Blog Post #7 Utilitarianism Fights for Wildlife

The Selkirk Mountains in northern Idaho are home to one of the most endangered species in the United States, the caribou. There are currently a population of about twelve living there and they are the last of them in the United States. According to wildlife biologist, Norm Merz, not long ago there were hundreds of these animal living here. The herd’s biggest threat is predation by wolves and cougars. The problem has become so severe that the government has sharpshooters eliminate wolves from above in helicopters, a process known as culling, in attempt to protect the caribou from extinction. The wolf population is not threatened by this type of hunt, it is suggested that it may even promote reproduction. Wolf predation, however, is a repercussion of a greater more difficult problem to manage; humans. The decline in caribou is mainly due to human factors such as logging, mining, and road building. Their forest habitats have been clear cut and destroyed driving them away. As a plan to protect the endangered caribou, the government set aside 375,000 acres of land as their habitat. The public opposed this and had the number lowered to 30,000 acres.

This earth belongs not only to us human beings, but to all living things. But here we are taking away land from other living beings for the sole reason that they can’t do anything about it.   When viewed from a contractarianism point of view this is perfectly alright. Because we are able to gain many different benefits from both plants and animals without having to return the favor they are not considered a part of the moral community. In theory we can do whatever we’d like without their approval. This validates our actions of ruining their habitats and driving them to the edge of extinction. Luckily, not everyone follows contractarianism. Those who have a utilitarian way of thinking are the ones fighting to protect the last of our caribou. According to utilitarianism anything that is capable of suffering is considered a member of the moral community and it is wrong to harm them. Pushing a species to the brink of extinction is indeed harmful. This seems hypocritical when we look at the killing of wolves in the process of protecting our caribou. Utilitarianism, however, also says that we should carry out the optimific action, or the one that produces the greatest balance of good to bad consequences. In this case sacrificing a small amount of wolves from a large population to save an entire population that is dying out is the right action. Thank god some of us have a utilitarian mindset or our Earth might already have been completely destroyed.

 

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