{ Add news
March 2010April 2010May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020December 2020January 2021February 2021March 2021April 2021May 2021June 2021July 2021August 2021September 2021October 2021November 2021December 2021January 2022February 2022March 2022April 2022May 2022June 2022July 2022August 2022September 2022October 2022November 2022December 2022January 2023February 2023March 2023April 2023May 2023June 2023
News Every Day |

What is life like as a wild animal? Probably nicer than you think

Miroslav Hlavko/Shutterstock

If you know anything about the experiences of animals reared in captivity for food, fur or human amusement, you might imagine that the lives of wild animals are idyllic. If nature is conceived as a sort of Garden of Eden then animals which live in it, free of human interference, are presumably living their best possible lives.

Others see life in the wild as far harsher. Nature is “red in tooth and claw” as poet Alfred Tennyson once put it. According to this view, the average life of a wild animal can be best understood as a desperate search for food and shelter, enduring pain and sickness and burdened with the ever-present prospect of a savage death.

This latter view is arguably dominant among those who ponder questions of wild animal ethics and welfare. Scholars like Yew-Kwang Ng and Oscar Horta have aimed in part to debunk the view that wild animals have it pretty good by evoking the prevalence of vicious predators and other sources of harm. Yet this picture may be just as inaccurate.

In our recent paper, we argued that the real experience of wild animal life most likely sits somewhere between these two extremes – though it’s probably a lot better than many researchers think.

The popular view of wild animals being consumed by suffering has been influenced by a preoccupation with their experiences at the time of their deaths. Too little attention has been paid to the range of positive experiences available to wild animals throughout their lives.

Death is fleeting

Consider an antelope pursued by a pack of hungry hyenas: it eventually tires, is captured and eaten alive. The common occurrence of predation like this suggests animal suffering is widespread. But it is worth thinking about these events a little more closely, as they may not cause as much suffering as it first seems.

A hyena searching a grassland with an antelope in the background.
Though unpleasant, death is only ever a small part of an animal’s life. Paco Como/Shutterstock

It is well-documented in humans that major injuries often do not hurt much at first, due to a spike in adrenaline that blocks the immediate sensation of pain. Studies on animals have suggested that similar chemical pathways may activate in their nervous systems when facing fear or injury. This means that many experiences of predation could be more numb than painful.

Even if animals do suffer as they die this should not define their welfare over their entire lives. Death, particularly in the jaws of a predator, is short relative to the length of an animal’s life. Even a slower death, like the antelope’s, lasts minutes rather than hours. Not an experience anyone would want to go through, but not necessarily one that tips the balance of a life into negative.

Some animals follow a breeding strategy in which they produce lots of offspring, most of which will die off very quickly and never make it to maturity. For these animals, with short lives and violent ends, is the balance more likely to be negative? Perhaps, in some cases. But it is important even in these instances not to underestimate the potential for positive experiences in the time they have.

The joy of living

To judge the quality of an animal’s life we must consider the whole experience, not just select the worst parts.

A life contains a range of experiences – many negative ones, as researchers who document wild animal suffering point out – but also a range of positive ones. We could make a list of all the bad things that wild animals encounter: predation, starvation, thirst, disease, parasites, poor weather, aggression from members of their own species. Looking at this list might convince us that their lives must be bad. But we can write an alternative list of the good things they also enjoy: social contact, eating, mating, resting comfortably, playing, exploring, perceiving vistas or sounds or smells that they like.

Two ducks silhouetted on a lake at sunset.
Plenty to enjoy. PabloPicasso/Shutterstock

One concept that may be important here is that of the joy of living. This idea describes the possibility of a baseline experience that all animals have that is itself positive. This could help animals stay motivated.

We can see in cases of human depression that one of the main symptoms is a lack of motivation and an unwillingness to move. For an animal needing to acquire food and other things necessary to live, this could mean death. So for evolutionary reasons it would be logical for the baseline experience of animals to be at least slightly positive. It is plausible that just being alive, perceiving, exploring, and experiencing the world, could itself bring happiness to animals.

Putting the lists side-by-side, it’s no longer so obvious that wild animal lives are, on balance, bad ones. It becomes far more dependent on the interplay of positive and negative experiences, their intensity, how often they occur and for how long, and how the animal weights their importance. Some species might have substantially better lives than others.

A superficial look at the lives of animals in the wild will not allow researchers to draw meaningful conclusions about what this balance is like for them. Instead, empirical research conducted in the field could uncover the intensity and duration of the different experiences wild animals face and how they affect their welfare. Researchers in the emerging field of wild animal welfare research already do this, supported by organisations like the Wild Animal Initiative.

