Deconstructing compassionate conservation

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Matt W. Hayward, Alex Callen, Benjamin L. Allen, Guy Ballard, Femke Broekhuis, Cassandra Bugir, Rohan H. Clarke, John Clulow, Simon Clulow, Jennifer C. Daltry, Harriet T. Davies-Mostert, Peter J. S. Fleming, Andrea S. Griffin, Lachlan G. Howell, Graham I. H. Kerley, Kava Klop-Toker, Sarah Legge, Tom Major, Ninon Meyer, Robert A. Montgomery, Katherine Moseby, Daniel M. Parker, Stephanie Periquet, John Read, Robert J. Scanlon, Rebecca Seeto, Craig Shuttleworth, Michael J. Somers, Cottrell T. Tamessar, Katherine Tuft, Rose Upton, Marcia Valenzuela-Molina, Adrian Wayne, Ryan R. Witt, Wolfgang Wuster
Conservation Biology
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Compassionate conservation focuses on 4 tenets: first, do no harm; individuals matter; inclusivity of individual animals; and peaceful coexistence between humans and animals. Recently, compassionate conservation has been promoted as an alternative to conventional conservation philosophy. We believe examples presented by compassionate conservationists are deliberately or arbitrarily chosen to focus on mammals; inherently not compassionate; and offer ineffective conservation solutions. Compassionate conservation arbitrarily focuses on charismatic species, notably large predators and megaherbivores. The philosophy is not compassionate when it leaves invasive predators in the environment to cause harm to vastly more individuals of native species or uses the fear of harm by apex predators to terrorize mesopredators. Hindering the control of exotic species (megafauna, predators) in situ will not improve the conservation condition of the majority of biodiversity. The positions taken by so-called compassionate conservationists on particular species and on conservation actions could be extended to hinder other forms of conservation, including translocations, conservation fencing, and fertility control. Animal welfare is incredibly important to conservation, but ironically compassionate conservation does not offer the best welfare outcomes to animals and is often ineffective in achieving conservation goals. Consequently, compassionate conservation may threaten public and governmental support for conservation because of the limited understanding of conservation problems by the general public.


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