19 May 2019, 3:52 pm

Compassionate conservation is ‘seriously flawed’

The idea that you cannot kill any animal is “fatally flawed” as a conservation concept, scientists argue.
Conservation measures should concentrate on species or habitats rather than individual animals, they observe.
Invasive species, they argue, often require mass culling of an animal in order to protect an endangered species.
Under so called “compassionate conservation”, such an approach would not be allowed.
“The argument is that conservation and sustainability needs a variety of approaches. You need to be pluralistic about both the cultural and scientific approaches,” explained study co-author Prof Kartik Shanker from the Indian Institute of Science.
“There is universal agreement that animal welfare is important by which we mean that we should aim to reduce cruelty to animals and this applies to both wild biodiversity and domestic animals.
Prof Shanker said there was agreement that cruelty should be minimised.
“I think the problem arises when compassionate conservation states that you should not kill animals for any reason whatsoever,” he told BBC News.
Individuals matter?
Prof Shanker and his team of co-authors referred to a paper published last year that outlined a framework for compassionate conservation.
They said that it had four key tenets:
• Do not harm,
• Individuals matter,
• Inclusivity, and
• Peaceful co-existence
The team challenged the “no kill” philosophy of this paper.
They wrote: “Our view is that compassionate conservation… is seriously flawed. Compassion need not preclude humanely killing an animal if that reduces the animal’s suffering, enhances the survival of the species or its habitat, or safeguards human life or other more threatened species.”
Prof Shanker added; “For example, let’s look at invasive species.”
“Compassionate conservation states that you should not eradicate invasive species because killing animals is bad. However, there are hundreds of thousands of cats that are, themselves, killing millions of birds. This causes a problem from a conservation point of view.
“If you decide not to kill the cats then to whom are you being compassionate?”
A study in 2010 listed the brown rat as Europe’s most invasive species, and most people accept that rat numbers need to be controlled.
In South Georgia, an island in the southern Atlantic, the population of rats were culled in order to protect endangered bird species, such as the albatross.