Nature/wildlife Management

Ethical management of wildlife. Lethal versus nonlethal control of white-tailed deer

By C. Gamborg, P. Sandøe, & C. Palmer (2020).
Conservation Science and Practice. Wiley.


Calls for ethical management of wildlife in the international conservation com- munity are increasing. However, it is not clear what this actually entails. Using a case of lethal (hunting) and nonlethal control (fertility control) of “chronically abundant” large herbivores such as white-tailed deer in rural and suburban areas of the United States we show what different ethical values and commit- ments may lead to in terms of management preference. The values looked at are humane treatment of deer, not killing them and allowing them a natural life. In terms of deer welfare, fertility control might be, overall, better than lethal con- trol; in terms of naturalness, lethal control may have the edge. However, this conclusion is tentative. There are insufficient studies on the welfare effects of dif- ferent control methods, and the specificities will also make a difference. In con- clusion, there is no simple or single answer as to what constitutes “ethical management” of deer populations. Different values can be prioritized, and differ- ent ethical approaches adopted (e.g., “respecting rights” or “best consequences.”) A better understanding of what is at stake ethically could help both in designing further research and in making transparent and well-informed decisions.

Ethical management of wildlife. Lethal versus nonlethal control of white-tailed deer (pdf)

Animal Welfare Impact Assessments - A good way of giving the affected animals a voice when trying to tackle wild animal controversies?

By P. Sandøe & C. Gamborg (2017)
Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. Springer.


Control of wild animals may give rise to controversy, as is seen in the case of badger control to manage TB in cattle in the UK. However, it is striking that concerns about the potential suffering of the affected animals themselves are often given little attention or completely ignored in policies aimed at dealing with wild animals. McCulloch and Reiss argue that this could be remedied by means of a ‘‘mandatory application of formal and systematic Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA)’’. Optimistically, they consider that an AWIA could help to resolve controversies involving wild animals. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the potential of AWIA. We begin by showing how ideas akin to AWIA already play a significant role in other animal ethics controversies, particularly those concerning laboratory animal use and livestock production; and we bring in lessons learnt from these controversies. Then we comment on the suggested development and application of AWIA in the case of badger control. Finally, we discuss the prospects of applying AWIA to other sorts of wild animal controversy. We argue that the AIWA, as developed by McCulloch and Reiss, relies on several dubious premises, including that killing is a welfare issue. Furthermore, we argue that AWIA is unlikely to prevent serious moral disagreements over how to weigh concerns about wild animals against priorities in human health, the health of domestic and farm animals, and biodiversity, but that it may nonetheless serve to limit harms imposed on the wild animals. 

Full text "Animal Welfare Impact Assessments" (pdf)

De-domestication: Ethics at the intersection of landscape restoration and animal welfare

By C. Gamborg, B. Gremmen, S. B. Christiansen & P. Sandøe (2010)
Environmental Values. White Horse Press.


De-domestication is the deliberate establishment of a population of domesticated animals or plants in the wild. In time, the population should be able to reproduce, becoming self-sustainable and incorporating wild animals. Often de-domestication is part of a larger nature restoration scheme, aimed at creating landscapes anew, or re-creating former habitats. De-domestication is taken up in this paper because it both engages and raises questions about the major norms governing animals and nature. The debate here concerns whether animals undergoing de-domestication should be looked upon as wild or non-wild and the affect this has on questions about how they should be treated. It also concerns the value of nature, and the kind and degree of nature management considered appropriate.

The paper first describes actual de-domestication practices and considers the character of human duties to animals in process of de-domestication. Secondly, the paper explores the implications of de-domestication for nature management, focusing on notions of naturalness and wildness. Finally, because the current division of ethical topics, with its dependence upon whether animals and nature are domesticated, hampers rather than helps, a new perspective is offered on the issues raised by de-domestication. More thinking outside the box with regard to animals and nature is recommended. 

Full text "De-domestication: Ethics at the intersection of landscape restoration and animal welfare" (pdf)