The Myth of Bambi: The Idyllic View of Nature and Wild Animal Suffering

When we think about wild animals, it is easy to imagine that they live relatively good lives in nature because they are free. Films like Bambi and The Lion King paint an idyllic picture of the natural world, and while we know that the lives of wild animals likely contain many hardships, most believe that they have generally acceptable levels of welfare when left alone in nature. However, if we consider the population dynamics and most common life history strategies of free-living wild animals, we find that many – perhaps most – individuals who come into existence lead very short lives which predominantly consist of suffering. This suggests that their welfare may be very poor, which has serious implications on how we conceive of our ethical attitudes toward helping wildlife. This talk will explore some of the reasons for why suffering might be so prevalent in nature, and aims to show that the commonly held belief about wild animals being ‘happy’ when left alone is unsubstantiated.