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Summoning compassion to address the challenges of conservation



Conservation practice is informed by science, but also reflects ethical beliefs about how we ought to value and interact with the Earth's biota. As human activities continue to drive extinctions and diminish critical life‐sustaining ecosystem processes, achieving conservation goals becomes increasingly urgent. In our determination to react decisively, conservation challenges can be handled without due deliberation, particularly when wildlife individuals are sacrificed “for the greater good” of wildlife collectives (populations, species, ecosystems). With growing recognition of the widespread sentience and sapience of many nonhuman animals, standard conservation practices that categorically prioritize collectives without due consideration for the wellbeing of individuals are ethically untenable. Here we highlight three overarching ethical orientations characterizing current and historical practices in conservation that suppress compassion: instrumentalism, collectivism, and nativism. We illustrate how establishing a commitment to compassion could re‐orient conservation in more ethically expansive directions, which incorporate recognition of the intrinsic value of wildlife, the sentience of nonhuman animals, and the values of novel ecosystems, introduced species and their members. A compassionate conservation approach allays practices that intentionally and unnecessarily harm wildlife individuals, while aligning with critical conservation goals. Although the urgency of achieving effective outcomes for solving major conservation problems may enhance the appeal of quick and harsh measures, the costs are too high. Continuing to justify moral indifference when causing the suffering of wildlife individuals, particularly those who possess sophisticated capacities for emotion, consciousness, and sociality, risks estranging conservation practice from prevailing, and appropriate, social values. As conservationists and compassionate beings, we must demonstrate concern for both the long‐term persistence of collectives and the wellbeing of individuals, prioritizing strategies that do both.
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Summoning compassion to address the challenges of conservation
Arian D. Wallach1*, Marc Bekoff2, Chelsea Batavia3, Michael P. Nelson3, Daniel Ramp1
1 Centre for Compassionate Conservation, Faculty of Science, University of Technology
Sydney, Ultimo, NSW, 2007, Australia
2 Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, 80309, USA
3 Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR,
97331, USA
Running head: Compassionate conservation
Keywords: animal ethics, conservation ethics, intrinsic value, novel ecosystem, sentience,
virtue ethics
Article Impact Statement: Protection of wildlife collectives should be guided by compassion
for wildlife individuals.
Conservation practice is informed by science, but also reflects ethical beliefs about how we
ought to value and interact with the Earth‟s biota. As human activities continue to drive
extinctions and diminish critical life-sustaining ecosystem processes, achieving conservation
goals becomes increasingly urgent. In our determination to react decisively, conservation
challenges can be handled without due deliberation, particularly when wildlife individuals are
sacrificed “for the greater good” of wildlife collectives (populations, species, ecosystems).
With growing recognition of the widespread sentience and sapience of many nonhuman
animals, standard conservation practices that categorically prioritize collectives without due
consideration for the wellbeing of individuals are ethically untenable. Here we highlight three
overarching ethical orientations characterizing current and historical practices in conservation
that suppress compassion: instrumentalism, collectivism, and nativism. We illustrate how
establishing a commitment to compassion could re-orient conservation in more ethically
expansive directions, which incorporate recognition of the intrinsic value of wildlife, the
sentience of nonhuman animals, and the values of novel ecosystems, introduced species and
their members. A compassionate conservation approach allays practices that intentionally and
unnecessarily harm wildlife individuals, while aligning with critical conservation goals.
This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Although the urgency of achieving effective outcomes for solving major conservation
problems may enhance the appeal of quick and harsh measures, the costs are too high.
Continuing to justify moral indifference when causing the suffering of wildlife individuals,
particularly those who possess sophisticated capacities for emotion, consciousness, and
sociality, risks estranging conservation practice from prevailing, and appropriate, social
values. As conservationists and compassionate beings, we must demonstrate concern for both
the long-term persistence of collectives and the wellbeing of individuals, prioritizing
strategies that do both.
Of all the virtues that a human can possess, the greatest may be compassion.
Moore and Nelson (2011)
Conservation is a practice with ethics at its core. It is a noble pursuit, espousing a
commitment to ensure that immediate human needs and wants are met in a manner that
allows the diversity of Earth‟s lifeforms to flourish (Moore & Nelson 2011). The work of
conservation becomes increasingly critical as modern anthropogenic activities continue to
alter and diminish life-sustaining ecosystem processes. Perhaps the most sobering realization
is that humans have triggered a 6th global mass extinction. Halting and reversing these
damages is arguably among the greatest and most challenging of tasks confronting the global
Major environmental problems cause major ethical challenges. In our drive to react with
urgency and decisiveness, these challenges are often handled without due deliberation, to the
neglect of other important moral concerns. Conservation has thus far largely excluded animal
ethics from its moral universe, a position which requires that we attend to the interests of
individual sentient wild animals (henceforth, wildlife individuals). Particularly problematic
are cases in which wildlife individuals are harmed “for the greater good” of biological and
ecological collectives (henceforth, wildlife collectives) (Table 1). Conservation objectives
focus on ensuring the persistence of species and ecological processes, both of which are
broadly encompassed under the umbrella of biological diversity (Trombulak et al. 2004). To
meet these objectives, many conservation programs entail some significant component of
“wildlife management,” usually aimed at regulating population sizes and distributions.
Management techniques include killing individuals of common species to promote the
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recovery of rare species, harming wild animals in captive breeding and reintroduction
programs, exposing individual megafauna to hunting to promote the species‟ economic value,
and killing individuals of introduced species to recreate historic ecological assemblages.
Although “killing for conservation” may aim to serve important objectives, it also entails
injury, distress, diminished quality of life, and death for wildlife individuals (Dubois et al.
2017). These programs also usually fail to define, defend, and meet clear objectives (Ramp &
Bekoff 2015; Wallach et al. 2015). For example, across Australia, 68% of conservation
culling programs targeting medium-to-large wild mammals did not monitor the target control
or recovery species, and fewer than 3% followed basic experimentation design (Reddiex &
Forsyth 2007). Since wildlife individuals are proper subjects of moral attention (Regan 1987),
and are a major and growing focus of society-wide concern (Bruskotter et al. 2017), we can
no longer ignore the impacts of conservation actions on the lives of wildlife individuals.
Our capacity to inflict harm on both wildlife collectives and individuals is only increasing.
Propelled by growing demand, increasingly sophisticated technologies enable humans to
access and exploit new resources, driving ever more dramatic changes that can further
endanger wildlife collectives, including ecological processes and functions. These same
proficiencies are also enabling conservation practitioners to harm wildlife individuals with
alarming efficiency. Robotic “grooming traps” identify wild cats (Felis catus) and spray
poison on their fur (Hillier 2016). Viral diseases have been developed and released into
Australia‟s rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) population (Adams 2017). Poison baits targeting
mammalian predators are distributed by aircraft across inaccessible forests (Holm 2015).
