Alexander David

Associate @ Magic Circle Law Firm
66 karmaJoined



I am passionate about wild animal welfare... To the point where I want to say, what other concern can one possibly have? Alas! I do, in fact, have material concerns due to which I have become a dismal lawyer. But at least I will "earn-to-give," yes, and at some point... throw my entire life force, earnings, and accumulated knowledge to the cause of wild animal welfare.

Specifically, before I die, I will see to it that "nature" is no longer seen as some blissful state of harmony. No, before I die, nature shall be considered hell itself, where—as we speak, my friends!—trillions of sentient beings writhe in unimaginable pain. Plain and simple, this fact shall not be avoided for any reason.



The idea is just that championing biodiversity logically entails a strong resistance to habitat destruction and even extinction of certain species (if it be necessary to reduce suffering). For example, if we could (in the future if technology advances sufficiently):

  1. Gradually eliminate a certain predator species in an ecological area (ex. wolves) (as peacefully as possible, perhaps by birth control), and
  2. Also control the prey population from getting out of hand (again, perhaps by some advanced birth control technology)

Then this may (all else equal) reduce the total amount of suffering in the wild, since the prey population in that area are no longer being torn apart by predators and living in constant fear of them. Yet, the supporter of biodiversity would resist this intervention, since it entails the immediate reduction of biodiversity via the elimination of the predator species. 

Brian Tomasik has some interesting discussions touching on this topic. I also found this paper which is quite technical but it directly address this issue.

 As someone who considers "wild animal suffering" to be by far the most pressing issue on earth (as it has been since the emergence of conscious animal life), I think this news is a step of advancement in terms of battling extreme suffering.

It is my view that those who wage war against wild animal suffering should not tackle the problem head-on. It seems much more politically prudent to champion veganism of some sort (or perhaps more specifically, the humane slaughter of farm animals, as Brian Tomasik suggests here), in order to first increase the general public's concern for animal welfare.

It is to this median-goal that the Belgian Constitution contributes, by: 

  1. Imposing a general duty upon the various levels of government to protect the "welfare" of animals, and
  2. To recognize "animals" as "sentient beings" (whose extent of coverage, I assume, will be subject to numerous legal debates).

I think it is important to note that other constitutions (that refer to animals) are written in ways that actually (one could argue) have a net negative impact on wild animal welfare. For example, Article 19 of Italy's Constitution states that the Republic must "safeguard the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems."[1] My concern here is that, if in the future, an extinction of certain species (done as humanely as possible) becomes necessary to reduce wildlife suffering, then this curious human obsession with "biodiversity" (enshrined in the Constitution!) would be a hindrance. 

  1. ^

    Similarly, Article 78, Paragraph 4 of the Swiss Constitution states that the government "shall legislate on the protection of animal and plant life and on the preservation of their natural habitats and their diversity. It shall protect endangered species from extinction." And Paragraph 5 says: "Moors and wetlands of special beauty and national importance shall be preserved." 

    So much for the human eye! Our "intellectual delight"—this parasite in our brains existing as some kind of self-propagating creature feeding on the visual input of "wonderful-colorful diversity"—has convinced our other neurons that they've no reason to investigate deeper into nature; that what appears to us less colorful must be less wonderful for the animals, too! My friends, I declare that humanity has thus far been a slave to this parasite! 

Here's my advice, if I may. If you know that someone's already written on the topic, but you're still hesitating as to whether to write it or not—instead of abandoning it without a second thought—then I assume there's something that you feel is still worth writing; as you say, "I acknowledge that I might have some novel ideas and something to add." Or perhaps the way you look at the issue, the way you express it, the way you summarize it, the particular point you emphasize, etc.

I mean surely, if you really thought that someone else has already written something that sufficiently matches what you're about to say, you wouldn't even be asking this question, no? 

As for the sense of "overwhelm," no I don't feel it. I appreciate well-written posts, but as far as I could tell, this forum's guidelines do not include any requirements to either "refraining from already-discussed topics" or "making brilliant posts all the time." So why self-impose further requirements? You have ideas, so you should express them within the bounds set by this platform. Go for it!

This is the question. I agree with finm that we should stay alive since: 1) we just might figure out a way to stop the mass suffering, and 2) we just might develop the intention to do something about it. 

To add on a third, point, I would say: 3) if humanity goes extinct, then there is a possibility that either: 

  • a) no other species capable of humanity's intelligence and empathy ever comes into being, whereas nature stays on, thus guaranteeing mass suffering until the end of the universe; or 
  • b) even if another another species like humanity (or humanity itself) emerges, that would require hundreds of millions of years, during which sentient beings would suffer.

So I'm of the belief that humanity should be kept alive, because it is the only—albeit small—specter of hope for sentient beings. Now, I am a bit more hopeful than you, simply because within the span of a mere 4000 years of civilization (which is a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things), humanity has, in many places: 

  • recognized the evil of slavery, caste system, etc.; 
  • outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex; 
  • done away with the belief that war is "glorious"; 
  • even passed laws outlawing certain practices against animals (California's Proposition 12); 
  • actually tried to realize utopia (ex. French and Russian Revolutions, etc.) (even though they failed spectacularly)

Vive humanity! Well, of course we have done as much—if not much more—horrible things to each other and to animals, but ultimately...  upon whom else can we rest our hopes, my friend?

First of all, I think this is a fantastic article. It's very clear and brings some new, interesting points.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but here's my crude summary of what you're essentially trying to get at:

  • Diagnosis of a problem: The conventional definition of veganism—i.e. "Avoid all first-order consumption!"—overlooks other animal-harms caused by adherents of that definition, as well as harms prevented by actions that do not conform to that definition. And as I understand it, the reason why this is a problem (again, correct me if I'm wrong) is that, 1) it "limits intellectual freedom," and 2) pushing too hard on this definition might lead to a situation where the total man-made suffering of animals might be higher than otherwise could've been under a more flexible definition.
  • One possible solution to the problem: We shouldn't be so inflexible by demanding conformity to the conventional definition. We should allow some expansion/dilution of the definition, so that other ways/acts to reduce human-caused animal suffering (ex. reducing vehicle usage) can be welcomed/encouraged, even if the person performing such an act eats meat. This may lead to a state where the total man-made suffering of animals is lower than would've been under the world that demands conformity to the conventional definition.

If this is correct, then here's my take: if my goal were to minimize the total man-made suffering of animals, then I would demand conformity to the conventional definition, because I think—as you said—it brings "solidarity," "uniformity," and "a clear understanding of what is required." Without such a vigorous clarity, I don't think veganism could have grown to the current level.

If vegans were to start accepting meat-eaters so long as they perform other animal-benefiting acts, I have a feeling that the entire movement would eventually lose its identity, as second-order harms are not only harder to track but also do not motivate/confront people as much as first-order harms. Your solution would work if people actually started reducing vehicle usage for animals, etc. but my take is that such a thing wouldn't happen, precisely because of the diluted vigor of the veganism movement.