Animal Ethicist and Author Calls for a Moral Debate Over The Badger Cull

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Aberdeen-based animal ethicist and author of "Rational Morality - a science of right and wrong" (Dangerous Little Books) asks, "is it ever moral to kill wild animals to sustain our unnecessary desire for beef, milk or other farmed animal products?"

Rational Morality - a science of right and wrong

We don't need to eat animal products to live healthily ... Decimating surrounding wildlife should never be the first option when we're talking about a non-necessary human taste.

As the trial culling of badgers begins in West Gloucestershire and West Somerset, arguments between proponents and campaigners rage on. The government claims that the cull is needed to help tackle bovine TB, whilst campaigners say it will have no impact so is needlessly cruel on the badgers.

Robert Johnson, the ethicist and author, has a different view. "The entire debate has been based around whether or not the cull will achieve its aims, and so whether it is an effective cull. These are not the rational questions to be asking when we are talking about killing the individuals of other species".

Johnson argues that a cull should never be considered unless it is a last resort, and that there are a variety of factors which cause this cull to be unnecessary before we argue about it's effectiveness. "Ethically speaking, we have to consider the morality of ever killing wild animals to sustain our desire for beef, milk or other farmed animal products. We don't need to eat animal products to live healthily, so if it turns out that our farm animals are negatively affected by naturally occurring wildlife then we need to question that first. Decimating surrounding wildlife should never be the first option when we're talking about a non-necessary human taste."

In his new book, 'Rational Morality: a Science of Right and Wrong', Johnson makes the case for not just making decisions about political policy (such as culls) based on evidence, but also for extending that rationality to our moral opinions in the first place. "There are an awful lot of calls for introducing evidence into our decision making process, which is absolutely necessary. However at some point we also have to consider whether our aims were rational in the first place."

In the case of the badger cull, Johnson concludes "Far from just weighing the practical outcomes of a cull, we must question whether we are morally justified in considering a cull in the first place. A debate at least needs to be had, so that opinion and tradition can be separated from reason. Regardless of one's views on eating animals and their by products, the added killing of wildlife adds a very difficult dilemma to the way we live our lives."

‘Rational Morality – a science of right and wrong’ (ISBN 1908675179) is due for general release as a paperback and Kindle ebook on 14th June 2013.


Robert Johnson is a practical ethicist and philosopher of science, graduated in Philosophy from the University of Aberdeen. He specialises in the intersection of morality and rationality, whilst being a staunch advocate of science and evidence based endeavours. His other interests and work lie primarily in animal ethics, where he has written numerous articles on animal welfare, animal rights and the irrationality within both, whilst standing up for non-human interests from a rational perspective. Learn more at

If you would like Robert to provide expert comment for your publication or programme, please contact him directly.

How do we formulate a coherent moral code in a world without religion? How can we show natural ideas like ‘moral relativism’ and ‘egoism’ to be irrational? Moreover, how can we create a genuinely scientific and rational theory of morality which, so far, has evaded academics? Rational Morality sets out to answer these questions by presenting a new form of ethics for the Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins generation. In this passionate, thought-provoking and often radical thesis, Robert Johnson presents both a refreshing theory of morality based on science and a guide to the practical consequences of what a truly rational concept of morality involves.

Published by Dangerous Little Books, May 24, 2013, If you would like to review this book for your publication then please get in touch.

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