Ethical management of wildlife: Lethal versus nonlethal control of white‐tailed deer

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Calls for ethical management of wildlife in the international conservation community 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 commitments 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 control; in terms of naturalness, lethal control may have the edge. However, this conclusion is tentative. There are insufficient studies on the welfare effects of different control methods, and the specificities will also make a difference. In conclusion, there is no simple or single answer as to what constitutes “ethical management” of deer populations. Different values can be prioritized, and different 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere171
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Volume2
Issue number4
Number of pages5
ISSN2578-4854
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

ID: 235152916