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The Problem of Predation in Zoopolis


Journal of Applied Philosophy

Published online on


In this article, we argue that the phenomenon of predation is the source of several problems for Donaldson and Kymlicka's account of our duties towards wild and liminal animals. According to them, humans should adopt a general policy of non‐intervention with respect to predatory behaviour involving wild and liminal animals. They justify this recommendation by appealing to the status of those animals as, respectively, members of sovereign communities and denizens of human‐animal societies. Our goal is not to question their recommendation, but to challenge the reasons given in its support. On the one hand, we argue that, insofar as wild animal communities are incapable of dealing with massive predation, they do not possess the competence required for sovereignty. Moreover, we argue that, even if we leave the issue of competence aside, attributing sovereignty rights to communities including both predators and preys may not be the best way to protect wild animals’ fundamental interests. On the other hand, we argue that there exist two important disanalogies between human denizens and liminal animals, which render Donaldson and Kymlicka's denizenship framework problematic. We suggest that the ultimate justification for a general policy of non‐intervention lies in the significant risk of causing greater harm by acting otherwise, due to our limited knowledge and resources.