Ethical considerations in the management of livestock predation

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What makes the predation of livestock an ethical issue? It might not seem obvious to all that the management of predators has anything to do with ethics. However, a key element of the livestock predation issue is that it entails conflicts of interest between various stakeholders; and wherever conflicts of interest exist there are ethical implications. Without guidelines or policies for resolving conflicts of interest, conflict of another, more harmful kind can easily develop between those with competing interests. The most obvious conflict of interest in this situation is that between livestock owners and predators. With losses of livestock due to predation in South Africa estimated to cost more than a billion rand annually (Kerley et al., 2017, but see Chapter 3 for revised figures) livestock owners clearly have economic interests they would want to protect. Predators have an interest in feeding themselves and their young, in avoiding injury or disability and in their survival. Our ethical dilemma consists in deciding on what sort of policies we need to apply in order to decide which (if any) of these interests carry more moral weight and deserve our protection, or, at least, how best we can try to ensure some fair balance between the competing interests. (Note: In this chapter ‘we’ and ‘us’ are mostly used to refer to humankind in general. In some cases, such as this use of ‘we’, the assumed agents might not be humankind as a whole, but rather a more circumscribed and specific group, such as those who are interested in formulating appropriate policy for livestock management. The context should be sufficient to assist the reader to understand how these words are used).

Publication Title:

Livestock predation and its management in South Africa: A Scientific Assessment

Kerley G, Wilson S, Balfour D
Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth
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Book Section