How can compassion be embodied in conservation practice? How can we measure the welfare of wild animals, and respect them while dealing with large-scale problems? And should we go beyond conservation to modify ecosystems to as to reduce the natural harms which wild animals face?
These and other related questions were discussed at the workshop Animals, Compassion and Conservation: Ethics and Scientific Methods Relating to Wild Animals, Their Welfare and Conservation hosted by the Environmental Sciences and Humanities Institute. Held online over three days from the 7th to 9th of February, this workshop brought together over 120 participants from 80 different institutions around the world. The workshop aimed to bridge conservation and animal welfare science with animal ethics, taking compassionate conservation as a focus-point. A key consensus which arose from the workshop is that animal welfare needs to be taken more into account in conservation decision-making, with a higher bar for exposing individual animals to harm. On the other hand, the workshop exposed disagreements and further research opportunities such as about the extent to which precaution should be exercised, whether killing itself (independently of the pain caused) should be considered as a harm, whether humans should try to reduce the amount of natural suffering in nature and whether genetic technologies should be considered at all in wildlife management.