Do animals murder their own species?

It depends how you define 'murder' in an animal context. Does blind, instinctual killing count or must it be cold and calculating?

22nd October 2009
Do animals murder their own species? (Getty)

Asked by: Hayley Dunning, Finland

Animals unquestionably kill members of their species, all the time. Male lions slaughter all the cubs when they join a new pride; rival ant colonies of the same species fight bloody wars; chimpanzees have been shown to kill each other at similar per capita rates to humans.

Does any of this count as murder? That depends on your moral philosophy. Most animals are probably unaware of the moral dimension of their actions, but whether this excuses them is a matter of opinion.

Humans also have plenty of circumstances that allow them to kill without committing murder – in self-defence, or during war for example – and animals generally have similar justifications.


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