Conservation and Welfare: Two sides of the same coin?

Fraser, D. (2010). Toward a synthesis of conservation and animal welfare science. Animal Welfare,19, 121-124.

Historically, concern over animals, and in particular the adverse effects of people’s behaviour on animals, have evolved into two distinct lines: conservation and welfare. Here, Fraser discusses the importance of considering animal welfare within conservation, and vice versa.

Animal welfare scientists primarily focus on the individual animals’ quality of life, whereas animal conservation scientists are concerned with animals at the population level. With a few exceptions, historically some animal welfare scientists have ignored conservation biology within their work, and likewise some conservation biologists have distanced themselves from animal welfare. 

The link between conservation and welfare

The author of this paper considers some examples where welfare and conservation science should be incorporated. For example, quite often conservation scientists trap members of endangered species and then release them in a safer habitat. The success rate of such reintroduction programmes can often be low. Possible solutions could involve housing and handling the animals in a way which reduces stress. This would improve the individual welfare of the animals, and may increase the success rate of reintroductions.

One of the most important areas of co-operation lies within policy and practice. For instance, in some cases the measures to achieve conservation success will ultimately fail if animal welfare concerns are ignored. The authors describe an example whereby conservation authorities in Italy attempted to eradicate a population of non-native squirrels. However, a court action by animal protectionists delayed the action and allowed the population to become established, therefore by this time the squirrels could not be eradicated. In situations like this it is imperative that there is an awareness of both conservation and welfare.

World Animal Protection’s view

There is a growing discipline called ‘compassionate conservation’ in which the welfare of individual animals is considered in conservation practice. We fully support this movement; we believe that conservation and welfare should not always be seen as two separate fields. As the human population continues to grow the problems animals face at the individual and population level will increase. Therefore we should be concerned with working together to improve individual animal welfare and the survival of endangered species and their habitats.  


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