Q: “If you think we should prevent farm animals from suffering then shouldn’t we also prevent wild animals from suffering? Should vegans try to prevent as much death as possible, even suffering that comes about naturally?”
A: First, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of animal suffering and death is a result of the “food” industry. And in its current state few people would call animal agribusiness “natural.” It’s terribly and unnecessarily cruel to animals, it’s destructive to the environment, and it’s even harming human health.
So someone concerned about animal suffering rightly focuses most of his or her energy on choosing and promoting compassionate plant-based diets. That’s the simplest and most effective way to refrain from harming animals. Luckily, it’s easy to choose vegan meals instead of animal-based meals. And it’s getting easier every day!
I’d posit there’s a bright line differentiating “abstaining from harming” versus “helping.” For example, most people abstain from harming human children. They don’t abuse them but they may not go out of their way to help them. And that’s socially and morally acceptable.
To use a recent new story as an example, it’s acceptable to ignore a crying toddler on a plane. One needn’t help his mother soothe him. But slapping him and calling him a racial slur is unacceptable. See the difference between ‘not harming’ vs ‘helping’?
When it comes to farmed animals we can easily choose to refrain from harming them. We can choose not to slap them or call them names (much worse usually happens on modern “farms”) and we can refrain from harming them simply by leave their dead bodies or their secretions off our plates.
Likewise, it’s easy to refrain from hunting. We needn’t be the direct cause of animal suffering, tame or wild. However, we can stop at ‘not harming.’ We needn’t necessarily help wild animals.
Venturing into the realm of ‘helping’ can be complicated and have unintended consquences. We needn’t, for example, stop wild animals from hunting other wild animals. It’s OK for us to merely ‘not harm’ the animals ourselves. The more important thing is that we avoid harming causing harm. Go vegan.