It has been suggested that the practice of Bonsai is an expression of animal chauvinism and does great harm to a tree by 'stunting' it. But aren't trees not sentient beings, and therefore the excising of branches, shoots and roots such that the tree thrives albeit substantially smaller than its genetic potential, is no different to the continual loss of roots, shoots and branches that occur under natural conditions?

There is the fact that it is possible to treat something badly or to damage it, whether or not it is sentient. A pair of shoes can be badly or well looked after, and it is wrong not to look after a good pair of shoes properly. A living thing like a hedge can be properly maintained or attended to, but something more is involved. Sometimes, it seems to me, the aesthetics of the "art object" (horrible phrase) can reflect what it actually is. So it is natural to trim a box hedge in one way, and a mixed hedge in another way, perhaps a less formal and more undulating, the shapes reflecting the different kinds of growth - hawthorn, or privet or beech. (A hedge that is full of straggly and unwanted sycamore looks awful, and the holes soon begin to show.) Pugs and poodles may be perfectly happy qua sentient beings, though often there are specific health problems with specific breeds, but it is perfectly coherent to object to the whole process of breeding and thinking of living things as being objects for our use - manipulation - and enjoyment only. Much the same comments can be made about the wilderness, and your question and suggestion raise profound and important questions of ecological ethics and aesthetics. For some, the ethics of GM foods has a spiritual dimension too.

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