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The term “wild animal suffering” is a general term that can be defined as follows:

Wild animal suffering: the harms that animals living outside direct human control suffer due partly or totally to natural causes

Since this is a relatively new concept, there are several points to clarify concerning its scope.1

Wild animal suffering: what is it about?

As the term “suffering” indicates, we are concerned about harms affecting the wellbeing of animals. It is therefore different from an interest in conservation. That is, it is not about how species, populations, or ecosystems can be affected, because species and ecosystems are not themselves sentient individuals with subjective feelings. Wild animal suffering is about how the wellbeing of individual animals can be negatively affected. Moreover, animals can be harmed in another way, which is by dying. Given this, the term “wild animal suffering” can also be used in a broader sense that includes not only suffering but also the harm of death.

There are different kinds of factors that can negatively affect animals living outside of human control. To simplify things, they can be grouped into three main groups:

Directly anthropogenic harms: the harms caused by human beings that are the direct result of specific actions, either intentional or unintentional

Examples of intentional direct harm are fishing and hunting. Another example is the intentional eradication of certain animals. This may be for economic reasons, such as when they are killed because of their negative impact on agriculture. It can also be for conservationist purposes, as when animals are killed because of their impact on other species. Examples of unintentional direct harm are when animals are injured or killed by harvesting machines or being run over by vehicles.

Indirectly anthropogenic harms: the harms that result from human action but are not the direct result of concrete actions

There are many different types of these harms. They range from the harms caused by lost fishing nets to harms to animals due to extreme weather events from human-caused changes to the climate.

Natural harms: the harms that take place without any human action being involved

Examples of these are harms from starvation, weather events, accidents, conflicts between animals, and natural disasters.

Generally speaking, the term “wild animal suffering” covers all the harms that are either completely or partly natural. It doesn’t include directly or indirectly anthropogenic ones in which no natural factor is present. The term does include harms resulting from indirectly anthropogenic effects that are more diffuse. An example is when animals die for natural reasons in a new ecosystem created by humans, such as a planted forest.

There aren’t strict borders between the three different types. For example, there is often no clear boundary between direct and indirect anthropogenic harms. It could be argued that while poisoning invertebrates with insecticides would be a direct anthropogenic harm, if they were poisoned by pesticides used to kill weeds then that would be an indirect anthropogenic harm, though both cases would be similar in the end.

Moreover, there can be combinations of the three types, especially of indirect and natural ones. Animals can suffer harms that are partly natural and partly indirectly anthropogenic. Suppose, for example, that a new disease is introduced into a forest indirectly through human action and that some animals die from it. If the animals who live in that place contract the human-introduced disease, then that harm is indirectly anthropogenic, though it is also partly natural because the disease spreads through the population through natural patterns.

Harms of this combined kind could be very common, because humans have changed most of the ecosystems existing on Earth. In fact, because of human-caused changes to the climate, it is likely that there is no longer a single ecosystem unaltered by human activities, with the possible exception of some in the deep ocean and other remote zones. In addition to this, it is estimated that more than a third of the world’s land surface is being used for agricultural purposes. Also, around a fourth of the total land is forests, of which there are large areas that have been planted partially or totally by humans, especially in temperate zones. Primeval forests, which were not planted and have developed with very little human interaction, are a minority (a very small percentage for example in Europe).2 Yet, even these primeval ecosystems have been changed because of human activities affecting the climate. This means that there is no longer a clear distinction between strictly natural harms and partly natural, partly anthropogenic harms to animals.

This is also why, strictly speaking, wild animals living in all those areas could be considered to some extent under human control, because human activities can modify the places where they live and the conditions in which they live. In order to distinguish the animals we are concerned with here, we need to point out that they live outside direct human control.

Wild animal suffering: not just about animals living in the wilderness

Something else that should be clarified about the term “wild animal suffering” is the meaning of “wild animals.”

We might think wild animals are simply those that typically live in the wild. But this is inaccurate. The same animals living in those areas can be found in other places. Also, the term “the wild” can be confusing. Properly speaking, it means areas or ecosystems untouched, or only affected in minor ways, by human beings. Sometimes it is understood to mean all areas that don’t have significant human presence or activity, including, for example, forests managed by humans. But the term wild animal suffering is not meant to include only the animals living in those places.

