University of Technology, Sydney


Environmental Ethics v Animal Rights Ethics

Commonly, environmental ethics and animal protection ethics conflict where there is a perceived need to protect ecosystems from individual animals or even species.1

The holistic approach found in environmentalism allows harm to occur to kangaroos and other animals to preserve the integrity of an ecosystem or simply where such harm will not compromise the integrity of the ecosystem. In accordance with such reasoning, sustainability can involve the mass killing of kangaroos provided that such killing does not damage the wider ecosystem.

There are two approaches in environmental ethics to wild animals. Both of these focus on the problems faced by endangered species however they have different reasons for doing so. An anthropocentric approach to wild animals is concerned with endangered species out of human self-interest. In contrast, an ecocentric approach places a priority upon wild animals due to their place in an intrinsically valuable ecosystem.

The key problem with adopting an approach informed only by environmental ethics is that it fails to adequately recognise the sentience of wild animals.2 Sentience, or consciousness, is the ability to perceive and feel. Through failing to adequately recognise the sentience of wild animals such as kangaroos, the law and policy pays insufficient regard to the ethical demands of kangaroos as sentient beings.

However, the notion that there is a conflict between environmental ethics and animal rights ethics relies upon a number of misconceptions about kangaroos and their impact on the environment: populations, total grazing pressure, sheep replacement


1. R. Garner, Animal Ethics (2005), 143.

2. Deborah Cao, Animal Law in Australia and New Zealand (2010), 236.