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