Will wild make a moral difference?

B. Gremmen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter is about the ethics of killing wild animals. What is our moral reference while killing wild animals? Can we use norms of killing domesticated animals when we kill wild animals? Is the life and death of wild animals out of our moral reach by definition? Do we respect the wildness of an animal? Are there situations in which humans have to kill wild animals? In these cases humans are confronted with wild animals and the question can be asked: do we have to kill them? Our approach is to reformulate the three core questions of this book to the situation of wild animals. In answering the first question, what concepts are needed for the public and ethical evaluation of killing wild animals, we describe wildness as a broad concept, and equate it with parts of nature that are not controlled by humans. Our perspective on wildness is to consider it as a quality in specific individual animals, of being wild or un-wild. We differentiate between nine categories of animals in natural areas, and wild animals are considered to be at one end of a continuum and domesticated animals are at the other end. Thus, a development is possible from the wild stage to the pseudo-domestication stage and back again to the semi-wild stage. The description of an ethical framework of three principles enabled our affirmative answer to the second question, is it possible to justify the killing of a wild animal, and if so under what conditions. When we apply the ethical framework to the killing of wild animals, de-domesticated and feral animals, and to the killing of animals in pest control, the answer to the third question: 'Can we legitimately differentiate the issue of killing wild animals in different wild animal contexts, leads to seven conclusions?'.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe End of Animal Life
Subtitle of host publicationA Start for Ethical Debate
EditorsF.L.B. Meijboom, E.N. Stassen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868087
ISBN (Print)9789086862603
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2016


  • De-domesticated
  • Eco-ethics
  • Feral animals
  • Mid-level principles
  • Pest control

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