Does suffering dominate enjoyment in the animal kingdom? An update to welfare biology

Biology and Philosophy 34 (4):40 (2019)

Abstract
Ng :255–285, 1995. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf00852469) models the evolutionary dynamics underlying the existence of suffering and enjoyment and concludes that there is likely to be more suffering than enjoyment in nature. In this paper, we find an error in Ng’s model that, when fixed, negates the original conclusion. Instead, the model offers only ambiguity as to whether suffering or enjoyment predominates in nature. We illustrate the dynamics around suffering and enjoyment with the most plausible parameters. In our illustration, we find surprising results: the rate of failure to reproduce can improve or worsen average welfare depending on other characteristics of a species. Our illustration suggests that for organisms with more intense conscious experiences, the balance of enjoyment and suffering may lean more toward suffering. We offer some suggestions for empirical study of wild animal welfare. We conclude by noting that recent writings on wild animal welfare should be revised based on this correction to have a somewhat less pessimistic view of nature.
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-019-9692-0
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