Ethics in human-wildlife relations is a matter of worldview.

The article by Artelle, Paquet, Moola, Genovali and Darimont, titled “BCs approach to wildlife management needs major ethical reform”, rightly points out past failures of, and future opportunities for, provincial reform of wildlife policy in British Columbia.  The authors are encouraged by provincial incentives toward reform and call for ethical considerations to be open to the varied interests of all BC citizens, not just consumptive users.

Artelle, et al, are models of forward thinking in the field of scientifically sound, ecoconscious wildlife practice.  And when it comes to ethics, I believe we have to dig deep. Just like fishes may not be able to explain the water in which they swim, so we humans never seem to dig deep enough to go right to the heart of the lens that variously shapes our views, i.e. our worldviews (paradigm).  We debate from value positions, loudly countering the conflicting views of our “opponents”, without unpacking how these adversarial views are emanating from deep within ourselves.  For ethical policy reform to happen, the conversation needs to start from paradigm rather than position.

Following is an August 26th facebook post that I submitted on this topic:

This is a long comment but the article above touches a deep chord for me about the ethics of wildlife policy. Yes, public policy on BC wildlife has failed and can do better. As important as that is, ethics go even deeper than achieving better “hallmarks of science”, because at the heart of things, ethics are tied to differing worldviews and conflicting groups will never find common ground until we grapple with that truth. Areas of public policy where the recognition of ethics is foundational, such as criminal justice and health care as the article mentions, have to do with the lives of people. But for wildlife to receive the same level of ethical consideration as people do, requires a worldview in which people are not separate from, and superior to, other life forms. Individuals within other species are not dispensable, no matter how well population science is carried out or scrutinized. Look at how much attention has been paid to Tahlequah and Scarlet (whales), Russell (Black Bear), Cecil (Lion) and Apple (Grizzly). Why? Because they are individuals within populations whose stories the press picked up and the public could relate to. The ethics were glaring and personalized. But every population of every species is comprised of individuals whose stories are equally worthy. Developing ethical wildlife policy from a worldview of relationship with other species is a conversation worth having. In my view, it opens us to a more engaged awareness of who “the other” is, be they human or nonhuman in form. If you made it this far, thank you! 
Photo credit: Steve Williamson at


2 Comments Add yours

  1. mjvande says:

    In 6 million years of human evolution, there has never been an area off limits to humans — an area which we deliberately choose not to enter so that the species that live there can flourish unmolested by humans. Yet, our observations and intuition about wildlife suggest that most want and need such seclusion in order to survive. Recent research confirms this: even recreation traditionally considered harmless is actually detrimental to wildlife. Restoring true wilderness will require rethinking and redesigning all land uses and wildlife management regimes, as well as changing how we relate to wildlife.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When species were co-evolving, and the human footprint didn’t mark most corners of the earth, biodiversity could flourish naturally. At this point, we’re very far from E.O. Wilson’s half-earth vision and a lot of good people are struggling to just maintain pockets of pristine wilderness. Here is a question for the dominant cultural story: are we masters of all we survey, or are we relations to all we survey? Being masters hasn’t worked out so well for us!


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