Growing abilities to inflict harm on wildlife individuals, coupled with heightened
understanding of their capacity to experience harm, has raised the moral stakes of
conservation. With increasing awareness that sentience and sapience are prevalent across the
animal kingdom (Low et al. 2012), we can no longer afford to ignore the full ethical
implications of conservation decision-making as it pertains to wildlife individuals. The
richness of the world around us, and the complexity of the choices we face, challenges us to
mature and expand our ethics. Conservation biologists often assume a binary choice between
compassion (for individuals) or conservation (of collectives) (Soulé 1985). This view is
negated by growing evidence that programs that harm individuals also often harm collectives
(e.g., Wallach et al. 2010), and that win-win programs are definitely possible (Table 2). A
commitment to compassion can allay practices that intentionally and unnecessarily harm
wildlife individuals, without fundamentally compromising critical conservation goals (Ramp
& Bekoff 2015). Here we show how conservation initiatives demonstrating compassion for
individuals would represent a departure from three common and ethically problematic
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orientations, instrumentalism, collectivism, and nativism. In this way, compassion may serve
as a moral compass, charting a more ethically defensible, socially acceptable, and
scientifically robust path for the future of conservation.
Compassionate conservation
Achieving enduring conservation success requires a fundamental re-organization of the ways
in which human beings view and interact with nonhuman nature (Moore & Nelson 2011).
The historic trajectory of conservation practice and policy, designed primarily to protect
species from extinction and ecosystems from degradation, has largely overlooked the
wellbeing of wildlife individuals (Bekoff 2013b). If we agree the task of conservation is to
actualize a human relationship with nonhuman nature that is not only sustainable but also
ethically appropriate (Moore & Nelson 2011), it is important that morally relevant individuals
not be excluded from the scope of conservation concern. To this end, we contend that
compassion is a critical element of ethically appropriate conservation practice.
“Compassion” is rooted in the Latin com, meaning “with,” and pati, “to suffer.”
Psychologically, compassion has been defined as an emotional response to suffering (Goetz
et al. 2010). Ethically, it is also an appropriate response to suffering. Compassion might be
conceptualized as a moral duty we, as moral agents, are obligated to uphold toward deserving
entities (Nussbaum 2004). Alternatively, conservation can be justified according to our
rational and often intuitive sense that the right act is the one maximizing overall benefit
(Nelson et al. 2016). Conservation strategies that successfully protect wildlife collectives and
the wellbeing of wildlife individuals (and often human wellbeing as well) represent bona fide
win-win solutions (Table 2).
In this essay, however, we argue it is appropriate for conservationists to demonstrate
compassion because it is a moral virtue (Moore & Nelson 2011). This position hearkens to
virtue ethics, among the oldest of ethical frameworks, and an approach that has experienced
resurgence in conservation ethics (Sandler & Cafaro 2005). Unlike frameworks prescribing
general rules or guidelines for proper conduct, virtue ethics are focused on the character
traits, or virtues, manifested in proper conduct. Examples from across Western and Eastern
traditions include respect, humility, generosity, integrity, patience, and, of course,
compassion. Compassion, in particular, is a core virtue of the world‟s major philosophical
and religious traditions (Armstrong 2008), such as Eleos (Ancient Greek: ἔλεος) in
Aristotelian ethics, Ahimsa (Sanskrit: अह सा) in Indian traditions, Ren (Chinese: ) in
Confucianism, Khemla (Hebrew: הָלְמֶח) in Judaism, and Rahmah (Arabic: ةمحرلا) in Islam. A
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virtuous person will carefully attend to the capacity of others to experience both joy and pain,
making efforts not to inflict intentional and unwarranted suffering, as a manifestation of one‟s
compassionate character. Through a virtue lens, to embody or act with compassion is a proper
manifestation of virtue.
A compassionate conservation approach aims to safeguard Earth‟s biological diversity while
retaining a commitment to treating individuals with respect and concern for their wellbeing
(Bekoff 2013b; Ramp & Bekoff 2015). Compassionate conservationists strive to embody four
overarching tenets. First, Do No Harm, adapted from the core precept of medical bioethics,
counsels that instincts to intervene should be carefully scrutinized and selectively pursued.
Given an existing problem, it may be better not to do something, or even to do nothing, than
risk causing more harm than good. Individuals Matter acknowledges the intrinsic value of
wildlife individuals, resisting any tendency to reduce them or their value solely to their
position as members of collectives. Inclusivity acknowledges the intrinsic value of all wildlife
individuals and collectives, whether their populations are large or small, whether their
ancestors were introduced or native, whether they are considered sentient or not, and
regardless of usefulness to humans. Finally, Peaceful Coexistence calls on us to recognize
that conservation practice should ultimately be less about how we think the world ought to
be, and more about the manner in which we ought to engage with the world (Bekoff 2013b;
Ramp & Bekoff 2015). It demands that the first instinct in conflict situations should be to
critically examine and in many cases modify our own practices, rather than pursuing acts of
aggression against wildlife individuals (Dubois et al. 2017). These tenets serve as an
aspiration characterizing how we, as compassionate beings, ought to interact with wildlife
individuals when we engage in efforts to protect wildlife collectives. In practice, a
compassionate conservationist works to develop, apply, and prioritize non-lethal and non-
invasive strategies that benefit wildlife collectives without causing intentional suffering to
wildlife individuals (Table 2).
Compassion as a path forward for conservation
Growing recognition of the widespread sentience and sapience of many nonhuman animals
demands a meaningful response from the conservation community. A commitment to
compassionate conservation practice would challenge and redirect common policy and
research measures such as killing predators to save endangered prey (Proulx et al. 2016),
killing introduced animals to save endemic animals (Wallach et al. 2015), killing individuals
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for population research (Vucetich & Nelson 2007), subjecting wild animals to invasive
monitoring methods (Jewell 2013), basing conservation funding on trophy hunting and
sustainable use (Ramp 2013; Nelson et al. 2016), and breeding animals in zoos and aquaria
for conservation and education (Chrulew 2011). These, and similar, programs perpetuate a
conservation paradigm characterized by instrumentalism, collectivism, and/or nativism, three
orientations that evince callousness or indifference to the suffering of wildlife individuals
(Table 1). We address each of these orientations in turn and discuss how a commitment to
compassion might serve to re-orient conservation practice, policy, and research in ethically
expansive directions.
Instrumental value is the value of an entity or object as a means to some other end. A
hammer, for example, can rightly be said to have only instrumental value as a driver of nails.
Instrumentalism, in turn, is an orientation that views and values nonhuman nature and
wildlife individuals primarily (or exclusively) for their instrumental value, particularly for
human beings. Many facets of modern and historical conservation practice reflect an
instrumentalist orientation. In North America, for example, nonhuman nature was historically
protected as a repository of “natural resources” for human beings (Callicott 1990). The
scientific discipline of conservation biology emerged in the late 20th century, bringing with it
more overt recognition of intrinsic value in nonhuman nature (Soulé 1985), but the past two
decades have again seen increasing emphasis placed on protecting instrumental values, e.g.,
ecosystem services (Batavia & Nelson 2017).
The instrumental values of nonhuman nature are clear and irrefutable, and in many cases
these values can be quantified or otherwise leveraged to support conservation action. Often
this is done in monetary terms. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, for example,
commissioned a report that rated the value of the reef to Australia‟s economy at AU$56
billion (O'Mahoney et al. 2017), an estimate subsequently used to promote the reef‟s
protection. However, an instrumental orientation toward nonhuman nature and its protection
can have significant shortfalls. For instance, if nonhuman nature is only good for the benefits
it provides, there is little motivation to protect those elements for which more efficient and
cost-effective alternatives can readily be made available. Heavily promoting instrumental
value may also replace, or “crowd out,” intrinsic motivations for conservation with less
stable, self-interested motivations (Neuteleers & Engelen 2015).
