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All we owe to animals It is not enough to conserve species and ecosystems

Aeon – We have an ethical duty to care for each individual animal on earth: “…Australia [has been] on fire. The fires have killed at least 25 humans and more than a billion animals. Animals such as koalas are especially at risk, since their normal response to threats – climbing to the tops of trees – leaves them vulnerable in the case of fire. As a result, an estimated 25,000 koalas have died and many more will die in the coming weeks…More generally, changing weather conditions are causing animals to suffer and die all around the world. Aardvarks in the Kalahari are starving because of increasing drought. Black bears in the United States are unable to hibernate because warming temperatures are waking them up and preventing them from going to sleep. The Australian mosaic-tailed rat is now extinct because of rising sea levels. Countless aquatic animals are dying each year because of ocean acidification. Human-caused climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of such events. As global average temperatures rise, we can expect rising sea levels, an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, flooding coastal areas, and regional conflicts over land, water and food. And while some animals will adapt, many will not. If we stay on this path, we will subject quintillions of animals over the next century to the ravages of disease, weather and ecosystem collapse.

Human activity harms animals in many other ways, too. We breed and kill at least 100 billion animals per year for food and at least 115 million per year for research. Fishing kills 1-3 trillion animals per year. Deforestation destroys animal habitats. Leaf blowers and light pollution kill insects. Building and vehicle collisions kill at least a billion animals per year. This year, more than 300 birds were injured or killed in collisions with a building in North Carolina in a single night. These impacts raise the question: what do we – that is, humans in the global 1 per cent – owe animals in the context of human-caused ecological disaster? I think that the answer to this question is clear. If our actions are harming other animals, then we have a responsibility to try to reduce or repair these harms. Yet this will not be easy to do. It will take not only time, energy and money but also foundational social, political and economic change…”

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