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What We Owe Owls. Nonideal Relationality among Fellow Creatures in the Old Growth Forest

Ben Almassi


Though many of us have constructed our lives (or have had them constructed for us) such that it is easy to ignore or forget, human lives are entangled with other animals in many ways. Some interspecies relations would arguably exist in some form or another even under an ideal model of animal ethics. Others have an inescapably non-ideal character – these relationships exist as they do because things have gone wrong. In such circumstances we have reparative duties to animals we have wronged because we have wronged them. Here I draw upon Christine Korsgaard’s “Fellow Creatures” (2018) and other nonideal approaches to animal ethics to critically assess the United States Fish & Wildlife Service practice of killing barred owls to protect endangered spotted owls in the old growth forest of the Pacific Northwest. This is a difficult case to be sure, but one that can benefit from non-ideal moral assessment in terms of interspecies relational repair. I argue for increased spotted owl habitat preservation and forest restoration as an alternative to barred owl removal that better aligns with both nonideal relational animal ethics and stated US Fish & Wildlife Service values.


animal ethics; Christine Korsgaard; endangered species; environmental ethics; interspecies relationality; old growth forest; owls; reparative justice; resource management; wildlife biology.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2022-02-almb

Copyright (©) 2023 Ben Almassi – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

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Relations. Beyond Anthropocentrism
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (04/05/2012 n. 211)
Online ISSN 2280-9643 - Print ISSN 2283-3196

Executive Editor: Francesco Allegri
Associate Editor: Matteo Andreozzi 
Review Editors: Sofia Bonicalzi - Eleonora Adorni
Editorial Board:
Ralph R. Acampora - Carol J. Adams - Vilma Baricalla - Luisella Battaglia - Rod Bennison - Matthew R. Calarco - Piergiorgio Donatelli - William Grove-Fanning - Serenella Iovino - Luigi Lombardi Vallauri - Christoph Lumer - Joel MacClellan - Dario Martinelli - Roberto Marchesini - Alma Massaro - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo

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