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I really like Our World in Data (OWID), and often check/use its data. However, it seems to me that many articles from OWID implicitly argue that nature conservation is good. I think this may well be the case, but more nuance is needed, as it is unclear whether wild animals have good/bad lives (and the same arguably applies to non-animal beings like plants).

I believe wild animal welfare is an important area. I guess its scale is 50 M and 5 M times as large as that of humans and farmed animals.

Should Our World in Data discuss wild animal welfare in the context of nature conservation? For reference, there are no instances of animal “welfare” or “wellbeing” in the following OWID’s articles on biodiversity (there are more, but I did not check them):

I also searched for “wild animal welfare” on OWID’s website, but only got 2 results for farmed “animal welfare”. Even if data about wild animal welfare is scarce, I think it would still be good to at least briefly mention it in some articles discussing wild life.




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While I wholeheartedly agree that it's individuals that matter first and foremost, I also think we shouldn't give in to the temptation to directly advocate against the conservation of species. Unless I'm negative utilitarian, I would think the best outcome would be if they could live happily ever after.[1] Politics disincentivises nuance, but we shouldn't forget about it entirely.

If direct advocacy for interventionism is too controversial, an attitude of compassionate conservation could perhaps be a more palatable alternative:

Compassionate conservationists argue that the conservation movement uses the preservation of species, populations and ecosystems as a measure of success, without explicit concern given to the welfare and intrinsic value of individual animals. They argue instead, that compassion for all sentient beings should be what guides conservation actions[5] and claim that the killing of animals in the name of conservation goals is unnecessary, as these same objectives can be achieved without killing.[6]

  1. ^

    My axiology is primarily about wishes and liking. And given that a large number of humans seem to wish some aspects of nature conserved, I think it would be selfish of me to dismiss their wishes entirely.

    (I also just aesthetically prefer that we don't kill off our Earthly siblings, but I'm just one person, so I try not to let this affect my moral conclusions.)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, rime!

I also think we shouldn't give in to the temptation to directly advocate against the conservation of species

I agree, but for different reasons:

  • Under large uncertainty, it is better to keep options open.
  • Although one does not know whether wild animals have good/bad lives, wiping out nature is easier than building it.
  • Advocatign against conservation would lead to some wiping out of nature, and make it difficult to increase the number of wild animals if they turn out to have good lives.

However, I think arguing for conserva... (read more)

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Great question, thank you! :)
Did you mean to ask it as part of the AMA?
If so, could you please repost it as a comment there? It’s easier for coordination.

Thanks, Ed! I had already drafted (not posted) the question before seeing the AMA, but made a comment there shortly after posting the question. I have now updated that comment with the content of this post (previously, I only had a question linking to this post).

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