Policy ForumConservation

Engage with animal welfare in conservation

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  07 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6504, pp. 629-630
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba7271

You are currently viewing the summary.

View Full Text

Log in to view the full text

Log in through your institution

Log in through your institution

Summary

Leading conservationists have emphasized that conservation's priority is the protection of species and populations, not the welfare of individual nonhuman animals (hereafter “animals”) (13). Although individual conservationists often harbor concern for animal welfare, conservation organizations and scientists frequently downplay or ignore the ethical implications of actions they promote that harm individual animals, from culling and sport hunting to the discontinuation of wildlife rescue from oil spills (35). A growing body of scientific evidence should prompt conservation organizations to reconsider their inattention to animal welfare. A wide variety of vertebrate species (and perhaps some invertebrates) are capable of experiencing physical and emotional pain, engaging in substantive relationships, and executing cognitively complex tasks (68), bolstering claims that animal well-being is morally significant and policy-relevant. Addressing animal welfare in conservation would be politically challenging, and given the central role of predation and competition in ecosystems, conservation science cannot altogether avoid difficult decisions; harming animals can be a necessary step toward a worthwhile goal. Despite these trade-offs, conservation organizations face a singular opportunity to reshape conservation into a discipline that promotes both the quantity of species and the quality of animal life.

View Full Text

Stay Connected to Science