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Compassionate conservation

Imagine this. Ann is the last of her lineage, she has no sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts or uncles. She is essentially the only human being (able to reproduce) on earth to contain the genes that have been created from an amalgam of hundreds of thousands of her ancestors. Her parents and grandparents vehemently desire for her to have offspring to ensure the continuation of their lineage. However, Ann does not want this and her parents and grandparents must respect her wishes because they are moral and ethical and of course, they want what is best for Ann. Now, imagine that they were not like this. They imprisoned Ann in an inadequate and banal environment -most likely a cage. They choose a male and place him in with Ann because they couldn't bear to see their lineage diminished.

This situation may sound as implausible and absurd to you as it does to me. However, similar situations are occurring and furthermore, they are largely accepted. They are called zoos.

Through the Born Free Foundation, I was introduced to the concept of 'compassionate conservation'. It was an ideology which I had knowingly supported for years, yet I had never labelled it, or even believed it to prevail as a genuine movement. However, it does, and it is a rapidly growing movement with a guiding principle of “first do no harm”.

'It is driven by a desire to eliminate unnecessary suffering and to prioritise animals as individuals, not just as species. It is also a route to better conservation.'- New Scientist

Trophy hunting ('the selective hunting of wild game for human recreation') is sometimes justified by hunters as 'conservation'. However, this immoral, unethical and pitiless practice epitomises what compassionate conservation is not. The hunters claim that when they pay, to kill an elephant for example, the money will be presented to local communities and therefore the life lost is reimbursed. However, 'the actual benefits accrued by local people from the hunts have been found to be exaggerated or practically non-existent'. Furthermore, the ethical implications of hunting are bountiful. What is the point of killing an animal to conserve another animal, when that animal may be killed to conserve another and so on...? It begs the question of which life is actually important or worthy of protection if every life can be exchanged for the 'good' of the species.

Preserving Earth's ecology and biodiversity is not incompatible with compassion. In fact, a world which fused compassion with conservation would also be a world in which we not only consider the good of the species, but the good of the singular being too. Conservation can only advance when we interlace it with compassion. After all, we must consider the future, but what good does that do if no one is able to relish the present?

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