Last week I went to a public lecture called: Cars, Cats, Climate Change, and other neglected problems of animal welfare and conservation, by David Fraser, a Professor from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He talked about many problems facing animal welfare and conservation caused by simple human negligence. Things people do, going about their everyday lives, that they may not even be aware of that cause serious impact on animal lives. Being a keen conservationist, one thing in particular stood out for me during his talk was when he highlighted the major differences setting animal welfare and conservation apart, (however the key issues in both areas were the same). While conservation is primarily concerned with saving species as a whole, animal welfare is primarily concerned with the individual lives of animals.
As David Fraser mentioned conservation and animal welfare do often overlap, as well as the thoughts and interests of the people involved in each area. I myself am concerned with animal welfare, but I am more of a conservationist, looking more often at the big picture of ecosystems, and so felt interested in exploring the key differences in thinking, between the two.
I have had my fair share of working in pest control. It might not be the most tasteful job, as killing animals which are considered pests may be seen as going against animal welfare for those individuals involved. But when we look at the bigger picture I find it easy to justify. Through pest control we are able to help save whole species from extinction. Here we are protecting other individuals that are not able to protect themselves from these pests. Looking at it from this opposite angle could we still in fact call this animal welfare? So in a sense the welfare depends from which animal’s side you chose to look from.
Personally I think that we have a certain responsibility to save our native animals from introduced pests. No, these introduced species did not ask to be brought to New Zealand, and their killer instincts are simply their nature as they strive to survive. It is not their fault they are considered pests. But at the same time how fair were these introductions to our native animals? Do they deserve to be preyed upon until their whole species are wiped out completely to extinction, just because we brought these predators into the country? Looking at the whole, extinction is an absolute fate, there is no coming back. Therefore I think it is worth saving our native species at the expense of individual pests, even if it may sound malicious.
However rest assured that all the methods used for killing pests are designed to do so in the most effective and humane ways possible. Even though considered pests, the welfare of these animals are still thought of, as the methods strive to give the cleanest, quickest and most painless deaths possible.