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Suppose a species is brought to another region, where it quickly overruns its

Suppose a species is brought to another region, where it quickly overruns its local rivals and drives the native species to extinction. This is something that has been suggested might happen with the larger grey squirrels that are slowly overwhelming the smaller red squirrels in Europe. Many people would suggest that this is a problem, but I wonder if that is really the case. One way or another, individual red squirrels will end up dying, either because other red squirrels are eating their food, or because grey squirrels are eating it. If more red squirrels die than would otherwise, the flip-side seems to be that there are more grey squirrels flourishing than otherwise. For the starving red squirrels, it doesn't seem to matter who is eating their food; and for the flourishing grey squirrels, it doesn't seem to matter where exactly they are flourishing. Of course, there is the risk of the newcomers ruining the entire local ecology and turning things into a barren wasteland, but that doesn't seem to...

You ask a fair question and I suspect that some of the answer, in the case of the squirrels, is that the red squirrels are thought to be more attractive than the grey squirrels, so many people would prefer that the grey squirrels do not take over. But there are also reasons for environmental concern (i.e. not just aesthetic preference) in that there is reasonable fear of a loss of genetic diversity and also fear of upsetting the ecological balance. Invasive species cause the extinction of other species without replacing them with other new species, hence loss of genetic diversity (and vulnerability to future environmental challenges). Invasive species also often upset the ecological balance e.g. rabbits in Australia and then cause the extinction of several species, not only the species that they directly compete with. Grey squirrels are thought to damage the woodlands in England, and thereby the environment of some bird species.

You ask a fair question and I suspect that some of the answer, in the case of the squirrels, is that the red squirrels are thought to be more attractive than the grey squirrels, so many people would prefer that the grey squirrels do not take over. But there are also reasons for environmental concern (i.e. not just aesthetic preference) in that there is reasonable fear of a loss of genetic diversity and also fear of upsetting the ecological balance. Invasive species cause the extinction of other species without replacing them with other new species, hence loss of genetic diversity (and vulnerability to future environmental challenges). Invasive species also often upset the ecological balance e.g. rabbits in Australia and then cause the extinction of several species, not only the species that they directly compete with. Grey squirrels are thought to damage the woodlands in England, and thereby the environment of some bird species.

A colleague of mine is a very devoted vegan. So devoted, in fact, that he

A colleague of mine is a very devoted vegan. So devoted, in fact, that he argues that it is morally wrong to wear fake fur or fake leather, or to eat any kind of non-meat food that is meant to look or taste like meat. Apparently, doing so symbolically condones tyranny over animals, supports the meat and animal-based fashion industries, and demonstrates disrespect and contempt towards animals. Now, I have nothing against veganism, but this just seems too radical. Is this kind of argumentation sound? Or are there any more sensible arguments against fake fur or leather, or meat-like food items?

The claim that something "symbolically supports tyranny..." is not a claim about the act in itself, but a claim about the meaning of the act. Your vegan friend may see troublesome meanings in the act of eating artifical bacon flavored chips or wearing fake fur. But not everyone does, and there is much ambiguity and complexity about what things mean. To take another example, I have friends who will not marry because they think that "marrying symbolically supports an institution that oppresses women." I don't doubt that marriage has historically oppressed women, but I think marriage has multiple meanings (commitment, family, for example) and any decision whether to marry or not needs to take all these meanings into account. Back to the fake fur: Personally I prefer fake fur that looks fake, so that I don't make unnecessary enemies or set a bad example. Your friend is so passionate about veganism that he focuses on one set of meanings.

The claim that something "symbolically supports tyranny..." is not a claim about the act in itself, but a claim about the meaning of the act. Your vegan friend may see troublesome meanings in the act of eating artifical bacon flavored chips or wearing fake fur. But not everyone does, and there is much ambiguity and complexity about what things mean. To take another example, I have friends who will not marry because they think that "marrying symbolically supports an institution that oppresses women." I don't doubt that marriage has historically oppressed women, but I think marriage has multiple meanings (commitment, family, for example) and any decision whether to marry or not needs to take all these meanings into account. Back to the fake fur: Personally I prefer fake fur that looks fake, so that I don't make unnecessary enemies or set a bad example. Your friend is so passionate about veganism that he focuses on one set of meanings.

If animals have rights, shouldn't they have responsibilities? For example,

If animals have rights, shouldn't they have responsibilities? For example, dolphins have been known to kill porpoises, or even other dolphins, for fun. Do not the dolphins deserve the death penalty for these heinous actions? You might argue that dolphins are not developed enough to have moral responsibility. But dolphins are not developed enough to have morality, why should they be developed enough to have rights? Most animals rights activists (call them ARA's) assert that a humans right to life and well-being comes not simply from being human (that would be speciesist.) Instead, they assert that our rights come from from our functionality or development. Part of our development includes a moral dimension. So by the standards of ARA's, any agent with rights also has responsibilities. I doubt the PETA would approve of me stabbing a porpoise to death. Why aren't dolphins held to the same standard?

Humans have both rights and responsibilites, but other beings may have either, both, or neither. Think of infant humans: they have rights but no responsibilities. As children mature, they get some responsibilites. Mentally disabled adults have rights, but sometimes not the full range of "normal" adult responsibilities. Responsibility depends on the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. Having rights depends on (most people think) being sentient.

Humans have both rights and responsibilites, but other beings may have either, both, or neither. Think of infant humans: they have rights but no responsibilities. As children mature, they get some responsibilites. Mentally disabled adults have rights, but sometimes not the full range of "normal" adult responsibilities. Responsibility depends on the capacity to distinguish right from wrong. Having rights depends on (most people think) being sentient.