How many animal lives is one human life worth?

You may already be aware of the story of Mandy K, a 32-year-old woman mauled by a polar bear in a Berlin after climbing into the bear’s enclosure. I open this thread not to call Mandy an idiot, as that is obvious, but because of this:

If I were a zoo worker, I think I would have been … vexed, shall we say, at the thought of having to kill a bear for behaving perfectly naturally in the presence of such a Darwin award winner. At least that’s my first impulse; my second is to remember, with a tingue of regret, that humanity is my team and I am obliged assist even the terminally stupid.

Which brings me to the thread question. Restricting yourself to relatively intelligent wild mammals-- bears, dolphins, wolves, elephants, and the like – and to situations in which a perrson has deliberately and stupidly put hirself in danger, how many non-human lives is too many to sacrifice for one human life?

I think people who deliberately put themselves in harm’s way with dangerous animals (Grizzly Man, for instance) and don’t know what they’re doing, basically deserve to be eaten. And the animal is not at fault whatsoever.

like the Indians who kissed cobras. They are asking for it . The snake should not be done in if it nails the person. Even a snake.

People who do not know what they are doing deserve to be eaten by a bear? Um,… Ok.

I took Argent’s meaning as “people who deliberately put themselves in harms way with animals in the mistaken, possibly stupid, and definitely stupid belief that they know what they are doing, but who do not know what they are doing.”

But I am not Argent, of course.

They should really install some kind of security system into zoos that discourages guests from climbing into the enclosures. Like, maybe, a large, vicious, dangerous animal that will maul anyone who tries to get in.

Seriously, though, I agree, she should have known better.

I always find this question frustrating because even the lowest, dumbest bear is a more noble and more honourable creature than a hundred of your average humans.

Yet reluctantly I suppose we have to shoot it simply because humans are on our team.

But I think your question is asking - how many bears (or whatever) do we shoot before it’s not worth one human life? One - ok we shoot it. A hundred? Hmmm. A thousand? Fuck it - kill the human.

I won’t go that far. In fact, upon reflection, I’ll call that assertion downright stupid. Nobility and honor are both human concepts, and we ahve no reason to think they apply to bears. Honor, for example, requires the capacity for language; an organism which does not communicate with words cannot tell te truth, lie, make promises it then keeps, or make promises it then breaks.

How are you defining “honor” and “nobility” so that bears are have them in greater mearure than humans?

I would also point out that polar bears commonly practice infanticide, and I seriously doubt they give any thought to the suffering of a seal when killing and eating it.

In China, people climb into the panda cage to hug the panda.

Man, it’s just not worth saving 'em.

I’ll generally go with Buddhist respect for all life.

Now I will kill mosquitos before they bite me. (Given malaria, that counts as self-defence.)
However if some Darwin Award candidate wishes to tease or annoy an animal as dangerous as a polar bear or an elephant, I’m not putting myself at risk to help them.

I would. In fact I’d go further and apply it to all animals, even the simplest mollusc. Generally they avoid conflict and treat each other with respect. A hundred or so years ago nature was thought to be “red in tooth and claw” but then we started actually studying animals and found that the exact opposite was true. Conflicts between animals generally involve courtly dances which have evolved so that a winner can be found without anyone actually getting hurt.

Most animals will do almost anything to get out of a fight.

I mean, except for animals eating other animals.

Anyone who walks into the bear cage at a zoo deserves to be eaten. The zoo administrators also deserve to be eaten for making it possible for people to walk into the bear cage.

What? Perhaps you mean all the animals that are laterally equivalent on the food chain? What about predators? You make no sense. All kinds of creatures eat all kinds of creatures all the time…this isn’t some kind of evolutionary synchronized swimming we’re talking about here.

What are you talking about? I watch the discovery channel and all the time animals are fighting each other over food and mates. What about in packs of animals where they force the weakest to eat last or not at all? Animals aren’t some altruistic entities. They desire to eat, sleep, breed, breathe, and survive. Just like humans.

Animals kill just for the fun of it all the time. Ever seen a cat play with a mouse for minutes before finally finishing it off? Then it won’t even bother to eat it. They do it for sport.


Obviously animals will eat other animals as food but that’s a logical, sensible reason to eat something - there’s nothing unnoble or dishonourable about it. It’s a perfectly good reason to eat something.

But fights, they don’t do them. Not unless there’s a specific reason. Food or self-defence.

Take the rattlesnake. I only found out recently that when a rattlesnake bites, most times it will dry bite you or give you a sub-lethal dose. How restrained is that? They’ve already warned you against coming closer by hissing and rattling. You would have to be a complete idiot to keep on coming closer to a rattling snake - all animals know that, even us. It’s a universal warning.

And yet, if you still continue coming closer they probably won’t, even then, give you a proper bite with a full dose. They just want to warn you off.

They’re more restrained than I would be.

That warding off and the dry bite on the snake’s part aren’t some kind of restraint of mercy or goodwill, the snake just wants to avoid expending its venom on something it’s not going to be able to eat. I’m generally on the side of stupid humans being more expendable than animals that are just minding their own business, but let’s not put the critters on a pedestal.

They also fight for the ladies. And territory. And a better position in the hierarchy, if they have one.

So we’ve got fights for resources, status, ladies, territory, and self-defense. What do humans fight for? Pretty much the same stuff.

No pedestal. Hard evolutionary fact. The reason animals don’t want to fight with each other is the fear of infection. Imagine two lions swiping each other in a fight. If one of them gets a wound it may get infected and it will die. There’s no antibiotics or hospital or bandages out in the savannha. A wound means death.

So lions avoid swiping each other too deeply. Animals avoid fighting because, in the animal kingdom, a wound means death.

True but with ladies, territory and hierarchy they fight in a strange co-ordinated way, to avoid hurting each other too much.

They only proper fight over food and self-defence.

That’s just factually false. And while I could dig up some internet videos of hippos fighting, or a biology citation about monkeys killing each other for territory, or a simple wilderness guide about the lethality of randy moose, let’s do something else instead. Let’s explore why it is important to you that animals be these benign creatures. Shall we? Did you have pets as a child?