An instrumentalist orientation toward wildlife individuals in particular stands to alienate large
sectors of the public, who, according to a growing body of research, generally attribute
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intrinsic value to living organisms (Vucetich et al. 2015). A philosophical counterpart to
instrumental value intrinsic value is the value of an entity (or its interests) for its own
sake, over and above any uses it may serve (Vucetich et al. 2015). A carpenter, for example,
certainly has instrumental value as a purveyor of produced goods, but we also rightly
recognize her intrinsic value, as a human being and an end in herself. With this recognition, it
becomes unconscionable to treat the carpenter with reckless disregard for her welfare. To
acknowledge intrinsic value in nonhuman entities (individual or collective) de-centers
humans from the moral universe, embedding us within a complex biosphere of others with
whom we ought to engage in moral relationships (Batavia & Nelson 2017). And yet, the
various conservation practices that treat wildlife individuals as mere expendable means to
conservation ends effectively deny them this value (Table 1), casting them as moral
equivalents of hammers. Not only do such practices risk estranging conservation practice
from prevailing social values, potentially effecting widespread loss of public support
(Bruskotter et al. 2017; van Eeden et al. 2017), but they also stifle our capacity for
compassion. Just as we generally do not feel compassion for hammers, an individual animal
whose value has been reduced solely to its function is not likely to inspire compassion either,
even in the face of extreme suffering.
A compassionate foundation to conservation makes intentionally harming wildlife individuals
attributed with intrinsic value inconsistent and less likely. For example, India‟s constitution
and animal welfare laws establish the rights of nonhuman animals to a life of “intrinsic worth,
dignity, and honor, and imposes a duty to exhibit compassion for all living beings (Kansal
2016). These affirmations underpin specific practices, such as the general prohibition against
hunting (Gupta 2013), as well as farming practices and dietary choices, that positions India as
one of the best performing countries for animal welfare standards in the world (Voiceless
2018). India is also a high global conservation performer, evident by the persistence of nearly
its full large carnivore guild and is a global hotspot of megafauna, a particularly vulnerable
group of species (Ripple et al. 2017). This is an extraordinary success, particularly when
considering that India has one of the world‟s largest human population in term of both size
and density. Compassion has therefore been not only compatible with, but perhaps integral to,
achievement of conservation outcomes in India.
A collectivist orientation prioritizes the group over its individual constituents. Leading
conservation organizations and initiatives, such as the Society for Conservation Biology and
the United Nations Framework Convention on Biodiversity, identify biodiversity as the
primary object of conservation concern. Biodiversity, in turn, is defined broadly to
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encompass diversity at all biological levels of organization (Trombulak et al. 2004), which
does not technically preclude individuals and the variability between them from the scope of
conservationists‟ concern. Operationally, however, conservation efforts have focused on the
preservation of collectives, with wildlife individuals viewed and valued as instances of their
type, rather than unique and distinct organisms. Conservation practice does not completely
exclude concern for individuals, who are protected to the extent enforced by animal welfare
standards and ethical codes of conduct. For example, when animals are subjected to poison
baiting, a poison may be chosen that acts more quickly and less painfully than other poisons
(particularly if the cost differential is minimal); or when animals are kept in captivity,
conditions must be provided to meet basic welfare standards. In practice, however, such
standards afford minimal protection, readily permitting management strategies that enact
varying degrees of violence against wildlife individuals, as long as they aim to achieve other
conservation goals (Table 1).
Compassion is, by definition, a relational response to individuals, since individuals (not
collectives) are subjects capable of experiencing suffering and joy. As such, a strictly
collectivist orientation is not conducive to the compassionate practice of conservation. We
certainly do not disavow the value (both intrinsic and instrumental) of ecological collectives,
which is an established and essential ethical foundation for the practice of conservation
(Callicott 2017); nor do we intend to suggest the conservation community is misguided in
efforts to protect these collective entities. However, a singular focus on the protection of
wildlife collectives is ethically indefensible, to the extent that it blinds us to the wrongs
enacted against wildlife individuals. Regan (1987) referred to this as “environmental
fascism,” an association with the moral atrocities of political regimes that sacrifice or subvert
the interests of individuals to promote their vision for the advancement of society. Although
an analogy equating the suffering of humans with the suffering of nonhuman animals may
appear overwrought, it is consistent with what we now understand of sentience and sapience
in nonhuman animals (Low et al. 2012). Ethology has revealed much about the cognitive and
emotional capacities and needs of other animals, indicating, among other things, that physical
welfare is only one part of what drives suffering and joy (Bekoff & Pierce 2017). For
example, a major cause of suffering that can be experienced by wild animals in conservation
culling programs is the loss of social group members and the trauma of witnessing them
being injured and killed (Bradshaw et al. 2005). Although much remains for us to learn of the
inner lives and social organization of nonhuman animals, current evidence is ethically
compelling. Any attempt to justify moral indifference to the suffering of wildlife individuals
who possess sophisticated capacities for emotion, consciousness, and sociality, would require
a feat of argumentation we do not believe possible.
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Compassion for wildlife individuals may have historically been regarded, by some, as a
potential hindrance to conservation (Soulé 1985), but a range of conservation programs
demonstrate that protecting individuals can also serve to protect collectives (Table 2). Several
practical strategies have been developed to explicitly advance a compassionate conservation
approach, including protection of kangaroos (Macropus spp.) from conservation culling and
commercial bushmeat exploitation in Australia (Ramp 2013); protecting apex predators as an
alternative to killing introduced mesopredators to help recover endemic small animals
(Wallach et al. 2015); development of ethical and sustainable wildlife tourism models (Burns
2017); challenging the practice of breeding wild animals to be “practice prey” for captive pre-
release predators (Bekoff 2013a); and incorporating indigenous practices and activism in
protected areas (Kopnina 2015). Each of these practices embodies a basic stance of
compassion by taking efforts to minimize or avoid willfully harming wildlife individuals,
while also seeking to protect wildlife collectives.
Human globalization, land use practice, and anthropocentric climate change have shifted the
distribution of many species. In response, many conservation practices are designed to
control and eradicate “invasive species,” which ostensibly change the composition and
function of ecosystems, at times contributing to the decline and extinction of endemic species
(Davis 2009). These measures evince a nativist orientation, characterized by a belief that
species belong in the geographic regions in which they evolved, or to which they immigrated
without the aid of modern humans. Many introduced populations are considered harmful, not
because of their ecological effects per se, but because they challenge deep-seated ideologies
about how nature “should be” (Chew & Hamilton 2011). Invasion biology, the sub-discipline
of conservation based on nativism, endeavors to halt biotic mixing by suppressing and
eradicating populations considered “alien,” and promoting species compositions similar to
historic assemblages (Davis 2009). Invasion biology employs militaristic language to
promote negative attitudes toward introduced species (e.g. “invasive”), encouraging a violent
response toward their members by describing conservation as a “war” (Larson 2005).
