Compassionate conservation is a rapidly growing international and cross-disciplinary movement that promotes the protection of captive and wild animals as individuals within conservation practice and policy.
Wild animals face an increasing number of threats. Not only does this put species and ecosystems in jeopardy, it has a large impact on the lives of individual animals and their social groups. Many animals are harmed (through suffering and killing) to serve human interests and values without due consideration of other animals’ interests and intrinsic value. Solutions supporting human and nonhuman stakeholders are not readily available despite strong and universal aspirations and motivation to protect nature.
Traditional conservation efforts in setting aside protected areas are insufficient to preserve nature on their own. Finding ways to compassionately and practically share space (coexistence), via trade-offs among different values, is vital if we are to reduce harm to animals.
A simple and morally acceptable approach is to utilise the universal ethic of compassion (and empathy) to alleviate suffering in humans and other animals to resolve issues of land sharing. A compassionate and practical ethic for conservation that focuses on individual well-being, in combination with other values, provides a novel framework of transparency and robust decision-making for conservation that will benefit all stakeholders.
Compassionate conservation stipulates that we need a conservation ethic that prioritises the protection of other animals as individuals: not just as members of populations of species, but valued in their own right. This is important because of what we now know about their cognitive and emotional lives (consciousness and sentience). We attempt to provide modern solutions for sharing space with nature and for fostering the possibility for diverse species to live in better coexistence.
Compassionate conservation considers animals as individuals, not merely as objects or metrics to be traded off for the good of populations, species or biodiversity.
A paradigm shift in our approach to other animals is vital because of what we now know about the cognitive and emotional capacities of other animals and their ability to suffer (sentience).
With a guiding principle of ‘first do no harm’, compassionate conservation offers a bold, virtuous, inclusive, and forward-looking framework that provides a meeting place for different perspectives and agendas to discuss and solve issues of human-animal conflict when sharing space.