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Predator Free New Zealand and the ‘War’ on Pests: Is it a just War?

Abstract

Conservation policy in New Zealand is centred around an objective to totally eradicate three invasive species; the ship rat (Rattus rattus), the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and the stoat (Mustela erminea), by 2050. The preferred control method to achieve this is large scale poisoning operations with 1080 and similar toxins. This project is backed up by governmental and non-governmental agencies and surrounded with discourse of ‘war’ and ‘invasion’. The ‘Big Three’ predators are endowed with sinister motives as a means of mobilising support. This self-described ‘war’ is evaluated in terms of ‘just war’ theory and found wanting. In particular there are issues with the recruitment of children for killing, humiliation of combatants, questionable economic motives for the ‘war’, deception by government agencies, lack of consultation, a lack of consideration of alternatives, the use of excessive suffering, and unrealistic expectations. An alternative paradigm of ‘compassionate conservation’ is proposed for New Zealand. Instead of trying to get back to a stable pre-colonial state of nature, I propose a holistic approach that respects both ecosystems and their members and takes into account new understandings of ecosystems as dynamic processes.

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Notes

  1. See for example the website of the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association https://www.deerstalkers.org.nz/Conservation.

  2. Government press releases from the present Green Party minister of conservation can be found at https://www.beehive.govt.nz/minister/hon-eugenie-sage. Press releases confirm that the Department of Conservation received a boost in funding after the 2018 budget, but this is being channelled into existing control methods.

  3. Dubois et al. (2017) discourage the use of negative labelling such as ‘pest’.

  4. From the United Nations website https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/war-crimes.shtml.

  5. https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/pests-and-threats/predator-free-2050/.

  6. One of my 9-year-old students recounts how a book that she was reading in class described possums in this manner.

  7. As explained on https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/109855658/how-do-we-know-predators-kill-25-million-birds-chicks-and-eggs-each-year.

  8. Article 8, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/war-crimes.shtml.

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Correspondence to Michael C. Morris.

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Morris, M.C. Predator Free New Zealand and the ‘War’ on Pests: Is it a just War?. J Agric Environ Ethics 33, 93–110 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-019-09815-x

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Keywords

  • Possums
  • Stoats
  • Rats
  • Compassionate conservation
  • Just war