Q: Can an animal be “immoral” or are they “amoral”?
A: That’s a BIG question, which I can’t answer in a brief note. An organism can only be immoral if it is part, and adheres to, an agreed-upon system of morality, as we do. I don’t believe that chimpanzees, or other nonhuman animals, are moral beings in the sense that we are.
But to call them amoral isn’t correct either. Amoral means a total absence of morality, and it is obvious that the building blocks of morality (empathy, sympathy, cooperation, social rules) can be found in animals other than us.
The view that the natural world is “amoral” comes from Charles Darwin’s contemporary, T. H. Huxley, who felt that nature could never have produced human morality. He saw nature as inherently nasty.
I strongly disagree with this bleak view, as did Darwin himself (in The Descent of Man), but Huxley’s views are unfortunately still very much with us. I wrote an entire book to counter them: Primates & Philosophers.