Many animals that most people consider “wild” live outside direct human control in areas devoted to agriculture or animal farming. They can also be found in urban, suburban, and industrial areas. Many types of vertebrates, like small mammals, reptiles and birds, some large vertebrates, and many invertebrates live in those places. Birds, squirrels, butterflies, and lizards are examples of animals living in urban environments.3 They are often directly harmed by human actions. But they also suffer because of how their ecosystems affect their lives. Because of this, they can also be included within the definition.

There are some animals who live outside human control but are not typically classified as wild, such as animals who are considered “feral.” However, the distinction between “feral” and “wild” animals is not relevant from the point of view of their suffering. They are harmed in similar ways because of the challenges they must face. Accordingly, under the term “wild animal suffering” we can certainly include concern for feral animals.

We can therefore see that the term “wild animals” in “wild animal suffering” denotes all animals living outside of human control. “Wild animal” is just a linguistic shortcut that is used for simplicity. But we have to remember that it covers not only the animals living in wild or semi-wild areas, but also feral animals and animals living in urban environments.

Species membership is not what is relevant

A common way to use the term “wild animal” is to refer to animals who do not belong to species that have been domesticated (selectively bred for many generations by humans, like dogs and chickens).

These are not the animals referred to in the term “wild animal suffering.” There are animals who are wild in this sense but live in captivity, such as minks in a fur farm, captive elephants trained for working, and zebras in a zoo.

These animals usually suffer a lot because of their use by human beings, and their situation is something that anyone concerned about animal suffering should be quite worried about. Animal advocates have therefore struggled for a long time to defend these animals. However, this is a different concern. Wild animal suffering relates to the situation of animals who do not live in captivity. Borderline cases include animals who are used in farming but spend most of their lives unconfined. As an example, we can think of a goat or a sheep who spends all her life in the hills.

Problems with the term “wildlife”

Another term that is often used is “wildlife.” This is an inaccurate term for wild animals for two reasons. First, it is often used to refer to all kinds of living organisms. This doesn’t differentiate animals from other organisms that are not sentient. Second, even when it is used to refer specifically to wild animals, the word “wildlife” is not a countable quantity, so it doesn’t recognize animals as individuals.

So, to conclude, the word “wild” as used in “wild animal suffering” does not distinguish animals in terms of their species. It doesn’t, like “wildlife,” refer to them as part of an undifferentiated component of an ecosystem. It also has nothing to do with the assumption that they have a ferocious character or nature. It just describes a circumstance they are in with regard to humans.

People concerned about the situation of these animals sometimes use other terms. “Helping wild animals” is a term that has been used to refer to efforts to aid them. The term “wild animal welfare”4 is used as a descriptive term for their situation from the point of view of their wellbeing. Note, however, that “wild animal welfare” has been used in several different ways:5

Wild animal welfare (1): the situation of undomesticated animals with respect to their wellbeing

Wild animal welfare (2): the regulations about the ways undomesticated animals are kept in captivity

Wild animal welfare (3): the science that assesses the wellbeing of undomesticated animals

Due to this, there is the possibility of confusion here, among other reasons because this term is often used to refer to undomesticated animals living in captivity.

Finally, the term “welfare biology” is used for a proposed field of study that would examine the wellbeing of all animals, especially those living outside human control.6 It would primarily, though not necessarily only, study wild animal suffering. More technically, it can be defined as follows:

Welfare biology: the study of sentient living beings with respect to their positive and negative wellbeing

Welfare biology would be a cross-disciplinary field that includes wild animal welfare science together with contributions from ecology and other fields in the natural sciences. Wild animal welfare science would assess the wellbeing of animals by considering their behavior, physiology, and other indicators. Other fields like ecology would examine the external factors that affect it. Welfare biology has the potential to inform policies to actually help wild animals and prevent the harms they suffer.


