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Buddhism and the Ethics of Species Conservation

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Efforts to conserve endangered species of animal are, in some important respects, at odds with Buddhist ethics. On the one hand, being abstract entities, species cannot suffer, and so cannot be proper objects of compassion or similar moral virtues. On the other, Buddhist commitments to equanimity tend to militate against the idea that the individual members of endangered species have greater value than those of less-threatened ones. This paper suggests that the contribution of Buddhism to the issue of species conservation should not, however, be discounted. It argues, on the contrary, that Buddhist traditions, in reminding us of the moral significance of the suffering of individual animals, add an important dimension to debates concerning the ethical justification of efforts to conserve endangered species.
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Keywords: Buddhist ethics; species; suffering; wildlife conservation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-02-01

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  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2016) of 1.279.
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