Institutionalized mass killing, which is prima facie disturbing, becomes normalized through
social discourse casting members of these species as noxious entities and deserving targets of
harassment and cruelty. In New Zealand, for example, young children are provided with
government produced computer games, in which “zombie possums” must be stomped on to
protect kiwi (Apteryx sp.) eggs (Holm 2015). In the same country, primary school events
have engaged children in killing competitions where possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) joeys
are drowned in buckets (Roy 2017).
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Although some introduced populations have contributed to extinctions, these cases represent
exceptions rather than the norm (Davis 2009). The nativist approach ignores the capacity for
introduced populations to enhance species richness, provide valued ecosystem functions, and
provide sanctuary for the many species who face significant threats in their historic native
ranges (Sax et al. 2002; Lundgren et al. 2017). Further, and contrary to the nativist view,
contemporary ecologists generally agree that ecological systems are more dynamic and
adaptive than previously thought (Pickett 2013). With this recognition, a staunch
commitment to maintaining historic assemblages appears unrealistic, and may be rooted more
deeply in xenophobic ideology than scientific understanding (Dubois et al. 2017). Still, that
nature is dynamic does not in itself indicate we, as moral agents, ought to support or actively
facilitate ecological change. How best to protect wildlife and ecosystems in such a rapidly
changing world is a subject of much debate (e.g., Callicott & Nelson 1998). Invasion biology
represents but one approach. Alternatively, recognizing that “novel” ecosystems are evolving
in response to modern human activities allows for appreciation of introduced species,
“hybrids,” and urban and farmland ecosystems, without abandoning a core focus on endemic
species, historic ecosystems, and protected areas (Hobbs et al. 2006). This approach allows us
to practice conservation compassionately by valuing all forms of life, whether encountered in
pristine national parks or in humble alleyways (Marris 2013).
One key objection to conservationists embracing novel ecosystems is a concern it may
signify a “license to trash,” a slippery slope legitimizing further conversion of landscapes
that, as yet, have been little impacted by human development (Hobbs 2013). However,
intrinsic value (a basic pillar of the compassionate approach we advance) would safeguard
against such abuse. If unconverted ecosystems and their individual constituents were viewed
not as just instrumental and ultimately replaceable goods, but also as intrinsic goods worthy
of protection for their own sake, we would be deeply reluctant, rather than liberated, to
pursue actions compromising their persistence or integrity. With thoughtful regulation and
ethical attention, expanding conservation policies to value introduced populations and their
individual members may be not only a compassionate but also an effective way to conserve
those species whose historic native range no longer provides suitable habitat (Lundgren et al.
2017). It may even lead to greater global diversity and resilience overall.
Human population growth, resource acquisition, urbanization, and agricultural expansion
have pervasive global impacts, which have reached a magnitude that many consider the onset
of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. The urgency with which we are compelled to
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respond to environmental problems often necessitates difficult tradeoffs. Conservation
practices have hitherto emphasized the protection of collectives, prioritizing the persistence
of species and ecological processes over the wellbeing of individuals (Soulé 1985). While
this strategy is in some ways understandable, we should not forfeit our humanity for the sake
of our objectives, no matter how worthy those may be. Conservation risks reducing itself to a
form of fundamentalism if it fails to take serious steps to limit practices that cause severe
harms to individuals. As a community of people who care about wildlife and nature, we
should ask ourselves not only what kind of nature (ecology) we want to preserve, but also
what kind of nature (character) we want to manifest. As a conservation community we have
normalized the perpetration of significant, intentional, and often unnecessary harm against
wildlife individuals. This constitutes a tragic failure to exercise our considerable capacities
for compassion.
Against any allegation that this argument is too value-laden for conservation, a practice
rooted fundamentally in science, we point out that, as a practice which bears on the long-term
persistence and flourishing of all living entities on the planet, conservation is also an
inherently moral pursuit (Soulé 1985; Moore & Nelson 2011). Facts alone do not tell us what
we should or should not do. Conservation science can help determine what the cause of a
population decline is and what methods might enable recovery, but ethical inquiry is required
to determine whether we ought to apply any particular intervention. We suggest compassion
is a critical addition to conservationists‟ ethical lexicon, as a basic virtue that can guide these
sorts of ethical deliberations.
Compassionate conservation is still a young field, and important work remains to develop the
approach both theoretically and practically. For example, questions remain on how to
formally incorporate nature‟s nonsentient and nonliving entities, which may not be subjects
of compassion per se, but are certainly subjects of both conservation and moral concern.
Another deeply challenging and pressing question is how should we demonstrate compassion
for wildlife individuals, when to do so would compromise our efforts to protect species,
ecosystems, or biodiversity? On this point we can offer only a brief reflection:
Above we characterized compassionate conservation as an approach that attends to the
suffering of wildlife individuals alongside efforts to protect collectives. However, the root
pati (“to suffer”) is also shared by the word “passive,” which conveys receptivity and
endurance. In this light, to conserve compassionately also means we endure our own
suffering, as moral agents faced, at times, with impossible moral choices. Where we fail to
find approaches that ensure both individual wellbeing and collective protection, a mark of
compassion will be to endure the harrowing sense of immense responsibility and utter
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powerlessness that inevitably accompanies difficult decisions with no unequivocal answers.
Although win-win solutions are possible, and surely should be sought, in some cases the
reality of loss cannot be reasonably denied (Hobbs 2013). As compassionate conservationists
we open ourselves up to the full hurts of the world we inhabit and the moral landscape we
We hope this essay and the questions it raises will inspire further discourse in the
conservation community as we steer a course characterized not only by deep concern for the
persistence of diverse nonhuman life but also for the wellbeing of nonhuman lives.
We thank Baird Callicott and two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and
suggestions in the development of this essay. We are also grateful to Eamonn Wooster, Erick
Lundgren and Esty Yanco for helpful comments and discussions.
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Table 1: Conservation programs based on killing animals are becoming increasingly
controversial, as recent case studies (2014-2016) demonstrate. These programs exemplify
instrumentalist, collectivist, and/or nativist tendencies, excluding individuals from the scope
of moral concern, and suppressing compassion.
Underlying values
Copenhagen Zoo, Denmark
Marius, a healthy young giraffe (Giraffa
camelopardalis), was deemed surplus to the
Zoo‟s captive breeding program. Despite
international appeals he was killed, publicly
dissected, and fed to captive lions (Panthera
leo) in front of an audience, including
children. A month later, the zoo killed four
healthy lions to provide space for a new lion
considered more suitable for breeding
(Cohen & Fennell 2016).
Instrumentalism & collectivism
The captivity and killing of Marius and other
animals at the zoo is based on the idea that
their value should be defined primarily for
their instrumentality as a source of
entertainment, profit, and education for the
zoo, and their potential as breeding stocks for
their (collective) kinds.
Over 1,000 wolves (Canis lupus) were killed
between 2005 and 2014 in an ongoing effort
to reduce predation on threatened boreal
woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus
caribou). The wolves were subjected to
strychnine poison baiting, aerial gunning,
and the „Judas method‟ - a conservation
practice where radio-collared individuals are
The suffering of the wolves, through painful
deaths and loss of kin, is viewed as a matter
of relative insignificance compared to the risk
of losing the caribou population. The culling
program is continued despite evidence that it
will not save the caribou herds, which are
threatened primarily by extractive industries
(Proulx et al. 2016).