1 Horta, O. (2010) “Debunking the idyllic view of natural processes: Population dynamics and suffering in the wild”, Télos, 17, pp. 73-88 [accessed on 17 October 2019]; (2017) “Animal suffering in nature: The case for intervention”, Environmental Ethics, 39, pp. 261-279; Tomasik, B. (2015 [2009]) “The importance of wild animal suffering”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 133-152 [accessed on 2 October 2019]; Dorado, D. (2015) “Ethical interventions in the wild: An annotated bibliography”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 219-238 [accessed on 15 October 2019]; Faria, C. (2016) Animal ethics goes wild: The problem of wild animal suffering and intervention in nature, Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Soryl, A. A. (2019) Establishing the moral significance of wild animal welfare and considering practical methods of intervention, Master’s thesis, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam. See also Animal Ethics (2018) “Publications about wild animal suffering”, Blog, Animal Ethics.

2 Potapov P.; Laestadius L.; Yaroshenko A.; Turubanova S. (2009) “Global mapping and monitoring the extent of forest alteration: The Intact Forest Landscapes method”, Forest Resources Assessment, Working Paper 166 [accessed on 17 October 2019]; Potapov, P.; Hansen, M. C.; Laestadius, L.; Turubanova, S.; Yaroshenko, A.; Thies, C.; Smith, W.; Zhuravleva, I.; Komarova, A.; Minnemeyer, S. & Esipova, E. (2017) “The last frontiers of wilderness: Tracking loss of intact forest landscapes from 2000 to 2013”, Science Advances, 3 (1) [accessed on 11 October 2019].

3 Hadidian, J. & Smith, S. (2001) “Urban wildlife”, in Salem, D. J. & Rowan, A. N. (eds.) The state of the animals 2001, Washington, D. C.: Humane Society Press, pp. 165-182; Michelfelder, D. P. (2018) “Urban wildlife ethics: Beyond “parallel planes”, Environmental Ethics, 40, pp. 101-117.

4 See for instance Kirkwood, J. K.; Sainsbury, A. W. & Bennett, P. M. (1994) “The welfare of free-living wild animals: Methods of assessment”, Animal Welfare, 3, pp. 257-273; Harrop, S. R. (1997) “The dynamics of wild animal welfare law”, Journal of Environmental Law, 9, pp. 287-302 [accessed on 17 October 2019]; Kirkwood, J. K. (2013) “Wild animal welfare”, Animal Welfare, 22, pp. 147-148; JWD Wildlife Welfare Supplement Editorial Board (2016) “Advances in animal welfare for free-living animals”, Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 52, pp. S4-S13.

5 See Haynes, R. P. (2008) Animal welfare: Competing conceptions and their ethical implications, Dordrecht: Springer. Sometimes the term “animal welfare” is used among animal advocates for the view that it is acceptable to cause certain harms to animals provided that they are not excessive. Accordingly, some uses of animals that can be harmful to them are acceptable if the harms that are considered necessary for such use are minimized. This meaning is totally different from the other ones we have seen here.

6 See Ng, Y.-K. (1995) “Towards welfare biology: Evolutionary economics of animal consciousness and suffering”, Biology and Philosophy, 10, 255-285; Carpendale, M. (2015) “Welfare biology as an extension of biology: Interview with Yew-Kwang Ng”, Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism, 3, pp. 197-202 [accessed on 17 October 2019]; Faria, C. & Horta, O. (forthcoming) “Welfare biology”, in Fischer, Bob (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Animal Ethics, London: Routledge.





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I'm excited to see Animal Ethics cross-posting its content!

Readers: If you found this introduction helpful/interesting, you might also like these other Forum pieces on the topic:

[NB: Any opinions I express here are mine alone and not intended to represent the Wild Animal Initiative.]

There are several things I like about this post, including the clarification that it is difficult to strictly distinguish between naturogenic and anthropogenic harms, the explicit inclusion of urban animals, and the emphasis on individual context rather than species membership.

Nevertheless, there are a few things I disagree with here, regarding both the terms used and the way they are defined.

