Recognizing animal personhood in compassionate conservation

Journal article


Wallach, Arian D., Batavia, Chelsea, Bekoff, Marc, Alexander, Shelley, Baker, Liv, Ben-Ami, Dror, Boronyak, Louise, Cardilin, Adam P. A., Carmel, Yohay, Celermajer, Danielle, Coghlan, S., Dahdal, Yara, Gomez, Jonatan J., Kaplan, Gisela, Keynan, Oded, Khalilieh, Anton, Kopnina, Helen, Lynn, William S., Narayanan, Yamini, ... Ramp, Daniel. (2020). Recognizing animal personhood in compassionate conservation. Conservation Biology. 34(5), pp. 1097-1106. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13494
AuthorsWallach, Arian D., Batavia, Chelsea, Bekoff, Marc, Alexander, Shelley, Baker, Liv, Ben-Ami, Dror, Boronyak, Louise, Cardilin, Adam P. A., Carmel, Yohay, Celermajer, Danielle, Coghlan, S., Dahdal, Yara, Gomez, Jonatan J., Kaplan, Gisela, Keynan, Oded, Khalilieh, Anton, Kopnina, Helen, Lynn, William S., Narayanan, Yamini, Riley, Sophie, Santiago-Ávila, Francisco J., Yanco, Esty, Zemanova, Miriam A. and Ramp, Daniel
Abstract

Compassionate conservation is based on the ethical position that actions taken to protect biodiversity should be guided by compassion for all sentient beings. Critics argue that there are 3 core reasons harming animals is acceptable in conservation programs: the primary purpose of conservation is biodiversity protection; conservation is already compassionate to animals; and conservation should prioritize compassion to humans. We used argument analysis to clarify the values and logics underlying the debate around compassionate conservation. We found that objections to compassionate conservation are expressions of human exceptionalism, the view that humans are of a categorically separate and higher moral status than all other species. In contrast, compassionate conservationists believe that conservation should expand its moral community by recognizing all sentient beings as persons. Personhood, in an ethical sense, implies the individual is owed respect and should not be treated merely as a means to other ends. On scientific and ethical grounds, there are good reasons to extend personhood to sentient animals, particularly in conservation. The moral exclusion or subordination of members of other species legitimates the ongoing manipulation and exploitation of the living worlds, the very reason conservation was needed in the first place. Embracing compassion can help dismantle human exceptionalism, recognize nonhuman personhood, and navigate a more expansive moral space.

Keywordsanimal ethics; biodiversity; conservation ethics; human exceptionalism; nativism
Year2020
JournalConservation Biology
Journal citation34 (5), pp. 1097-1106
PublisherWiley Periodicals
ISSN0888-8892
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13494
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85084813015
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range1097-1106
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online18 May 2020
Publication process dates
Accepted28 Feb 2020
Deposited14 Jul 2021
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