Should We Provide the Bear Necessities? Climate Change, Polar Bears and the Ethics of Supplemental Feeding Chapter uri icon


  • AbstractThis paper considers whether we have any moral responsibility to offer supplemental feeding to wild animals who have lost food access due to climate change. It takes as a particular case the situation of some individual polar bears who, over the next decade, are likely to be threatened with abrupt loss of food access due to changes in sea ice, potentially causing starvation. The paper argues that, as is implied by most positions in animal ethics, there are ethical reasons to assist individual polar bears by supplemental feeding. However, there are also good reasons to hesitate, and to consider potential harms both to bears and to other animals, as well the loss of wildness value that may be involved. From some ethical positions, the likely harms involved make euthanasia ethically preferable to supplemental feeding. But on other plausible ethical arguments, these likely harms are not decisive. We need to know more about the possible effects of supplemental feeding of polar bears. So, the paper concludes that when the first bears are threatened by abrupt loss of food access, a trial of supplementary feeding should be considered in consultation with relevant native peoples.

author list (cited authors)

  • Palmer, C.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Palmer, Clare

Book Title

  • Animals in Our Midst: The Challenges of Co-existing with Animals in the Anthropocene

publication date

  • January 2021