Firstly, I think the "wild animal suffering" (henceforth WAS) framing is worse than "wild animal welfare" (henceforth WAW) and should be largely abandoned in its favour. I think this for two main reasons:

  • In terms of the broader populace, I claim WAS sounds much stranger than WAW. The animal-welfare movement is well-established; the animal-suffering-reduction movement is not. Framing the issue as WAW places it firmly in the context of existing concerns in a way many more people can get behind. As such, I predict that this framing will make it easier to get buy-in from more mainstream scientists (which is essential to moving forward with welfare biology), as well as the general public.
  • In terms of the EA movement, I think WAW is more inclusive than WAS. Many people involved in the cause area are not negative utilitarians, and the WAS framing seems to assume that they are in a way that I don't think is helpful.

Both of these seem to me to be reasons why a WAS framing would make it more difficult to attract broad support for improving the lives of wild animals than a WAW framing. (I'm speaking from personal experience here: I became much more interested in participating once people started switching to WAW. I think that being put off by the negativist framing of WAS was a big part of this. I'm not sure how much I endorse this, but I do think it is true.)

I don't agree with the claim that the WAW framing is likely to cause confusion, so I don't find that counterpoint very compelling.

Secondly, I disagree with some of the boundaries drawn here around the concept of wild animal suffering / welfare. I think the term most naturally applies to anything that affects the suffering/welfare of wild animals, whether naturogenic or anthropogenic or something in between, and hence disagree with the claim here that WAS/W should refer only to harms that are "completely or partly natural". I also think including death or other non-welfarist harms in the definition is odd and confusing; if you're concerned about these I think a different term, such as "wild animal rights" or somesuch, would be preferable.

Thirdly, while I agree that there are important differences between traditional conservationist values and WAW (and personally don't think that species or ecosystems have more than instrumental value), I'd gently caution against overstating the opposition between these worldviews. It's my impression that, framed correctly, a substantial fraction of people in the conservation movement are sympathetic to concerns about the welfare of individual wild animals, and willing to consider including it as something to be considered when planning conservationist interventions. This was a big update for me when I learned about it, and I don't think it should have been. Conservationists are doing what they do because they love nature and, in many cases, because they love animals. This is important to keep in mind.

I’m part of the group of people who wrote this blog post, so thanks for your comments! I’ll try to clarify first my understanding of the views Animal Ethics has, and then make some points that will just express my own opinions.

The post is basically looking for a definition of the term “wild animal suffering”, and is intending to be partly descriptive, in trying to recognize the use the term has had, though at some points we do propose some ways to solving possible confusions.

One thing Animal Ethics doesn’t really try to do is to advocate for the use of the term “wild animal suffering” (though we do recognize problems with the alternative “wild animal welfare”). In fact, when started to work we used the term “helping wild animals”, rather than “wild animal suffering”, because we thought it would be more appealing to both the general public and animal advocates.

However, the term “wild animal suffering” eventually became well-established among effective altruists and animal advocates. The creation of Wild Animal Suffering Research first as a project and afterwards as an organization confirmed this. So eventually, a couple of years ago, Animal Ethics decided to should follow suit and use the established language too. The different language we were using wasn’t leading to better communication, but the opposite (people sometimes didn’t recognize us as working on wild animal suffering just because of the language we were using). Since then, the term has become even more firmly established, and due to this we’ve kept using it. If a better alternative became established among EAs and animal advocates, we might start to use it instead. As for the general public, most people are perfectly familiar with the idea of animal suffering (still, we often choose to speak of “helping wild animals” instead).

However, we don’t use this term when we want to reach scientists, as they are unfamiliar with it and it may sound strange to them. We totally agree with you on that. We try to have a nuanced and strategic approach, and to use the language that will work best with the audiences we’re addressing. Of course this is tricky, as it’s not always easy to separate your audiences.

As for the problems with the term “wild animal welfare”, the use of this term may not be confusing to people who are familiar with its multiple meanings. But most people are not. When you use the term, you can’t be always explaining what is the meaning with which you’re using it. As a result, people may be familiar with one use and understand you mean that meaning, when you’re actually using it with another one.

For instance, suppose someone looks for papers about “wild animal welfare” and finds one paper by James Kirkwood and another one by Luke Hecht. If the reader is quite familiar with the literature, she will know they are meaning two different things with the term. Otherwise, she won’t be aware of the fact that they mean different things.