This is not idle musing. Understanding the lives of wild animals could make interventions to alleviate some widespread sources of suffering – such as disease outbreaks or pest control – more accurate and infringe less on positive experiences.

We won’t know for sure until more information is gathered, but we have argued that there are several good reasons to suspect that such research will show that many – if not most – wild animals do in fact have happy lives.

The Conversation

Walter Veit receives funding from the Representing Evolution project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 101018533).

Heather Browning does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

NVIDIA is Obsessed with Apple

The Ending Of Ninja Assassin Finally Explained

The Memorable Cameo In The Little Mermaid Everyone Noticed

The Rise And Fall Of Funko Explained


Read also

Rare top of the range 1972 Ford Capri with original air conditioning on sale for eye-watering amount

Fury as rail union chief Mick Whelan says it’s ‘coincidence’ strike will hit FA Cup final

'Queer Eye' Star Tan France Welcomes Second Child with Husband Rob France

News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on Today24.pro

News Every Day

The Memorable Cameo In The Little Mermaid Everyone Noticed

Today24.pro — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here

News Every Day

The Rise And Fall Of Funko Explained

Sports today

Новости тенниса
Александр Зинченко

Одноклубник Александра Зинченко может перейти в ПСЖ

Спорт в России и мире

Регулярные хоккейные турниры "Прорыв Москва" 18-19 августа 2023 г.

All sports news today

Sports in Russia today


В Высоковске состоялся турнир по самбо, посвященный международному Дню защиты детей

Новости России

Game News

Стартовал бета-тест Snowbreak: Containment Zone


Ролан Гаррос

Российская теннисистка Потапова впервые пробилась в третий круг «Ролан Гарроса» во Франции

Губернаторы России
Svetlana L

Историю создания городского романса расскажут столичной молодежи

Терренкур – тропа здоровья в Сочи

Наталья Дрожжина рассталась с супругом Михаилом Цивиным ради смягчения приговора

Международный турнир по легкой атлетике имени знаменитого советского спортсмена Анатолия Ивановича Зимина прошёл на днях в Московской области, на стадионе Зарайска

Армия России спасет Сербию от США и НАТО — в Комитете по обороне рассказали о подготовке операции

Не поддержала Россию - не поёт для русских. Отменено ещё одно выступление Дианы Арбениной

Концерт, выставка, мастер-классы: в Горно-Алтайске отпразднуют День защиты детей

Концерт из цикла «Органный променад» состоится в Пскове

Хотите играть в Молодежном театре? А стать корреспондентом Студенческого медиацентра? Тогда приходите в Колледж индустрии гостеприимства и менеджмента №23!

Сенсация от Аванесян, мощь Павлюченковой и успех Карацева: семь из восьми россиян вышли во второй круг «Ролан Гаррос»

Одноклубник Александра Зинченко может перейти в ПСЖ

Российская теннисистка Эрика Андреева впервые сыграет на открытом чемпионате Франции «Ролан Гаррос»

Теннисист Медведев проиграл бразильцу Уайлду и вылетел с «Ролан Гаррос» в первом круге

Блондинки в пиаре: самые светлые головы коммуникационной сферы в подборке MODA NA PR

Международный турнир по легкой атлетике имени знаменитого советского спортсмена Анатолия Ивановича Зимина прошёл на днях в Московской области, на стадионе Зарайска

Терренкур – тропа здоровья в Сочи

В Кургане зазвучит Comedy Radio, в Нижнем Новгороде – Like FM

«Есть над чем работать»: Путин прокомментировал атаку беспилотников на Москву и Подмосковье

Историю создания городского романса расскажут столичной молодежи

«Попивают чай и разные другие напитки»: Пригожин рассказал о подготовке бойцов территориальной обороны в Белгородской области

Психологи на конференции ВЦИОМа заявили о появившемся у россиян социальном оптимизме

Каждый третий ребенок и родитель недовольны школьным меню

Российский теннисист Рублев обыграл француза Муте и вышел в третий круг «Ролан Гаррос»

Мог быть пьян? Подросток зарезал бабушку и дедушку, пока те спали

Международная конференция «Москва – Третий Рим» завершилась в Псковской области

Путин в России и мире

Персональные новости Russian.city
Диана Арбенина

Концертный тур певицы Дианы Арбениной по трем городам России сорвался

News Every Day

The Memorable Cameo In The Little Mermaid Everyone Noticed

Friends of Today24

Музыкальные новости

Персональные новости