What is the balance of happiness to suffering in nature ?
Whilst it seems clear there is much suffering in nature, Tomasik makes a bolder empirical claim that wild animals experience more suffering than happiness.
So nature plausibly contains net negative welfare.
By killing predators, we can save the lives of the many prey animals that would otherwise be killed in order to keep the animals at the top of the food chain alive.
Remarkably, vegetarians and vegans have an higher engagement of empathy related areas while observing negative scenes regarding animals rather than humans, with the additional recruitment of the mPFC, PCC, and some visual areas.
Using functional MRI, we hypothesized that vegetarians and vegans, who made their feeding choice for ethical reasons, might show brain responses to conditions of suffering involving humans or animals different from omnivores.
do animals suffer more than humans?
Another key objection to the argument we have given here, however, is that prey animals like the wildebeest may themselves have terrible lives—lives that are worse than death—even if we take predators out of the equation.
The wild that is conserved through these efforts has preventable suffering, so we have an obligation to prevent it.
Nature holds no value in and of itself, and no value at all outside of humanity’s personal attachment to it.
And while the loss of something humanity is attached to certainly causes suffering for humans.
It seems safe to say that this suffering is minimal compared to that of animals in the wild.
What is relevant is that, however much suffering you think the zebra feels, the pleasure of lions much counter-balance it to some degree.
So it’s harder to conclude there is more net suffering amongst wild animals just because being eaten is painful.
How to calculate it ?
I suggest, if we want to know the balance of happiness to suffering in nature, we should to give an evolutionary explanation of how much pleasure and pain the animals in a given ecosystem would experience on a daily basis.
Having argued ‘k-selector’ animals (e.g. gazelles, which have few offspring, few of whom die immediately) have bad lives and painful deaths, he argues there is more suffering than happiness in nature because most animals are ‘r-selectors’ animals (e.g. fish, which have many offspring, most of which die immediately).
For readers impatient for the punchline, the thrust of my argument is.
1) the case for net wild animal is highly selective, relying on imagining obviously bad aspects of animals’ lives, such as being eaten alive, rather than accounting for all their positive and negative experiences and.
2) it requires immense speculation about how good or bad animals’ experiences are (e.g. how many hours of eating grass is equivalent to 5 minutes of being eaten alive? People eating plant-based diets experienced an improvement in their physical health and better control of their diabetes, the findings showed.
3: Even if smaller animals experience less happiness than larger ones, the fact there are so many of them, and their lives so bad, suggests there is more suffering in nature than happiness.