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used to lead shooters to their social groups
(Proulx et al. 2016).
The European Commission passed into law a
regulation on “Invasive Alien Species,”
which obligates member states to control
introduced wildlife. For this purpose,
raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) are
killed using the Judas method in Sweden. In
this program, captured individuals are first
fed and medically treated in the hope it will
increase their attractiveness to potential
mates, to make it easier to find and kill them
(Silva et al. 2014).
Collectivism & Nativism
Labeling wildlife, such as raccoon dogs, as
“invasive” precludes moral concern for their
lives as individuals, and also for their
introduced populations. Their control and
eradication is meant to promote valued native
species. Ironically, raccoon dogs are listed as
Least Concern by the IUCN in part because
the European populations provide a safety net
(Kauhala & Saeki 2016).
Cats were introduced to Australia in the 19th
century and have established wild
populations. They are implicated in the
decline of several endemic small mammal
species, and Australia has declared a „war on
cats‟ with the aim of killing 2 million cats by
2020. The program includes sodium
fluoroacetate (1080) poison baiting,
shooting, trapping, and „grooming traps‟ –
devices that spray poison onto their fur
(Hillier 2016).
Collectivism & Nativism
Setting a conservation goal by the numbers of
animals killed, rather than by a recovery
target of any particular endemic species,
defines the “good” by the act of killing. It
ensures nonlethal options are excluded from
consideration, even if they would provide
better outcomes for threatened endemic prey,
cats, and other wild predators.
Cecil, a well-known lion from Hwange, was
shot by a bow and arrow, and killed 40 hours
later, by an American trophy hunter.
Although this particular hunt was probably
not legal, trophy hunting is an established
conservation practice that aims to promote
populations of wild animals by increasing
their economic value. Trophy hunting is
Instrumentalism & Collectivism
Trophy hunting is based on the premise that
lions (and other megafauna) should be
protected by promoting their economic
values, and that it is appropriate to
commodify and kill individual animals to
promote their populations. While trophy
hunting advocates do not necessarily support
canned hunting for moral reasons, both
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legally conducted in a variety of situations,
from hunts in wilderness areas to “canned”
hunts in which lions (and other predators)
are bred in captivity and shot in enclosures
for entertainment (Nelson et al. 2016).
practices rely on similar premises. For
example, supporters of canned hunting
similarly argue that it benefits conservation by
reducing hunting pressure on wild lions
(Barkham 2013).
New Zealand
Predator Free New Zealand is a government
plan to eradicate all introduced predator
populations (e.g. rats Rattus spp., stoats
Mustela erminea, and brushtail possums) by
2050 in order to promote endemic birds.
Children, as young as kindergarten age, have
been enlisted to help kill introduced animals.
New Zealand is also the primary global user
of 1080, a poison that is banned in most
other countries. It is regularly spread in large
quantities across national parks and other
landscapes, often by aircraft (Holm 2015;
Roy 2017).
Collectivism & Nativism
Programs to eradicate introduced predators
are based on the premise that there is no limit
to the number of individual animals that
should be killed; the method of killing should
be chosen based on efficacy rather than
welfare; and children should be taught to
suppress empathy for individual introduced
animals, if it increases the possibility that
endemic prey populations will grow.
Pelorus Island, Australia, July 2016
A conservation plan to control a population
of introduced wild goats (Capra hircus),
because they eat native vegetation, involved
translocating captured mainland dingoes
(Canis dingo) onto the island. The program
aimed for the dingoes to eradicate the goats
and then for shooters to eradicate the
dingoes. Male dingoes were trapped in the
wild, surgically sterilized, and implanted
with poison capsules timed to kill them
within two years in case they could not be
shot. After two dingoes were put on the
island the program was terminated following
international public protest (van Eeden et al.
2017). Government concern for predation on
Instrumentalism, Collectivism & Nativism
The program was based on the nativist idea
that a state of “pristine nature” is tarnished by
the presence of an “invasive species,” and that
this could be corrected by the eradication
program. It did not require a clear definition
and evidence of harm caused by the goats, nor
did it include a recovery target of any island
species or ecological community. The lives of
the dingoes mattered only insofar as they
acted as goat killers. Possible negative
impacts of the program on a near threatened
bird population, not the extreme suffering of
the dingoes or the goats, was considered the
only appropriate justification for terminating
the program.
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a threatened bird was cited as the primary
reason for halting the program (Schwartz
Table 2: Conservation programs that safeguard the wellbeing of wildlife individuals and
promote the flourishing of wildlife collectives. These programs are consistent with the
guiding principles of compassionate conservation.
Middle Island, Australia
A breeding colony of Little Penguins
(Eudyptula minor) decreased from 600
to 10 birds in five years due to fox
predation. Killing foxes with poison,
den fumigation, traps, and guns did not
address the threat because foxes
recolonized the island at low tide. In
2006, a trial was initiated to use
Maremma sheepdogs to guard the
colony. Since its implementation, fox
predation on penguins has been
eliminated, the penguin population has
increased to over 100 by 2017, and the
project has expanded to protect a colony
of Australasian gannets (Morus
serrator). This success prompted Zoos
Victoria to invest over half-a-million
dollars in the trial use of guardian dogs
to facilitate a bandicoot (Perameles
gunnii) reintroduction (Wallis et al.
Individuals & populations, and human society
Enlisting guardian dogs benefited the penguins by
increasing their nesting success, while also
protecting the lives of individual foxes. The dogs
benefitted by having a reportedly well-cared for
life, which was highly visible to a wide public. The
local human community benefitted as the
successful program became a source of pride,
promoted tourism, and made the little town world
renowned when the story was made into the
feature film Oddball, named after the guardian dog
who inspired the idea.
The Elephants and Bees Project is
solving an age-old conflict between
farmers and crop-raiding elephants. By
Individuals & populations, and human society
The project tends to the wellbeing of individual
elephants by reducing human caused injury,
harassment, and mortality. It helps protect the
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studying the behavior of African
elephants (Loxodonta africana), it
became apparent that they strongly
avoid African honeybees (Apis mellifera
scutellata). Based on this finding, the
project developed a novel non-lethal
elephant deterrent, the Guardian
Beehive Fence, featuring a series of
hives hung on a trip wire around fields.
The presence of bees, and the risk of
causing them to swarm if elephants
brush against the wire, reduces crop
raiding and retaliatory human
aggression (King et al. 2009).
elephant population because persecution
associated with human-wildlife conflict is a
significant cause of population declines. The
program also benefits local communities by
reducing crop losses and increasing peaceful
coexistence. Finally, the bees are provided with a
secure hive and in turn they provide honey and
South Africa
Predators such as leopards (P. pardus)
are routinely killed by farmers
protecting their livestock. The
Landmark Foundation has been
working with farmers to transition to
predator friendly practices. Participating
farmers are provided with professional
consultancy in nonlethal methods (e.g.
guardian dogs), branding of their
products as Fair Game, compensation
when domestic animals are killed by
wild predators, and economic and
ecological monitoring. The program has
been successful for the predators and
farmers. They found a 70% decline in
predation rates and operating costs per
sheep during two years of predator
friendly farming, regardless of the non-
lethal method adopted (McManus et al.
