Animal welfare papers presented at conference: abstracts

19th Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society.

Raincoast has been pushing the concept of animal welfare considerations in wildlife management.  The topic was addressed at the 19th Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society where Raincoast’s Drs Paul Paquet and Chris Darimont presented two papers.

Linking Animal and Conservation Ethics~ A Challenge in Conservation

This session drew on experts in wildlife ecology, social science, environmental ethics, history, and advocacy to address one of the most pernicious ethical challenges in conservation: the apparent tension between, and the possibility of combining, concerns for animals and concerns for conservation more broadly.

1.  Hunting for a Trophy Hunting Ethic

Hunting for a Trophy Hunting Ethic, Chris T. Darimont and  Paul C. Paquet

1  U of Victoria/ Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Victoria, BC, Canada;
2 U of Calgary/Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Sidney, BC, Canada.


Trophy hunting, which we define as killing for symbolic recognition of achievement rather than for food or subsistence, figures prominently in wildlife management. Commonly heralded as a successful management “tool” for conserving carnivore populations, most proponents believe trophy hunting can be justified as long as hunts are numerically sustainable. Scholarly opponents, however, often criticize this management model as non-scientific, citing empirical counter-evidence. Public opponents commonly argue that trophy hunting is inconsistent with contemporary societal values, which increasingly respect the welfare of individuals within wild animal populations. We explore these scientific and sociological arguments using the trophy hunt of grizzly bears in British Columbia as a case study. Our examination focuses, however, on an ethical dimension, which is largely absent from wildlife management debate. Invoking the simple but rigorous analytical framework of ‘utilitarianism’, we evaluate the well-being (or utility) gained by the trophy hunter against the well-being lost by a killed bear.

By killing a bear for trophy, the hunter derives no essential needs, like food, shelter or security. Without doubt, however, death of the bear represents the largest loss of well-being possible. The apparent net loss in utility, therefore, provides a strong ethical argument against the hunt. We argue that this ethical analysis renders both scientific and sociological perspectives less relevant. This is because science provides information; it does not justify unethical behavior. Moreover, although sociological and ethical perspectives often arrive at similar conclusions, sociological knowledge can only inform us about what values people hold; it does not provide evidence that they ought to hold these values. With increased dialogue among wildlife professionals, we predict that wildlife policy, including that related to trophy hunting, will progressively embrace ethics as a necessary component of acceptable science and management.

2. What we have a right to do, and what is right to do?

What we have a right to do, and what is right to do?, Paul C. Paquet and Christopher T. Darimont

1 Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Sidney, BC, Canada;
2 University of Victoria/Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Sidney, BC, Canada.  


Wildlife conservation largely aims to ensure that populations and species survive, and that ecological and evolutionary processes continue. Implicit in these objectives is the principal that species are important to conserve because they are of value intrinsically and to human society. Many conservation scientists and wildlife managers have argued persuasively that the overarching purpose of conserving species justifies sacrificing individual animals for the greater good of populations. Proponents claim that the foundation for this view is rooted firmly in objective science. Therefore, it is argued, differing or contrary views must necessarily subsume. Simply put, these proponents argue that science and the law afford conservationists the right to ignore the welfare of individual animals. Accordingly, concerns of animal welfarists and the public for the well being of individual animals are considered by many conservationists as misplaced because they are non-scientific.

From an ecological and ethical perspective we examine the viewpoints and claims of both conservationists and animal welfarists as they relate to wildlife populations and the individuals comprising those populations. We ask if dogma is trumping scientific evidence and ethics to the detriment of wildlife. If so, are preconceptions causing unnecessary and counterproductive divisions between conservation and animal welfare? We determine that neither science nor ethics support the idea that individuals and their welfare should be ignored or sacrificed in the application of conservation and management. Further, we find there are important connections between animal welfare and conservation – as well as between individuals and populations – that are not widely understood or acknowledged. We conclude that recognizing and embracing these linkages will lead to sound ethical science, and ultimately a more effective framework

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Coastal wolf with a salmon in its month.
Photo by Dene Rossouw.