly :P

I'm not an expert on animal ecology or genetics, so it's hard for me to say exactly what would work best, but a number of methods come to my uneducated mind, including programming animals to not desire to reproduce when a particular area is too crowded, or reproducing in proportion to available food supplies, and so on. Most animals, from what I understand, already have procreation kill-switches of some sort already - even in human populations, to give a couple examples, women stop ovulating when they're malnourished, and sex drive plummets for both genders under the same circumstances.

And I'm not suggesting that we kill the animals that are being replaced. It'd be enough to spay the females and let the species die of old age (I didn't suggest neutering males for the obvious reason that if you miss even a single male, the species will continue to reproduce). But eventually, yes, the species will go extinct. There shouldn't be any ethical issue with that. Individuals have rights, but "species" is just an idea, a classification we apply to certain populations. Moreover, it's not as though a species is something stable - all species are constantly evolving and shifting from generation to generation. You couldn't preserve a species forever if you wanted to. The only reason why we try to preserve them now is for biodiversity that we currently need in order to remain alive. There's no ethical reason why we couldn't, hypothetically, replace our planet's ecosystem with one that didn't involve routine violence and murder. Isn't that what we get upset about people's gods for - that they didn't design the world with a more humane touch?

And yes, we're stepping in to stop them from doing what they do naturally. We do it with humans every single day. Let me put forward a thought experiment. Supposing you could grow a population of humans and drop them on some unpeopled plain somewhere where they'd fend for themselves, would it be ethical to do so? Even if they had the necessities for survival, without modern medicine, government, scientific knowledge and the like, they'd be in for a rough existence, even if they managed to fend off starvation and life-threatening disease. Now, that would be a 'natural' existence, but it seems obvious that it would be immoral to bring them into that sort of existence, especially if it were preventable. The 'natural' argument just doesn't work. the only sense it makes is if animal instinct were somehow unchangeable, but that's precisely not the situation we're considering.

To put all this another way - sorry, I couldn't help but make the joke - the argument should be subtitled "What if there were no Dog?" As I said before, this is science fiction. We'd be talking about basically redesigning the ecosystem from the ground up if we were to ever do this. But, if it were practically feasible to do so, it seems as though we'd have a moral responsibility to do so.
No, but there is this: The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

You bring up a valid point though - humans are omivores. If all the predators are wiped out the omnivores will adapt to fill that niche. Should we kill them off, too?

That would include: bears, coatis, hedgehogs, opossums, pigs, most primates (humans), raccoons, rodents, chipmunks, mice, rats, squirrels, skunks, sloths, cassowarys, chickens, crows, magpies, ravens, rooks, keas, rallidae, rheas, various reptiles, thousands of inscet species... and these are just what I could find on Wikipedia!

And what about necrovores (aka scavanger species)? What if they adapted to kill prey?

Furthermore, what about predators in the sea? Should we protect fish from carnivores as well? No matter how advanced human technology becomes, would we really be able to police the sea?

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