Individuals & populations, and human society
Non-lethal predator friendly farming respects the
lives of individual leopards, and other predators,
by ending harmful practices such as trapping,
shooting and poisoning. The protection of apex
predators not only benefits their populations, but
also promotes their keystone roles within their
ecosystems. Non-lethal methods are also more
effective at protecting domestic animals, which
frees farmers from the ineffective and often
counterproductive task of killing predators, to
concentrate on improving husbandry practices.
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For centuries sloth bear (Melursus
ursinus) cubs have been taken from the
wild, often by first killing the mothers,
and used as “dancing bears” under poor
welfare conditions. Although this
practice became illegal in the 1970‟s
and carried the threat of years in jail,
poaching of bears for this trade
continued because some communities
depended on them as a primary
livelihood. NGOs, including Wildlife
SOS, have worked to end the practice by
locating dancing bears and providing
alternative employment and education
support for bear owners who voluntarily
surrendered the bears to a sanctuary.
Between 1996 and 2010 the number of
known dancing bears declined from
>1,000 to 28 (D'Cruze et al. 2011), and
in 2014 the last known dancing bear of
India was reportedly brought to a
Individuals & populations, and human society
Ending the practice of dancing bears through
educational and professional development
promotes the wellbeing of both the bears and the
community. Individual dancing bears who were
previously abused are rehomed in a sanctuary
where they are treated with care and respect. Bears
in the wild are better protected from poachers who
cause extreme animal welfare harms and threaten
bear populations. Communities that previously
relied on an illegal trade are offered greater
opportunities to move out of poverty.
North America
Coyotes (Canis latrans) have
successfully adapted to humanized
landscapes and are now thriving across
many of North America‟s suburbs and
cities. The increasing coyote activity in
urban areas has brought them into
conflict with humans, including
predation on pets, and in a few rare
cases coyotes have also attacked
humans. Public officials have typically
responded with trapping and poisoning.
These lethal methods have been
Individuals & populations, and human society
Coexistence with urban coyotes provides shared
space where coyotes and humans can co-flourish.
It reduces the threat that individual coyotes will be
killed or lose pack members and allows coyote
populations to thrive and provide ecological
functions that enrich urban ecosystems. It also
reduces harms to humans and their domestic
animals by focusing on more effective methods for
avoiding damage. The model enables human
communities to grow their capacities to live
peacefully alongside other animals and promotes
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ineffective because coyotes rapidly
recolonize vacant territories. Project
Coyote has demonstrated that peaceful
coexistence with urban coyotes is
possible. These Coyote Friendly
CommunitiesTM redirect efforts from
killing to public education that informs
people how to reduce the risk of harmful
encounters with coyotes (Fox 2006).
tolerance and appreciation for urban wildlife.
Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and cats
introduced to Australia, have
contributed to the extinction of several
endemic mammals. Conservation
practitioners have responded with large-
scale lethal control programs. However,
the very method used to protect
threatened species has paradoxically
driven their decline. The most common
method used to kill foxes and cats, 1080
poison-baiting, also kills dingoes (Canis
dingo), Australia‟s endemic apex
predator. Across the continent, the
presence of dingoes is a major predictor
of low fox and cat densities and high
survival of endemic small mammals.
Scientists are now calling for a shift
from lethal control to protecting dingoes
(Wallach et al. 2015).
Individuals & populations
The many individual dingoes, foxes, and cats
currently subjected to poison baiting and other
lethal campaigns would no longer be, enabling
them to establish more stable social groups and
territories and longer lives. Populations of endemic
small animals are expected to benefit from reduced
predation pressure by cats and foxes, and from
higher vegetation cover because dingoes also drive
trophic cascades that enhances plant cover.
... Human behaviors change if their values change [20,21]. Social values can influence stakeholder perceptions and their support for conservation measures [15,22,23]. Public participation in conservation programs is influenced by their win-lose perspective on wildlife management [24]. ...
... Few respondents relate to animal conservation as an altruistic value, showing the pressing need to promote moral and social responsibility (i.e., relational values) among the Kinabatangan stakeholders, to improve their sense of duty to both people and animals. Indigenous tolerance for wildlife (i.e., among the unsupportive group) and human-wildlife conflict can be improved by increasing their moral values in order to develop compassion for the animals [22,67]. Including scientific information about wildlife (population trends and conservation status) in environmental awareness campaigns could improve the precarious status of most wildlife populations in the area and trigger more compassion from local communities. ...
Full-text available
... Carnivores are sentient and sapient beings that are self-aware and possess rich emotional and cognitive lives [76,77] In addition to direct harm, lethal programs may cause additional suffering through the experience of witnessing individual or social group members being injured and killed [77]. Dingoes have been found to respond to the death of a conspecific in the wild population in similar way to species such as primates, elephants, and some cetaceans [78]. ...
... Carnivores are sentient and sapient beings that are self-aware and possess rich emotional and cognitive lives [76,77] In addition to direct harm, lethal programs may cause additional suffering through the experience of witnessing individual or social group members being injured and killed [77]. Dingoes have been found to respond to the death of a conspecific in the wild population in similar way to species such as primates, elephants, and some cetaceans [78]. ...
Full-text available
Adoption by livestock producers of preventive non-lethal innovations forms a critical pathway towards human and large carnivore coexistence. However, it is impeded by factors such as socio-cultural contexts, governing institutions, and 'perverse' economic incentives that result in a 'lock-in' of lethal control of carnivores in grazing systems. In Australian rangelands, the dingo is the dominant predator in conflict with 'graziers' and is subjected to lethal control measures despite evidence indicating that its presence in agricultural landscapes can provide multiple benefits. Here we explore the barriers to the uptake of preventive innovations in livestock grazing through 21 in-depth interviews conducted with Australian graziers, researchers, and conservation and government representatives. Drawing on Donella Meadow's leverage points for system change framework, we focus, primarily, on barriers in the 'political sphere' because they appear to form the greatest impediment to the adoption of non-lethal tools and practices. These barriers are then discussed in relation to characteristics of lock-in traps (self-reinforcement, persistence, path dependencies, and undesirability) to assess how they constrain the promotion of human-dingo coexistence.
... Proponents of this approach argue that conservation objectives need to go beyond protecting species and ecological processes to include animal ethics and a concern for animal welfare. 126 Acknowledging the intrinsic value of individual animals requires moving away from instrumentalist thinking, in which animals have material value for human beings, towards valuing them in their own right, irrespective of benefits to humans. This means de-centring humans, giving equal consideration to animals and biodiversity as integral parts of an ecosystem, and overcoming the humannature dichotomy. ...
