Contents Acknowledgements 3 List of abbreviations 4 Abstract 5 Introduction 1

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Acknowledgements 3

List of abbreviations 4

Abstract 5

Introduction 1

i) Aims of the thesis and definitions of key concepts 1

ii) Original contribution to the literature 6

iii) Methodology and limitations to the research 7

iii) Chapter Overview 12

Chapter 1. Assigning moral value to nonhumans 18

i) Restrictiveness and inconsistency in world religions 20

ii) Reason and intelligence 26

iii) Consciousness, Suffering and the ‘Quality’ of Life 34

Chapter 2. The foundational principles of biospherical individualism 42

i) Humans are not innately special. If humans have inherent moral worth it must be because of certain characteristics they possess, rather than the simple fact they are ‘human’. 44

ii) The inherent value of living things is derived from the fact that they are individuals with the ability to pursue their own good in their own way. 49

iii) Defining interests 57

iv) Types of interest - specific, basic and nonbasic 61

Chapter 3. Resolving Conflicts and Guiding Action 66

i) Negative and positive duties 68

ii) Different treatment of different living things is justified only on the grounds of relevant difference. 76

iii) Consuming plants 78

iv) Animals eating animals 83

vi) Humans eating animals 85

Chapter 4. Population control 91

i) Trophy hunting: killing the underpopulated African black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) 94

ii) Killing overpopulated species: lantana (lantana camara) in Australia and the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the USA. 102

iii) Rewilding 114

Chapter 5. ‘Invasive’ species and hybridisation 123

i) ‘Invasive’ species: definitions and dilemmas 125

ii) The incoherence of the ‘non-native’ argument 129

iii) Case study: the ruddy duck 134

iv) Case study: the common cat 145

Chapter 6. Vaccinations, Animal Testing and Conservation 157

i) Killing viruses 158

ii) The threat to great apes and other primates from the Ebola virus 164

iii) Proposed methods for the conservation of apes affected by Ebola 166

Conclusions 180

Part i) The theoretical and political implications of the research 181

Part ii) Limitations to the thesis and ideas for future research 184

Bibliography 188


It perhaps goes without saying that writing this PhD thesis has been a daunting and often difficult experience, yet it has also been an exciting and immensely fulfilling process. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the following people: to my supervisor Dr. Alasdair Cochrane, firstly for being incredibly meticulous and for forcing me to confront the toughest questions when I was subconsciously trying to avoid them. Most significantly though, I would like to thank him for his kindness and for his constant enthusiasm for this project. My thanks also go to my second supervisor Dr. Hayley Stevenson, both for her early thoughts on the project and, more recently, for reading the thesis in full and providing me with some very useful comments. I would also like to thank everyone in the Political Theory Research Group at Sheffield for their feedback on an early draft of my framework.

On a more personal note, my biggest thanks go to Tim for helping me with all things computer-based, but more importantly for his patience, kindness, silliness and for putting up with me every day without complaint. Thank you also to Roshan, my long-suffering friend, proof-reader and agony uncle. Also to Jess, for her motivational speeches and delicious meals, and to Phil, Zoe, Thom W., Sally, Thom L. and Philippa; for always making me laugh and for all your generosity, warmth and encouragement over the last three years.

Finally, thank you to my Mum and Dad, without whose financial support I would not have been able to even contemplate this PhD, and without whose love I would be lost. They will probably disagree with much of the contents of this thesis, but I know that there are no two people in the world who are happier that I had the opportunity to write it.

List of abbreviations

BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation

EISA - European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture

FAO - Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

IISD - International Institute for Sustainable Development

IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature

LZS - London Zoological Society

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

NNSS - Non-Native Species Secretariat

NGOs - Non-Governmental Organisations

RSPB - Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

RSPCA - Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

UN - United Nations

USDA - United States Department of Agriculture

WWF - World Wildlife Fund


There has long been a divide between literature which focuses on the ethical aspects of wildlife conservation and that which deals with its practice. The split is particularly marked when it comes to practices which involve killing, such as hunting and culling. The aim of this thesis is to bridge that divide by creating a new framework, which can be used as a tool for resolving the conflicts of interests which arise when we consider killing one living thing in order to save another. I will argue that killing is only very rarely justified because it undermines the inherent value which exists in all individual living things. Not only is killing usually unethical, it is more often than not ecologically unsound. To demonstrate the veracity of my argument I will combine rigorous analyses of moral philosophy with knowledge gathered from the latest scientific findings on wildlife biology and behaviour.

The first chapter of my thesis utilises these methods to show why the traditional, anthropocentric approaches to wildlife ethics are flawed and how this has led to ineffective policy creation and enforcement. The second and third chapters then set up my alternative framework, which I have termed ‘biospherical individualism’. I outline my philosophical arguments and then use these to construct a series of steps which can be used to answer the question: ‘is it morally permissible to kill X in order to protect Y?’ In the remaining chapters I present case studies to show how my framework can be put into practice. I look at the practice of population control, problems surrounding ‘invasive’ species and the ethics of medical testing to create vaccines for animals. Together, these cases highlight the ways in which our conservation policies have, to date, failed to recognise the inherent value of individual living things and how this has led to our failure to protect them. They also, however, demonstrate ways in which we can reconstruct wildlife policy to serve the interests of the plants and animals themselves and which could lead to more effective protection measures in the future.


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