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Do ecosystems thrive on the survival of the fittest?
This is a philosophical and practical question. Recently the concept of animal rights has been hanging over my head. Conventional wisdom tells us animals are not moral agents but moral patients; therefore we should extend rights to animals. Namely, the right not to be harmed or eaten. But if we truly consider them as moral patients, then the morally appropriate thing to do would not be to leave them alone to their own savagery. Instead, we should proactively create a benign environment for all organisms to thrive in harmony.
But this ethical judgement should be tempered by reality. Is it true that ecosystems thrive on the survival of the fittest? What keeps ecosystems running? What role does a food chain play in keeping an ecosystem running? Is it even possible to have a harmonious environment for all creatures where no food chain is necessary? If the practical answer is no, then I find myself thinking that the whole ethical argument for animal rights cannot hold.
Philosophically, animals hunt one another. You cannot stop carnivores from killing and eating other animals since it is a necessary part of their diet, but at the same time it is your moral duty to extend rights to those animals. There can be no moral solution to this unless you are prepared to call for the extermination of carnivores. While you may not need to harm animals, you cannot go as far as to say that special rights should be extended to them the way we extend it to all human beings.
In fact, the above premise can be applied to humans as well.
What do you think?
Edit: The recent debate titled "Do not eat anything with a face" offered some insights for me. To check it out, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCcJq56ZMJg