Importance of Predation
Predation means killing prey for food. Predators, like wolves and lions, are animals who have to kill prey, like deer and buffalo, so that they can eat and survive. Maintaining a healthy predator population in the wild is vital because nature can only work when one thing eats another.
Even though humans also kill animals for food, they notoriously held a widespread attitude that if the aim of morality is to reduce suffering, then predation is immoral and should stop. People held the view that prey animals should feed without worry of a predator killing them. Prey animals, instead of suffering fear when hunted and pain when caught and killed, should live long and fulfilling lives free of predators.
The only way predation might stop is if humans kill off all predators and up to the 1970's this is what many people tried to do. People trapped, poisoned or shot predators all over the world to stop predation. For instance, by the 1920's people had poisoned, trapped or shot every wolf throughout conterminous United States (although a few wolves survived in Minnesota). Professional predator-killers were paid to scout the range especially to kill wolves. Some of these professional killers were sad to kill the wolves but thought they were doing prey animals a service.
Few people considered the consequence of killing the predators. In the absence of predators the numbers of prey animals increases dramatically. When there were no more wolves in the US, huge populations of prey ate all their food then starved to death in the resulting famine. A few animals survived, the vegetation recovered and the population began to grow again. But then the cycle kept repeating itself with starvation and catastrophic decline. So killing off predators increased suffering.
A cogent reason for keeping predators alive and well is that predation is vital for life. Nature can only work when one thing eats another. Nature is a cycle of life and death and we have no alternative but to accept that. Furthermore, predation is not a moral subject. Humans can make moral choices about the food they eat, but predators cannot make that choice. Predators have no alternative but to kill or stave to death. Predatory animals cannot be vegans!
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Killing off predators increases suffering. Lion and cub eating a buffalo, South Africa. Photo: Luca Galuzzi.