Led On Line
Presentazione - About us
Novita' - What's new
Lededizioni Home Page Ricerca - Search
Catalogo - Catalogue
Per contattarci - Contacts
Per gli Autori - For the Authors
Statistiche - Statistics
Cookie Policy
Privacy Policy

A Welfare State for Elephants? A Case Study of Compassionate Stewardship

David Pearce


Technological advances over the next few decades will mean that every cubic meter of the planet will be computationally accessible to surveillance, micromanagement and control. Such unprecedented power places an immense burden of responsibility on the planet’s cognitively dominant species – Homo sapiens. Status quo bias equates the natural with the morally good; yet the immense burden of suffering in Nature calls this intuition into question. Human and non-human animals typically flourish best when free-living rather than incarcerated or wild. This paper presents a costed case study of compassionate stewardship of an entire species of free-living non-human animals. The successful construction of an elephant welfare state would be a key historical milestone on the road to a compassionately run global ecosystem.


elephants; natural harms; compassionate stewardship; intervention in nature; neonatal care; healthcare; nutritional support; speciesism; suffering; wild animals

Full Text:



Aarde, Rudi van, Ian Whyte, and Stuart Pimm. 1999. “Culling and the dynamics of the Kruger National Park African elephant population.” Animal Conservation 2 (4): 287-294.

Alemayehu, Berhanu, and Kenneth E. Warner. 2004. “The Lifetime Distribution of Health Care Costs.” Health Services Research 39 (3): 627-642. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6773.2004.00248.x.

Angier, Natalie. 2009. “Pigs Prove to Be Smart, if Not Vain.” New York Times, November 9. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/10angier.html?_r=0

Bates, Lucy A., Phyllis C. Lee, Norah Njiraini, Joyce H. Poole, Katito Sayialel, Soila Sayialel, Cynthia J. Moss, and Richard W. Byrne. 2008. “Do elephants show empathy?” Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (10-11): 204-225.

BBC. 2013. “Dogs in England must be microchipped from 2016.” BBC, February 6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21345730

Bostrom, Nick, and Toby Ord. 2006. “The Reversal Test: Eliminating status quo Bias in Applied Ethics”. Ethics 116: 656-79.

Bradshaw, Isabel G. A. 2004. “Not by bread alone: Symbolic loss, trauma, and recovery in elephant communities.” Society & Animals 12 (2): 143-158.

Bradshaw, G. A., Allan N. Schore, Janine L. Brown, Joyce H. Poole, and Cynthia J. Moss. 2005. “Elephant breakdown.” Nature 433 (7028): 807.

Bostrom, Nick, and Toby Ord. 2006. “The Reversal Test: Eliminating Status Quo Bias in Applied Ethics.” Ethics 116: 656-679.

Carey, James R., and Catherine Gruenfelder. 1997. “Population biology of the elderly.” In Between Zeus and the salmon: The biodemography of longevity, edited by K. W. Wachter and C. E. Finch, 127-160. Washington DC: National Academy Press.

De Waal, Frans B. M., and Peter L. Tyack, eds. 2009. Animal Social Complexity: Intelligence, Culture, and Individualized Societies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dudley, Joseph Paine, G. Colin Craig, Deborah St. C. Gibson, Gary Haynes, and J. Klimowicz. 2001. “Drought mortality of bush elephants in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.” African Journal of Ecology 39 (2): 187-194.

Esvelt, Kevin, George Church, and Jeantine Lunshof. 2014. “´Gene Drives` And CRISPR Could Revolutionize Ecosystem Management.” Scientific American, July 17. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/gene-drives-and-crispr-could-revolutionize-ecosystem-management/

Horta, Oscar. 2010. “What is speciesism?” Journal of agricultural and environmental ethics 23 (3): 243-266.

Lee, Phyllis C., and Cynthia J. Moss. 1986. “Early maternal investment in male and female African elephant calves.” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 18 (5): 353-361.

Loveridge, Andrew J., Jane E. Hunt, Felix Murindagomo, and David W. Macdonald. 2006. “Influence of drought on predation of elephant (Loxodonta africana) calves by lions (Panthera leo) in an African wooded savannah.” Journal of Zoology 270: 523-530. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00181.x

Mar, Khyne U., Mirkka Lahdenperä, and Virpi Lummaa. 2012. “Causes and Correlates of Calf Mortality in Captive Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus).” PLoS ONE 7 (3): e32335. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032335.

Mumby, Hannah S., Alexandre Courtiol, Khyne U. Mar, and Virpi Lummaa. 2013. “Birth seasonality and calf mortality in a large population of Asian elephants.” Ecology and Evolution 3 (11): 3794-3803. doi:10.1002/ece3.746.

Mumby, Hannah S., Alexandre Courtiol, Khyne U. Mar, and Virpi Lummaa. 2013. “Climatic variation and age-specific survival in Asian elephants from Myanmar.” Ecology 94 (5): 1131-1141.

Pearce, David. (2009) 2015. “Reprogramming Predators.” The Hedonistic Imperative: The abolitionist project.


RedList. 2014. “Loxodonta Africana.” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12392/0

Reimanna, Frank, James J. Coxb, Inna Belferc, Luda Diatchenkod et al. 2010. “Pain perception is altered by a nucleotide polymorphism in SCN9A.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107 (11): 5148-5153.

Shoshani, Jeheskel, William J. Kupsky, and Gary H. Marchant (2006) “Elephant brain: Part I: Gross morphology, functions, comparative anatomy, and evolution.” Brain Research Bulletin 70 (2): 124-157.

Tchamba, Martin N., and Prosper M. Seme. 1993. “Diet and feeding behaviour of the forest elephant in the Santchou Reserve, Cameroon.” African Journal of Ecology 31: 165-171. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2028.1993.tb00529.x

The Scotsman. 2004. “Dentures For Toothless 80 Year Old Elephant”. Rense.com, July 1. http://www.rense.com/general47/ele.htm

Wichers M., M. Aguilera, G. Kenis, et al. 2008. “The Catechol-O- Methyl Transferase Val158Met Polymorphism and Experience of Reward in the Flow of Daily Life.” Neuropsychopharmacology 33: 3030-3036.

Wildpro. 2015. “Elephants: Diseases and Treatment.” WildPro. http://wildpro.twycrosszoo.org/List_Vols/Elephants/List_Elephant_Dis.htm#Important

WWF. 2015. “African elephants.” WWF. http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/elephants/african_elephants/

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/rela-2015-002-pear

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 - Barbara Muraca - Serpil Oppermann - Simone Pollo - Paola Sobbrio - Kim Stallwood - Sabrina Tonutti - Jessica Ullrich - Federico Zuolo