Ng, Yew-Kwang (2017) Justifying the precautionary principle with expected net-welfare maximization. Animal Sentience 16(12)
Jonathan Birch, Animal sentience and the precautionary principle
The precautionary principle may be best justified on the principle of expected net-welfare/benefit maximization; there is no conflict between the two principles. We should want to be more cautious for cases with high benefit-to-cost ratios; there should thus be different degrees of precaution. For measures to reduce extinction-threatening environmental disruption or to reduce animal suffering that cost us little or nothing, we should adopt them even for species having only a small likelihood of being sentient, i.e., we should be more cautious. This argument is based on welfarism, which I strongly defend elsewhere (Ng 1990 & forthcoming).