Welfare aspects of killing wild animals in Britain

Click here to read the full investigation on behalf of the Hawk Board into the nature and extent of suffering caused by current methods of pest control and field sports.

Nick Fox, PhD, BSc, B.Ed
Helen Macdonald BA, MA

Introduction to the article:
Wildlife welfare is a young science and the difficulties and pitfalls in interpreting data are
tremendous. This study paints a broad-brush picture of wildlife welfare in the way we use and
manage our wildlife as a resource and attempts a broad cost benefit analysis of the different

It is a primer for those needing a perspective on the issues, a pointer for where future research
efforts are needed and a plea for legislators to use a sound scientific approach rather than an
emotional one to these complex wildlife management issues.

The first edition of this study appeared in April 1995. Since then I have had much feedback and
additional data, and scientists, such as Professor Patrick Bateson, have made further efforts to
measure suffering in wildlife management.

Few people approach this subject without an opinion. I am a professional biologist working on
birds of prey directing conservation programmes in the UK, Europe and Asia. I am a livestock farmer;
I hunt with hounds and with falcons and I have done most of the activities such as shooting,
ferreting, cat-keeping and fishing examined in this paper.
My position is as follows: I support the sustainable killing of wildlife for food, population
management and recreation, provided that suffering is minimised to levels either experienced in
nature or in common non-lethal everyday life experiences.

Whilst acknowledging that religions have both positive and negative impacts on animal welfare
and management, they are not substitutes for sound science. Also, the dogma that animals have
‘rights’ is not a fruitful one in real life wildlife management. Rather, we should consider our
responsibilities towards animals.


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