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In this article, we argue that animal rights and welfare are largely neglected at the United Nations (UN) and in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN Sustainability Agenda is not transformative because it lacks a serious (re-)consideration of the relationship between human beings, non-human animals and other components of nature. We propose four ways to strengthen animal rights and animal welfare at the UN: (1) we suggest creating a UN organisation working on animal protection, (2) we support earlier ideas to include an additional SDG on animal welfare in the UN Sustainability Agenda, (3) we propose to strengthen animals rights within the rights of nature framework using the UN as a forum to advance non-anthropocentric norms, (4) we recommend introducing procedural rights for animals in projects linked to SDG funding. Our research is based on an integrative literature review and a document analysis of UN documents, declarations and resolutions.
... In contrast, species conservation objectives often focus on the collective (i.e. the persistence of species and ecosystems can take precedence over an individual's needs) and instrumental (i.e. an animal's value comes from its role, e.g. in a breeding programme) value of animals (Soulé, 1985;Wallach et al., 2018). Conservation objectives for ex situ populations of threatened species can include providing insurance against extinction in the wild (McGowan, Traylor-Holzer, & Leus, 2017;Farhadinia et al., 2020) and providing a source of individuals for conservation translocations (e.g. ...
Ex situ threatened species management has both conservation and welfare objectives and these objectives often align, but can diverge. Areas of agreement can present win‐wins for achieving welfare and conservation objectives, while identifying areas of divergence is important to ensure management strategies achieve balance across objectives. We examined welfare and conservation objectives in the ex situ population of Extinct in the Wild sihek (Guam kingfisher, Todiramphus cinnamominus ) by quantifying mortality rates, determining sex‐ and age‐specific causes of mortality and identifying associated welfare domains, as well as quantifying sex‐ and age‐specific differences in reproductive value and contributions to variation in population growth rate ( λ ). Females had significantly higher mortality rates than males, potentially impacting population viability and suggesting females may be more vulnerable to experiencing lower welfare than males. Mitigating causes of female mortality would therefore present a clear win‐win for both welfare and conservation objectives. Both causes of mortality and contributions to variation in λ were found to differ across sex‐ and age‐classes. In particular, nutritional and metabolic diseases tended to impact younger age‐classes and these age‐classes had large contributions to variation in λ . Mitigation of these diseases could therefore also present a win‐win for welfare and conservation objectives. However, we also identified a potential divergence between objectives: a major cause of female mortality was reproductive disease with older aged females primarily affected, but older aged females contributed little to variation in λ and had low reproductive value. Developing mitigation strategies for reproductive disease could therefore aid welfare objectives but have little benefit for conservation objectives, suggesting careful balancing across objectives is required. Our results highlight the need to explicitly consider conservation and welfare objectives in threatened species management, in particular in the context of an increasing conservation need for ex situ population management, coupled with increasing social concern for animal welfare.
... A focus on 'preserving species' is not, in this perspective, good enough. Particular individuals' matter, regardless of the species ); a sentiment shared by a small but growing body of literature from several academic disciplines that includes compassionate conservation in the field of biology (Wallach et al., 2018(Wallach et al., , 2020, multispecies justice (Celermajer et al., 2021;Kirksey, 2017), animal studies (Taylor, 2012), tourism (Guia, 2021), anthropology (DiNovelli-Lang, 2013;Smart & Smart, 2017), among others. This sentiment is not (yet) widely shared, even amongst many conservation scientists who dedicate their professional and often personal lives to conserving species (see Griffin et al., 2020). ...
Full-text available
This study explored wildlife rehabilitation centers (WRCs) in Costa Rica as a potential posthumanist model for wildlife ecotourism. Posthumanism attends to the rights, welfare, and agency of nonhumans to depart from a conservation biology ethos that focuses on the species-level, to consider all particular individual animals in wildlife tourist attractions (WTAs). A team of 16 US-based researchers composed of faculty, a wildlife rehabilitation professional, and 12 university students conducted a 16-day pilot study to understand the context of wildlife rehabilitation, veterinarian practices, and ecotourism operations at three WRCsand a veterinary teaching hospital. Three rehabilitation centers are rated using a posthuman multispecies livelihoods framework. Ethnographic insights highlight practical challenges in operating rehabilitation centers and also the ethical challenges in promoting individual rights, welfare, and agency. Findings suggest that the level of treatment toward each individual animal in WRCs and ecotourism sites differs, based on the actions and beliefs of human actors who hold power over nonhumans. A major unforeseen ethical dilemma arose during the study concerning the treatment of prey species, which foregrounds the need for future research on this topic. By attending to ethical beliefs in WTAs, WRCs show their potential as a pathway for posthumanist ecotourism.
... These ecological realities further imply that the admonition to "do no harm" as a means of obtaining "peaceful coexistence" with animals (Wallach et al. 2018) is demonstrably impossible (e.g. Hayward et al. 2019;Johnson et al. 2019;Callen et al. 2020;Hampton et al. 2021 Podani et al. 2018). ...
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Killing animals has been a ubiquitous human behaviour throughout history, yet it is becoming increasingly controversial and criticised in some parts of contemporary human society. Here we review 10 primary reasons why humans kill animals, discuss the necessity (or not) of these forms of killing, and describe the global ecological context for human killing of animals. Humans historically and currently kill animals either directly or indirectly for the following reasons: (1) wild harvest or food acquisition, (2) human health and safety, (3) agriculture and aquaculture, (4) urbanisation and industrialisation, (5) invasive, overabundant or nuisance wildlife control, (6) threatened species conservation, (7) recreation, sport or entertainment, (8) mercy or compassion, (9) cultural and religious practice, and (10) research, education and testing. While the necessity of some forms of animal killing is debatable and further depends on individual values, we emphasise that several of these forms of animal killing are a necessary component of our inescapable involvement in a single, functioning, finite, global food web. We conclude that humans (and all other animals) cannot live in a way that does not require animal killing either directly or indirectly, but humans can modify some of these killing behaviours in ways that improve the welfare of animals while they are alive, or to reduce animal suffering whenever they must be killed. We encourage a constructive dialogue that (1) accepts and permits human participation in one enormous global food web dependent on animal killing and (2) focuses on animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Doing so will improve the lives of both wild and domestic animals to a greater extent than efforts to avoid, prohibit or vilify human animal-killing behaviour.
... Baker et al. (2013) address the issue of animal welfare and ethics in wildlife tradea topic still not well studied. Humans' treatment of wildlife is also examined through the moral concept of compassion (Wallach, Bekoff, Batavia, Nelson, & Ramp, 2018). Regarding the aspect of subjective perception, Courchamp et al. (2006) argue that the way humans place exaggerated value on rarity further increases the exploitation of rare species, creating reinforcing loops that push those species toward extinction. ...
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Biodiversity provides many benefits to humans in general and urban residents in particular. However, the rising population, income, and wildlife product consumption demands contribute to the deliberately organized illegal wildlife trade expansion. Protected areas are designated mainly for biodiversity conservation but face financial constraints for management activities. The increased illegal wildlife trade and lack of financing in protected areas can negatively affect biodiversity levels. Thus, the current dissertation is dedicated to answering the question: “How can we mitigate biodiversity loss in protected areas by better involving urban residents in biodiversity conservation?” To answer this question, the dissertation comprises three studies and data collection about the psychology and behaviors related to biodiversity and conservation among urban residents.
