Policy ForumConservation

Engage with animal welfare in conservation

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

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  • RE: Engage with animal welfare win conservation
    • Liv Baker, Affiliated, Assistant Professor, Animal Behavior and Conservation Program, CUNY Hunter College

    In writing the target essay, Sekar and Shiller (1) call attention to the persistent absence of systemic animal welfare considerations in conservation practice, broadly speaking. It is welcome to see more voices calling to expand – if not reform – conservation’s outdated remit. This said, it may be useful to situate the position of Sekar and Shiller’s essay in the context of the relevant discourse. To do so, may offer the wider community insight into the progression of thinking with regards to the interface of animal welfare science and conservation practice. A probative point of departure would be the special issue, Conservation and Animal Welfare Science (2) published in the journal Animal Welfare. This special issue was published in 2010, the outcome of a 2008 workshop hosted by the Animal Welfare Science Program at the University of British Columbia. The workshop brought in dialogue self-identified scientific practitioners from both conservation and animal welfare spheres. A singular event at the time, and one that would inform and propel the emergent (sub)disciplines of compassionate conservation, conservation welfare, and wildlife welfare. Sekar and Shiller’s essay (1) echoes many of the key themes addressed in that 2010 special issue (2). Such themes that collectively recognized that advanced understanding of the impact of human activity – including the intensification and intent of conservation interventions – on free living wild animals, warranted a reevaluation of...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Engage with animal welfare in conservation
    • David Fraser, Professor, Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia

    It is encouraging to see conservationists emphasizing the need to consider animal welfare in the pursuit of conservation goals (1). This has also been a theme for many years among animal welfare scientists, but with somewhat different emphasis (2). The key messages from this growing literature include:
    (i) The unintended effects of many technologies – including cars and large windows in homes and offices – now kill and injure far more animals than many of the intentional activities (hunting, biomedical research) that traditionally raise moral concern about animal welfare.
    (ii) Where the harm is relatively direct, as with vehicle collisions and mechanical harvesting of fields, research can often identify mitigative measures.
    (iii) Where the harm is indirect, as with climate change and eutrophication of coastal areas, mitigation may be impossible after the initial disturbance has occurred. In such cases, solutions require action to address the source of the disturbance to the basic processes of nature.
    Thus, although conservation and animal welfare may sometimes conflict, for example over predator control, many widespread human activities threaten both the well-being and the conservation of wild animals.
    A practical conclusion, echoed by Sikar and Shiller (1), is that people promoting conservation and animal welfare – both the scientists and the social movements – need to work together to address their shared challenges. A philosophical conclus...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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