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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Dr Simon Paul James

James Simon P. (2006). ‘Buddhism and the Ethics of Species Conservation’. Environmental Values 15(1): 85-97.

Author(s) from Durham


Efforts to conserve endangered species of animal are, in some important
respects, at odds with Buddhist ethics. On the one hand, being abstract
entities, species cannot suffer, and so cannot be proper objects of
compassion or similar moral virtues. On the other, Buddhist commitments
to equanimity tend to militate against the idea that the individual
members of endangered species have greater value than those of
less-threatened ones. This paper suggests that the contribution of
Buddhism to the issue of species conservation should not, however, be
discounted. It argues, on the contrary, that Buddhist traditions, in
reminding us of the moral significance of the suffering of individual
animals, add an important dimension to debates concerning the ethical
justification of efforts to conserve endangered species.