Traditionally the issue of a non-speciesist attitude towards wild animals has been framed as being about predation; perhaps as a response to those who use the "saving the rabbit from the fox" reductio
against animal liberation and the animal liberation requirement for renouncing meat, that is for humans
to end their predation. But I think that Alan Dawrst's approach of speaking about wild animal suffering generally is original and right. Death from disease or starvation is just as bad, and perhaps, often worse, than death from predation.
However, I disagree with the idea put forward by Alan, Peter Singer before him, and here Daniel Dorado and others that any intervention against predation today is unthinkable, because there is such a probability that it will backfire catastrophically. Peter Singer (quoted in Alan's piece
for practical purposes I am fairly sure, judging from man's past record of attempts to mold nature to his own aims, that we would be more likely to increase the net amount of animal suffering if we interfered with wildlife, than to decrease it. Lions play a role in the ecology of their habitat, and we cannot be sure what the long-term consequences would be if we were to prevent them from killing gazelles. [...] So, in practice, I would definitely say that wildlife should be left alone.
This is often repeated, but I have never seen any supporting evidence, except for a few examples, always the same, like that of an island where the deer had no more predators and suffered a population explosion and then famine. I don't think that there is any general biological law that says that a species always needs a predator to control its population. If there was, why doesn't it apply to the predators themselves? Who is the predator of the wolves?
It is probable that in some cases the danger of a population explosion is real, and in others not. Things have to be judged on a case-by-case basis.
More generally, "man's past record of attempts to mold nature to his own aims" does not give good evidence about what could be done if we attempted to intervene for benevolent purposes. I mean, in the past human intervention has generally been done for greed, or at best for purely human aims. The success or failure of those attempts must be judged on their own terms, that is against their own aims. It is not surprising, for instance, that interventions that were not conceived to benefit wild animals didn't benefit them. Generally those interventions were a success
on their own terms. Sometimes they went wrong - on their own terms - but certainly that is a minority of the cases.
Of course things any intervention would have to be thought out with due care, but I see no a priori reason to believe, for instance, that we should not encourage the disappearance of some birds of prey that are already on the verge of extinction.
I think we should shed a lot of our preconceptions about the harmonies of nature ("Lions play a role in the ecology of their habitat"). A good read is Daniel Botkin, Discordant Harmonies
, which for me was an eye-opener.