Arcadian tradition
Arcadianism is the ideal of a simple rural life in close harmony with nature.  The word derives from a mountainous region in ancient Greece called Arcady, whose inhabitants supposedly dwelt in an Eden-like state of innocence, at peace with the earth and its creatures. The Arcadian tradition is an environmental vision of modern times, which has contributed to the growth of an ecological ethic of coexistence rather than domination of the natural world.  Although is has often been a naive surrender to nostalgia, the emphasis is upon humility rather than self assertion, living as part, of rather than in a state of superiority to, nature. 
In their classification of the natural world, Europeans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries expressed the same attitude to plants as they did to animals, with a rigid distinction between useful 'crops' and useless 'weeds'. To the progressive farmer, a weed was and still is, the vegetable equivalent of vermin, to be hacked down, uprooted, poisoned and burned. The hierarchy of plants paralleled human society, with the noble oak at the top and the lowly buttercup at the bottom. Weeds and nettles were like the common people, unwanted and springing up everywhere.
A more neutral attitude was adopted by the early scientists, who recognized that even weeds and wild plants might be useful. Apothecaries had always believed that many neglected wild plants were valuable medically. Early botanists and naturalists allowed nothing to be weeds in their attempt at 'objective' classification and located wild plants as well as domestic ones. From the seventeenth century scientists began to study nature in its own right.
In zoology, the distinction between wild and tame was also abandoned. Some scientists even recognised that all systems of classification are man-made devices to order the world. While attempting to draw up a neutral taxonomy, they criticised the vulgar error that birds, beasts and plants could respond sympathetically to human beings.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century with the growth of a Romantic sensibility, a new attitude to plants developed which went beyond the neutral. Weeds and wild plants began to be appreciated for themselves and for their success in escaping man's rapacious hand. John Clare devoted many poems to the beauty of plants that farmers hated: ragwort, yarrow, rushes, thistles, poppies in the corn. The Romantics preferred the common wild flowers to cultivated blooms, the violet which grew and died by the brook unseen by man to the rose above the cottage door. While most people continued to see the natural world largely in terms of its potential use, the Romantic poets and travellers went to the opposite extreme of the scientists' objectivity, giving way to the 'pathetic fallacy' and seeing in nature a reflection of their own moods and feelings.
Gilbert White's much-loved Natural History of Selborne (1789) reflects this new benign attitude to nature, advocating a simple life in peaceful coexistence with other organisms. As a 'philosopher' this curate and naturalist was intent on recording 'the life and conversation of animals' in his parish but it proved one of the most important early contributions to field ecology. He was particularly struck by the way 'Nature is a great economist' for 'she converts the recreation of one animal to the support of another!' The smallest organism is important to the overall harmony in the economy of nature. 'Earthworms,' he observed, 'though in appearance a small and despicable link in the chain of nature, yet if lost would make a lamentable chasm. But White still believed that Nature required a helping hand to eradicate obnoxious insects from her economy and to improve her stock for human benefit.
Animal welfare
Despite the biblical justification for man's dominion over nature in the Judaeo- Christian tradition, the good Christian could find passages which reminded him to be lenient in his rule. One should not only turn the other cheek, but help the ass of one's enemy when it lay under its burden (Exodus 23:5; Deuteronomy 25:4). Animals, like humans, should be allowed to rest on the Sabbath (Exodus 23:5). Above all, 'a righteous man regardeth the life of his beast' (Proverbs 12:10). But these isolated examples of putting down the rod did not challenge the overwhelming sense of dominion that Christians felt over the rest of nature. Cruelty was condemned not because the victims suffered but because it was felt that those who torture animals would end up torturing their fellows. 'If any passage in holy scriptures seems to forbid us to be cruel to brute animals,' Aquinas asserted confidently, 'that is either . . . lest through being cruel to animals one becomes cruel to human beings or because injury to an animal leads to the temporal hurt of man.'
In the seventeenth century a few writers in the Christian tradition began to question man's alleged sovereignty over other creatures. The Cambridge Platonist Henry More thought that creatures were made 'to enjoy themselves', as did the naturalist John Ray. Sir Matthew Hale argued that cruelty to beasts was 'tyranny', 'breach of trust' and injustice. A strict interpretation of the Christian doctrine of stewardship made it difficult to condone killing animals for sport. Samuel Pepys for one thought animal sport provided 'a very rude and nasty pleasure'. Even if animals had been created for man's sake, as Genesis taught, that did not provide grounds for ill- treating them.
Philosophy in this case came to the support of the feelings. The creation could not be considered solely for man's use since it was increasingly difficult to believe that nature had an end at all. Greek teleology was abandoned for a purposeless world. Francis Bacon and Descartes had rejected the notion of final causes in natural history, while for Spinoza all final causes were human inventions. David Hume in his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (published in 1779) described 'a blind nature, impregnated with a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children'. Even Kant in his Critique of Teleological Judgment (1790) was unable to find 'any being capable of laying claim to the distinction of being the final end of creation'.
The shift in consciousness was so great in the eighteenth century that by 1769 the English naturalist Edward Bancroft considered that the 'arrogance of humanity' had created the delusion that the whole of animate nature had been created solely for its use. By the end of the century, the new sensibility towards the creation became increasingly apparent. Animals were no longer brutes or beasts, or even fellow creatures, but companions and even brothers. In a burst of revolutionary fervour, Coleridge extended the notion of fraternity from the human sphere to the animal world, and to 'A Young Ass' - 'Poor little Foal of an oppressed race!' - exclaimed: 'I hail thee Brother.'' Blake, for whom everything that lived was holy, found a fellow in the insects:
Am not
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?
Byron not only condemned capital punishment but attacked angling as that 'solitary vice'. He took to task the author of The Compleat Angler (which had, since its first publication in 1653, by 1800 gone into nearly four hundred editions or separate reissues).
Wordsworth had a moral repulsion toward the mechanistic point of view.  He felt that something had been left out, and that what had been left out comprised everything that was most important.  His works celebrated such passing moments in a personal Arcady of communication with the spirits of a general life force that gave all nature coherence.