Another problem is that among many animal advocates the term “animal welfare” has a terrible reputation, as it is identified with animal exploitation industries trying to justify animal abuse. Perhaps this is unfortunate and wrong, but that’s the situation we face, it’s been like that for the last two decades at least and it’s not likely to change in the near future. It wouldn't be a good thing to alienate those people. Animal Ethics doesn't believes in creating a “wild animal suffering movement”. Rather, it believes in making concern for animals in the wild an integral part of animal advocacy. Due to this, we try to use the language that best avoids not just misunderstandings but also negative reactions that may hurt that goal. Of course, again, when we are addressing scientists using the term “animal welfare” is not a concern, and we certainly use it.

I now move to the definition of the term “wild animal suffering” not to name directly anthropogenic harms. Natural and directly anthropogenic harms are not just different in kind; they differ in the attention they have got and in the ways in which they need to be addressed. Advocacy against hunting, fishing, zoos, circuses, and other forms human directly harm undomesticated animals is mainstream in animal advocacy, and has been on for a very long time. But this has never triggered any concern for the natural harms animals suffer. Mainstream animal advocacy draws an important distinction between natural and other harms, and doesn’t address the former. So, when some people started to worry about natural harms suffered by animals, which had not been tackled yet, it was clear that we were facing a new cause area. This is why the term “wild animal suffering” was coined, in order to name it.

If we decided to stop using the term “wild animal suffering” to name this specific cause area in order to use it to include also directly anthropogenic harms such as the ones caused by fishing, zoos, etc., then the term would no longer be very useful, as it would not name any concrete cause area, but a mixture of different ones. Moreover, we would then have to find another label to name specifically the cause area related to the natural harms.

Concerning this:

I also think including death or other non-welfarist harms in the definition is odd and confusing

I assume that by “non-welfarist harms” you mean harms that can’t be described as events or states negatively affecting someone’s wellbeing. No such harms are considered in the post in the description of what wild animal suffering is. We say explicitly that wild animal suffering concerns only things affecting animals’ wellbeing.

The account of the harm of death that is standard today claims that death is harmful because it reduces your wellbeing. It does so by depriving you of the positive wellbeing that you would otherwise suffer. That is, if the total wellbeing you’d experience by not dying at time t1 is worse than the one you’d experience by dying later, at t2, then dying at y1 is a harm. If you agree with this, and think death is something that negatively affects our wellbeing, you’ll take it into account as one of the ways animals can be harmed by natural reasons. If you think death is not a harm at all, then you won’t. The definition to be compatible with both views, it would be incompatible, however, with including other things not related to the animals' wellbeing.

(Btw, we've used "wellbeing" and "welfare" as synonyms here, as the literature about welfarism typically does, even though there are certain contexts different from this one where they may be used differently).

Concerning your final concern about conservationism, I don’t think the post argues against what you point out. The paper doesn’t argue in favor of certain strategy over another one. At any rate, this is another point where we need a nuanced approach. We need to always bear in mind who our audience is. I agree with you (and so does Animal Ethics, I think), that when addressing scientists and doing academic outreach it is useful to stress the confluences between the defense of wild animals and conservationist aims. No disagreement here!

Things are not the same when we consider the general public, as most people, including many EAs, get confused about what concern about wild animals mean, and tend to confuse it with conservationist concerns. This results in people misunderstanding what wild animal suffering and helping wild animals is about. In this case, it's necessary to clarify the distinctions between both approaches, in order for people to understand what we are talking about.

So, again, a nuanced view is needed here, even if , as I said above, it’s not always easy to completely separate your audience.

Finally, I’d also like to clarify that the term “wild animal suffering” doesn’t imply a commitment to a suffering-focused view (whether a negative consequentialist one, utilitarian or not, or a non-consequentialist one). As far as I know this is not something that has been discussed at Animal Ethics, I’ll just explain my own views about this.

The main reason why there's no such commitment is that not only suffering-focused views are concerned with suffering. Many others do too (I think any plausible view does). This includes of course views that, like standard utilitarianism, prioritarianism or perfectionism, aim at some sort of maximization of positive minus negative things. All these views, and many others, aim at minimizing suffering, what happens is that they aim at other things too.

