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I believe that speciesism is correct. However I am confused about how I should feel about campaigns to kill pests like possums, rats, stoats etc which destroy native and often endangered birds, animals and plants. I understand that speciesism doesn't say that you can never kill an animal, you merely have to give it equal consideration. In this sense killing the pest could be justified if doing so produced a better outcome. But then I arrive at the problem of humans, which (I assume) would in many situations be a greater threat to our native birds, animals and plants. I can't help but feel that the answer may lie in the fact that we can do something about humans which destroy the environment by convincing them we shouldn't, it's not as easy to reason with the average possum. However this seems inadequate given the fact that these people are very, very unlikely to ever be convinced. How can we justify killing pests in moral terms in light of speciesism?

Let usassume for the purposes of discussion the 'equal consideration'account of animal ethics. We could perhaps define a 'pest' as anycreature or group of creatures that is threatening the sustainablebalance of an ecosystem. So, a pest is not just something nibbling mylettuces, which I don't want nibbled, or biting my arm which I ratherprefer unbitten. Rather, a pest occurs only within a seriously out ofkilter environment (thus the original mean of the term: plague). Insuch a case, I imagine, action against the pest is morally warrantedbut only insofar as to restore a more sustainable situation. So, if aplague of beetles is depleting forests in the Rockies, then pesticideseems justified; if a lack of natural predators means that the deerpopulation is ballooning in an area, then perhaps culling (or betterreintroducing predators) is justified. Your question comes down to:are we prepared to define human beings as 'pests'? Manyare, of course, and there is and has been for some time...

I often find myself thinking what really distinguishes Humans apart from other animals. If it is intelligence (high or low is irrelevant, it is still an inelegance) then this statement isn't true since we know that there are numbers of highly intelligent species including birds (non-mammal). So I came to conclusion that the only thing that does separate us is art, or perhaps understanding the value of art. But to contradict myself I keep flashing back on various images and video clips of cats or other animals "painting" on the canvas. Do you think in your philosophical opinion do these animals go through similar (high or low is irrelevant) process of appreciating art.

A fascinating question. I suspect that art appreciation might well be important, although perhaps only as a symptom of an underlying difference. Let's look at the question more generally. It is important for us to know what are the essential differences between humans and other animals for two reasons. First, because it is an important part of understanding who we are. Second, because we eat animals, wear their skins, keep them in zoos, experiment on them and so forth -- all things that we tend to feel are morally wrong with respect to human beings. Philosophers, then, tend to be divided into three very general camps. 1. Those who believe that there are morally significant differences between human beings and animals. 2. Those who believe that there are not such differences, and thus tend to argue for animal rights. 3. Those who feel this is the wrong question to be asking. Here, we'll ignore the third group, for simplicity. The most common distinctions given by...