Deconstructing compassionate conservation

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  • Matt W. Hayward
  • Alex Callen
    University of Newcastle, Callaghan
  • Benjamin L. Allen
    University of Southern Queensland
  • Guy Ballard
    The University of New England
  • Femke Broekhuis
  • Cassandra Bugir
  • Rohan H. Clarke
  • John Clulow
  • Simon Clulow
  • Jennifer C. Daltry
  • Harriet T. Davies-Mostert
  • Peter J.S. Fleming
    New South Wales Department of Primary Industries
  • Andrea S. Griffin
  • Lachlan G. Howell
  • Graham I.H. Kerley
    Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth
  • Kaya Klop-Toker
  • Sarah Legge
  • Tom Major
  • Ninon Meyer
  • Robert A. Montgomery
    Michigan State University
  • Katherine Moseby
  • Daniel M. Parker
    Rhodes University
  • Stéphanie Périquet
  • John Read
  • Robert 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
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 even if compassionate conservationists do no harm to individuals of the exotic species. 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 general publics’ limited understanding of conservation problems.


  • animal rights, animal welfare, effective conservation, evidence-based conservation, invasives, invasive species, lethal control, translocation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)760-768
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number4
Early online date17 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

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