... There are arguments that environmental knowledge is more decisive that empathy in determining pro-environmental attitudes and that environmental decisions should be guided by reason and science [131]. Others promote emotions and compassion as partners of reason in caring for the environment and in addressing the related ethical questions [26][27][28]; they stress the urgency of raising people's empathic response to environmental problems [50]. In our view, empathy creation, as well as assigning agency to the nonhuman and acknowledging differences, is a motivator to seek environmental knowledge by making designers and stakeholders compassionate and curious. ...
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In sustainable design and innovation, appreciation of the Planet as an equal stakeholder with humans and businesses continues to rise. Yet a consistent challenge arises in that people have difficulties relating to the nonhuman and interpret the world in terms of human values and experiences. We need more practical tools to stimulate a connection, especially in its affective dimension, to the Planet and to include nonhuman stakeholders in sustainability developments. To anchor Planetary understanding and considerations, we investigate the role of participatory storytelling to stimulate a reappraisal of the needs of nonhuman stakeholders through empathy building. To posit this, we defined empathy for the Planet as a holistic relationship with human and nonhuman stakeholders. We facilitated workshops where design students, design professionals, and business stakeholders could co-create environmental stories using human and nonhuman character personas. We analyzed the personas, stories, and participants’ feedback on the process experience and impact and observed that story creators experienced empathy for the Planet through projecting and blending their own emotions and intents onto the characters. We discuss, therefore, how ecological story co-creation can be a tool for self-reflection, collective sense-making, and the inclusion of the voice of Planetary stakeholders relevant for sustainable design and to drive sustainability engagement in general. This research confirms the role of stories and imagination in creating a bridge to the natural world through new, human and nonhuman, perspectives.
... The concept of compassionate collection borrows from the compassionate conservation movement, which emphasizes avoiding unnecessary harm to individual animals when considering conservation actions [5,6]. Similarly, compassionate collection necessitates minimizing harm to individual creatures while collecting museum data in the field by using techniques such as collecting nonlethal DNA samples, photos, or recordings. ...
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Compassionate collection involves minimizing harm while collecting museum data in the field. By adopting this practice, natural history museums could better maintain existing collections, accommodate more nonlethal specimens and data, and foster an inclusive community.
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Management of domestic and wild animals is an integral part of conservation and is often based on how an animal is categorised. For example, feral cats are often killed, while valued companion cats and native wildcats are protected. Drawing on qualitative research and using the concept of boundary‐work, this paper examines the complex categorisation and management of cats within conservation in Britain and Aotearoa, New Zealand (NZ). We examine how, both in theory and in practice, valued companion and wildcats are distinguished from unprotected feral cats, and in‐between categories of stray and hybrid cats. We demonstrate that stakeholders draw boundaries between cat categories differently. These differences in boundary‐drawing reflect the inherent blurriness of category boundaries, practical challenges and, importantly, differences in values, in particular whether priority is placed on the life of the cat or the cat's potential victim, particularly native or game birds. This can mean that laws outlining protections for specific categories of animals have limited effect if, in practice, those encountering cats draw boundaries differently. This paper also reports on important differences between the two case studies. In NZ, even cat advocates support the humane killing of unambiguously feral cats while this is less true in Britain. Furthermore, due to the nature of the contexts, conservationists in NZ are more inclined to assume that ambiguous cats are feral whereas conservationists in Britain are more inclined to assume that they are wildcats. This paper demonstrates that values not only shape people's perceptions and treatment of animals but also how they draw boundaries between them. This finding may have important implications for understanding other controversies in conservation and animal management. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
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This chapter presents an overview of the field of environmental virtue ethics (EVE), including its recent historical development and current prospects. EVE is a valuable approach to understanding humanity's proper place in the world and how we should act within it. In his 2007 book on the topic, Ronald Sandler claims that the importance of environmental issues in the contemporary world means that if an ethical theory “provides a superior environmental ethic to other ethical theories, it is to be preferred over them not just as an environmental ethic but also as an ethical theory.” I think he’s right. I also think we have a long way to go in specifying a just and workable environmental ethics. After long millennia of trial and error and many centuries of sustained ethical reflection, we may hope that people now mostly know how we should treat one another (even if in practice we fall woefully short of our ethical ideals). In contrast we really do not know what it would mean to live environmentally just lives, or how to create eco-logically sustainable societies. Humanity’s wellbeing and the future of life on Earth depend on our learning how to do so. Hence the pressing need for an environmental virtue ethics.
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Maremma guardian dogs have been protecting Little Penguins Eudyptula minor from canid predation at Middle Island, Warrnambool, since 2006. Foxes had preyed heavily on the penguins contributing to a population crash—from over 500 arrivals in the 1999–2000 breeding season, to less than 10 some five years later. Our monitoring of arrivals indicates numbers have grown to over 100 penguins. The successful use of guardian dogs to protect native wildlife and the strong community participation and support for the program constitutes what has become known as the ‘Warrnambool Method’ for wildlife conservation management. (The Victorian Naturalist 134 (2), 2017, 48–51)
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Over the last century, changing public attitudes about the value of wildlife have triggered substantial changes in species management that have both benefited and hindered conservation efforts. Understanding and integrating contemporary public values is therefore critical for effective conservation outcomes. Using historic and contemporary examples, we highlight how public attitudes—expressed through the media and cam-paigns—are shaping the management of introduced and native species, as values shift towards animal welfare and mutualism. We focus on the issue of deliberate human-caused killing of wildlife, because protests against such management have disrupted traditional political and management structures that favoured eradication of wildlife across many jurisdictions and ecological contexts. In doing so, we show that it is essential to work with multiple stakeholder interest groups to ensure that wildlife management is informed by science, while also supported by public values. Achieving this hinges on appropriate science communication to build a better-informed public because management decisions are becoming increasingly democratised.
Large herbivorous mammals, already greatly reduced by the late-Pleistocene extinctions, continue to be threatened with decline. However, many herbivorous megafauna (body mass ≥ 100 kg) have populations outside their native ranges. We evaluate the distribution, diversity and threat status of introduced terrestrial megafauna worldwide and their contribution towards lost Pleistocene species richness. Of 76 megafauna species, 22 (∼29%) have introduced populations; of these eleven (50%) are threatened or extinct in their native ranges. Introductions have increased megafauna species richness by between 10% (Africa) and 100% (Australia). Furthermore, between 15% (Asia) and 67% (Australia) of extinct species richness, from the late Pleistocene to today, have been numerically replaced by introduced megafauna. Much remains unknown about the ecology of introduced herbivores, but evidence suggests that these populations are rewilding modern ecosystems. We propose that attitudes towards introduced megafauna should allow for broader research and management goals.
Whether captive or non-captive, consumptive or non-consumptive, targeted or non-targeted, guided or non-guided, wildlife tourism activities have traditionally been dominated by an anthropocentric worldview that recognizes wildlife only for its extrinsic value. This chapter argues that the advent of the Anthropocene provides an opportunity for humans to accept responsibility for how they engage with animals in tourism settings and ethically reassess this engagement. Reviewing theories of ethics dealing with animals, tourism, the environment and conservation, the conclusion is drawn that in order to effectively manage wildlife tourism for the equitable benefit of both humans and wildlife, and thus create a viable wildlife tourism ethic, valuable lessons can be extracted from an approach that embodies compassionate conservation.