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Do animals murder their own species? © Getty Images

Do animals murder their own species?

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

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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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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