Animal Welfare Impact Assessments: A Good Way of Giving the Affected Animals a Voice When Trying to Tackle Wild Animal Controversies?

Review Paper


Control of wild animals may give rise to controversy, as is seen in the case of badger control to manage TB in cattle in the UK. However, it is striking that concerns about the potential suffering of the affected animals themselves are often given little attention or completely ignored in policies aimed at dealing with wild animals. McCulloch and Reiss argue that this could be remedied by means of a “mandatory application of formal and systematic Animal Welfare Impact Assessment (AWIA)”. Optimistically, they consider that an AWIA could help to resolve controversies involving wild animals. The aim of this paper is to evaluate the potential of AWIA. We begin by showing how ideas akin to AWIA already play a significant role in other animal ethics controversies, particularly those concerning laboratory animal use and livestock production; and we bring in lessons learnt from these controversies. Then we comment on the suggested development and application of AWIA in the case of badger control. Finally, we discuss the prospects of applying AWIA to other sorts of wild animal controversy. We argue that the AIWA, as developed by McCulloch and Reiss, relies on several dubious premises, including that killing is a welfare issue. Furthermore, we argue that AWIA is unlikely to prevent serious moral disagreements over how to weigh concerns about wild animals against priorities in human health, the health of domestic and farm animals, and biodiversity, but that it may nonetheless serve to limit harms imposed on the wild animals.


  1. Beausoleil, N. J., & Mellor, D. J. (2015). Advantages and limitations of the five domains model for assessing welfare impacts associated with vertebrate pest control. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 63(1), 37–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brambell, F. W. R. (1965). Report of the technical committee to enquire into the welfare of animals kept under intensive livestock husbandry systems. Command Rep. 2836. London, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  3. De Castella, T. (2010). Badger cull: Are we silly to be so sentimental? Accessed 4 Aug 2017.
  4. Dubois, S., Fenwick, N., Ryan, E. A., Baker, L., Baker, S. E., Beausoleil, N. J., et al. (2017). International consensus principles for ethical wildlife control. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12896.Google Scholar
  5. Dubois, S., & Fraser, D. (2013). Rating harms to wildlife: A survey showing convergence between conservation and animal welfare views. Animal Welfare, 22(1), 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare. (2017). Assessment on listing and categorisation of animal diseases within the framework of the animal health law: Bovine tuberculosis. Scientific Opion. Parma: EFSA.Google Scholar
  7. Gamborg, C., Palmer, C. & Sandøe, P. (2012). Ethics of wildlife management and conservation: What should we try to protect? Nature Education Knowledge 3(10), 8. Accessed 6 June 2017.
  8. Gamborg, C., & Sandøe, P. (2006). Controlling biodiversity? Ethical analysis of the case of swine fever and wild boar in Denmark. In M. Kaiser & M. E. Lien (Eds.), Ethics and the politics of food (pp. 119–122). Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  9. Hampton, J. O., Hyndman, T. H., Barnes, A., & Collins, T. (2015). Is wildlife fertility control always humane? Animals, 5(4), 1047–1071.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hirst, D. (2017). Badgers: Culls in England. Commons Briefing Paper number 6837.Google Scholar
  11. Hirtzer, M. (2017). Culling feral hogs from the sky in Texas takes off. Reuters. Accessed 15 June 2017.
  12. Kasperbauer, T. J., & Sandøe, P. (2016). Killing as a welfare issue. In T. Visak & R. Garner (Eds.), The ethics of killing animals (pp. 17–31). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Littin, K., Fisher, P., Beausoleil, N. J., & Sharp, T. (2014). Welfare aspects of vertebrate pest control and culling: Ranking control techniques for humaneness. Revue Scientifique et Technique (International Office of Epizootics), 33(1), 281–289.Google Scholar
  14. Littin, K. E., & Mellor, D. J. (2005). Strategic animal welfare issues: Ethical and animal welfare issues arising from the killing of wildlife for disease control and environmental reasons. Revue Scientifique et Technique (Office International Des Epizooties), 24(2), 767–782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Littin, K. E., Mellor, D. J., Warburton, B., & Eason, C. T. (2004). Animal welfare and ethical issues relevant to the humane control of vertebrate pests. New Zealand Veterinary Journal, 52(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Macdonald, D. W., Riordan, P., & Mathews, F. (2006). Biological hurdles to the control of TB in cattle: A test of two hypotheses concerning wildlife to explain the failure of control. Biological Conservation, 131, 268–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Madsen, P., Gamborg, C., Lund, D. H., Thorsen, B. J. & Raulund-Rasmussen, K. (2010). Erfaringer med vildsvineforvaltning i Sverige og Tyskland [Experiences with management of wild boar in Sweden and Germany]. Arbejdsrapport Skov & Landskab nr. 105-2010. Frederiksberg: Københavns Universitet.Google Scholar
  18. Manfredo, M. M. (2008). Who cares about wildlife? Social science concepts for exploring human-wildlife relationships and conservation issues. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Redpath, S. M., Gutiérrez, R. J., Wood, K. A., & Young, J. C. (Eds.). (2015). Conflicts in conservation: Navigating towards solutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Russell, W. M. S. & Burch, R. L. (1959). The principles of humane experimental technique. Wheathampstead: Universities Federation for Animal Welfare. (As reprinted 1992).Google Scholar
  21. Sandøe, P., Franco, N. H., Lund, T. B., Weary, D. M., & Olsson, I. A. S. (2015). Harms to animals—can we agree on how best to limit them? Altex, 4, 28–32.Google Scholar
  22. Sandøe, P., & Jensen, K. K. (2013). The idea of animal welfare—developments and tensions. In C. M. Wathes, S. A. Corr, S. A. May, S. P. McCulloch, & M. C. Whiting (Eds.), Veterinary and Animal Ethics: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Veterinary and Animal Ethics, September 2011. (pp. 19–31). Ch. 2. Wiley-Blackwell. (UFAW Animal Welfare Series).Google Scholar
  23. Swan, G. J., Redpath, S. M., Bearhop, S., & McDonald, R. A. (2017). Ecology of problem individuals and the efficacy of selective wildlife management. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.011.Google Scholar
  24. Woodroffe, R., Thirgood, S., & Rabinowitz, A. (2005). People and wildlife: Conflict or co-existence?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Veterinary and Animal SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Food and Resource EconomicsUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark

Personalised recommendations