An extra reason may be that, given how things are in the wild, helping wild animals is a very promising cause area in terms of reducing suffering, but not really in terms of promoting positive wellbeing. Given a certain amount of resources r, using r to increase positive experiences among wild animals would achieve very poor results in comparison to using r to reduce suffering in the wild.

Due to this, many people, both suffering-focused and not, have used the term “wild animal suffering” regardless of their different ethical views. (In fact, we should bear in mind also that the terms “welfare” and “wellbeing” are optimistically biased, as wellbeing can be negative. So, suffering-focused people could object to it by claiming it is not representative of all views. I have never heard such complaints, though they would have more grounding than the opposite one that the term “animal suffering” is not representative. At any rate, in line with what I said at the beginning, the terms we have to use are often not the ones that best name things, but the ones that achieve successful communication).

Thanks again for your remarks!

Hi Oscar, thanks for your reply. Since I don't think there's any serious disagreement about the third point (about conservationism) I'll drop it and focus on the other two. :-) I'm also not going to address the within-EA aspect of the terminological dispute since I think we've more-or-less covered everything on both sides there.

You didn't link to the Kirkwood paper so I don't know exactly which definition he uses, but of the three possible interpretations you give in the OP I don't see a severe contradiction between 1 and 3 (that's just the difference between a thing and the study of that thing, which is generally clear from context), while the potential between 1 and 2 isn't any worse for WAW than for WAS; it just seems to be the case that people can interpret "wild animals" as either "animals in the wild" or "animals from undomesticated species (possibly in captivity)", and you need to make clear which one you mean. So I'm not currently buying this as an argument against WAW compared to WAS.

It's a reasonable point that if you're targeting traditional animal rights activists who oppose more welfarist approaches to animal issues then you might want to avoid welfarist language. I don't know much about this so I won't argue the point. I do (weakly) claim that when it comes to WAW we should be more concerned about reaching out to welfare scientists and conservationists than animal rights activists, and that our dominant language should reflect that. This might just be a WAI/AE strategic difference, though.

Regarding the scope of the term "wild animal suffering", I maintain that the most natural definition of the term is "suffering experienced by wild animals", without additional restrictions regarding the source of that suffering. Of course one can also clarify that one is also (even principally) concerned about non-anthropogenic harms, or that one thinks naturogenic harms are massively more neglected (I agree with this), but I think actually trying to restrict the scope of the term to that is likely to produce unneeded confusion, as well as throwing away an important on-ramp for getting people to care about natural harms to animals. In our experience at WAI, for example, being inclusive of anthropogenic harms has been very helpful at getting academic collaborators on board.

Finally, it seems to me that if we're taking a strictly deprivationist account of the harm of death (which I'm very sympathetic to), then death is included as a (potential) harm under WAW but not WAS; ceteris paribus, killing an animal might reduce its net welfare if its future would otherwise be good, but it's not going to increase its suffering.

[NB: As of this week I no longer work at WAI.]

On a meta-level, it seems that a huge amount of this comes down (perhaps unsurprisingly) to strategy, framing, and target groups. This being the case, it might have been better to be more explicit about this in this post: "For [these reasons], Animal Ethics prefers to define WAS [thusly] when communicating with [target groups]. Other groups may make different communication decisions in other contexts."

Hi Will, thanks again for your comments!

It seems we agree that it’s reasonable to make word choices according to what will work best for successful communication in different contexts. Below I’ll make some remarks about this. But there is another issue that is more relevant as it doesn’t involve just language. This is the question of whether the harms that animals suffer due partly or totally to natural reasons are constitute distinct and unique problem that needs to be tackled specifically (or, in other words, a cause area). I believe this is the case, for the following reasons:

1. The measures needed to address both issues are totally different (in the case of anthropogenic harms, we just need to avoid causing them, in the case of natural harms, the question is way more complex).

