Episode 417: Evolving Ethics for Wildlife Control

What happens when you put 20 international scientists in a room for two days to talk about human-wildlife conflict resolution? You get the seven principles for ethical wildlife control.

The BC SPCA and UBC’s Animal Welfare program (funded by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies) hosted a two-day workshop in 2015, which brought together scientists from around the world to look at these subjects from an international perspective. Out of this workshop came the seven principles for ethical wildlife control.

The paper, which was published this month in the journal Conservation Biology under the title International consensus principles for ethical wildlife control, does not focus on a single ethical standpoint, or biological function to determine effective, ethical control. It is, according to the authors, the first paper that poses several points to create a framework for control and conflict resolution. It can be boiled down to several questions: Can the problem be mitigated by changing human behavior? Are the harms serious enough to warrant wildlife control? Is the desired outcome clear and achievable, and will it be monitored? Does the proposed method carry the least animal welfare cost and to the fewest animals? Have community values been considered alongside scientific, technical, and practical information? Is the control action part of a systematic, long-term management program? Are the decisions warranted by the specifics of the situation rather than negative labels applied to the animals?

To discuss why we need a framework for ethical decision making in wildlife conflict, how these principles apply in various circumstances, and what a rollout of these guidelines could look like, Defender Radio was joined by co-author of the paper, and chief scientific officer at the BC SPCA, Dr. Sara Dubois.

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