Ethical Wildlife Control Principles
Due to expanding human populations and their associated infrastructure, human-wildlife conflicts are becoming more common. These conflicts are addressed using lethal and non-lethal methods of wildlife control, and many of these methods receive opposition on ethical and welfare grounds. Consequently, there is an increasing need for ethical and evidence-based approaches to wildlife control. In aid of this, 20 experts in wildlife management met for a 2-day workshop in Canada to develop the first international principles for ethical decision making in wildlife control.
The first principle is ‘Modifying human practices’, and proposes altering human practices where possible and fostering a culture of co-existence between humans and wildlife. This should be followed by Principle 2, which is ‘Justification for control’ and requires objective evidence that substantial harm is being caused by wildlife before remedial action is taken. Principle 3 is ‘Clear and achievable outcome-based objectives’. This ensures that wildlife management has clear goals, is able to predict the likelihood of success, and emphasises the need for monitoring to determine success. Principle 4 is ‘Animal welfare’, and proposes using methods that cause the least harm to the least number of animals. This includes the target animals, and non-target animals such as dependent young and other ecological effects. Principle 5 is ‘Social acceptability’ and proposes that the values of the affected community be included when making management decisions. This could involve an ethical review board that assesses the acceptability of wildlife management options, similar to the role of the animal ethics committees that approve scientific research. Principle 6 is ‘Systematic planning’, and proposes that wildlife management should be systematically managed using long-term planning, and that ad-hoc or hasty decisions may lead to ineffective methods that result in senseless harm. Principle 7 is the final principle, and advocates that wildlife management should be based on the specifics of the situation, rather than labels that are applied to the target species, such as ‘pest’ or ‘overabundant’.
It is envisaged that these 7 principles could be incorporated into international standards as a framework that can be used to make rational, ethical, evidence-based decisions about wildlife management.
Dubois S, Fenwick N, Ryan EA et al (2017) International consensus principles for ethical wildlife control. Conservation Biology 00:1-10