2. The kind of scientific research that each problem requires us to do is also different.

3. The way in which the public understands natural harms suffered by animals is very different from how they understand the ways animals are harmed by humans. Outreach focused exclusively in challenging anthropogenic harms doesn’t raise concerns about natural harms. The public (and scientists too) have very diverging attitudes towards both. It’s likely that this is due to the widespread idyllic view of nature and the related opinion that we shouldn’t intervene in the natural harms animals suffer.

The latter is something that a point you mention actually shows, when you point out:

being inclusive of anthropogenic harms has been very helpful at getting academic collaborators on board

One would expect this, as a result of the third reason mentioned above. In fact, you asked academic collaborators about restricting the scope of wild animal welfare to mean anthropogenic harms alone, excluding not natural ones, they might agree even more.

Having said this, I’m very supportive of combining outreach and research about animals harmed by natural and by anthropogenic causes if that is strategically useful to favor the former. But I reach this conclusion after recognizing the specific nature of the problem of the natural harms suffered by animals.

You didn't link to the Kirkwood paper so I don't know exactly which definition he uses

I didn’t mean any paper by him in particular. I picked his name because he’s probably the most representative wild animal welfare scientists in the traditional way of understanding the term, which excludes natural harms. Most of the literature on wild animal welfare was assuming this too, and it’s also the one that organizations like UFAW or IFAW have assumed to date. The new understanding of the term to include natural harms just started around a couple of years ago (and I mentioned Luke because AFAIK a forthcoming paper from him will be the first in the scientific literature to use a different meaning). [Regardless of that, among Kirkwood’s most relevant papers on this topic I would mention these ones (especially the 2nd and the 3rd one): Kirkwood, J. K. (1992) “Wild animal welfare”, in International Whaling Commission (ed.), Report of the Whale Welfare and Ethics Workshop, Eden Project (IWC/63/WKM&AWI4). Cambridge: International Whaling Commission, 66-68; Kirkwood, J. K.; Sainsbury, A. W. and Bennett, P. M. (1994) “The welfare of free-living wild animals: Methods of assessment,” Animal Welfare, 3, 257-273; Kirkwood, J. K. and Sainsbury, A. W. (1996) “Ethics of interventions for the welfare of free-living wild animals”, Animal Welfare, 5: 235-243; Kirkwood, J. K. (2013) “Wild animal welfare,” Animal Welfare, 22, 147-148].

death is included as a (potential) harm under WAW but not WAS

Yes, that’s why in the description of the meaning of WAS the clarification was made that while death is not a form of suffering, if it is included among the natural harms animals suffer we can consider it to be part of the cause area defined with the term WAS. I agree that this is imprecise, which is why such explanation was needed.

It's a reasonable point that if you're targeting traditional animal rights activists who oppose more welfarist approaches to animal issues then you might want to avoid welfarist language.

Animal Ethics targets all kind of animal advocates, not just those assuming a certain viewpoint. It wants to achieve the wider possible support among them. As I said above, when Animal Ethics does outreach aiming at biologists and animal welfare scientists it uses a language that is intended to suit that purpose as best as possible. (Let me clarify that while the views expressed in previous paragraphs just reflected my own opinions, in this one I’ve tried to present what I think is Animal Ethics’s position).

This might just be a WAI/AE strategic difference, though.

But the discussion is relevant, because I think it’s not quite so that WAI only focuses on scientists and AE tries to reach both scientists and also other audiences. It seems to me that WAI also reaches other audiences too, even if to a less degree.

it might have been better to be more explicit about this in this post: "For [these reasons], Animal Ethics prefers to define WAS [thusly] when communicating with [target groups]. Other groups may make different communication decisions in other contexts."

With this I have to disagree, because the post is not about this issue. In this exchange, you and I have been discussing the question of communication decisions because you brought it up in your first comment, but the post never addressed it. The post only tries to do something much more modest, which is to describe what the cause area commonly named “wild animal suffering” is. The post was not written to argue in favor of using one or another term (in the case of the term “wild animal welfare” it just warns that it has several meanings and that confusions can happen, but this doesn’t rule out that there may be other reasons to use it). The subsequent discussion led us away from the topics addressed in the post. But it’s been interesting anyway, I think! :)

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