We then translate this research into educational and training content such as for courses, seminars and workshops, popular essays for the public, and briefings for the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Our intent throughout is to build the ethical capacity of society to make ethically and scientifically sound decisions about how we ought to live with other people, animals and nature.
Compassionate Conservation Initiative
Team Lead: Liv Baker, PhD
Compassionate conservation (CC) is a new paradigm of conservation. It stresses the intrinsic moral value and wellbeing of animals as both individuals and communities. This emphasis has strong and sometimes controversial implications for conservation policy and practice. With roots in an integration of animal welfare science, conservation biology, and ethical reasoning, our initiative embraces a number of projects that advance and clarify the theory, method and practice of compassionate conservation.
For more information on the initiative’s goals and outcomes, please see our Compassionate Conservation Initiative.
Compassionate Conservation Delphi
Team Leads: Adam Cardilini, PhD and Liv Baker, PhD
A project of our Compassionate Conservation Initiative, the Compassionate Conservation Delphi is facilitating a formal dialogue among compassionate conservation experts on the field practices that best promote the wellbeing of wildlife. Structured rounds of questions and responses are analyzed to helps us think through how ethics and science may best inform conservation policy and practice.
- Establish which conservation practices are considered compassionate
- Explore how context, intention and consequences inform the use of conservation practices
- Identify new horizons of research for compassionate conservation
Data summaries, roundtable dialogue, peer-reviewed articles, popular essays, workshops and training
To learn more, please visit the website for the Compassionate Conservation Delphi.
Wildness Index of Wellbeing
Team Lead: Liv Baker, PhD
An overarching theme that drives our research is the importance of being wild and its implications for wellbeing. And so we have developed the Wildness Index of Wellbeing. A project of our Compassionate Conservation Initiative and with strong resonances to our research on rewilding, the index is funded by World Animal Protection.
- Develop a reliable index of wildness
- Ensure the wildness index rigourously measures wellbeing
- Refine the index through further research
- Disseminate the index for use in education and policy making
Peer-reviewed articles, popular essays, workshops and training
Being wild is a psycho-ecological and sociocultural event for non-human animals. We thus ask what does it mean to be wild, and how can we assess wildness for animals themselves? Towards this end, we have developed and continue to refine a Wildness Index of Wellbeing (Baker, 2019) by which wellbeing can be meaningfully evaluated, moving us beyond mere welfare measures that rely largely on mitigation of negative states, and extrinsic factors. Integral to this index is to probe which parameters matter to the lives of the animals in question, and to understand how to properly weight such parameters.
A state of being wild evokes a sense of agency, dignity, and a notion of freedom; wild is choice and access to a range of emotions, challenges, and relationships. Where all wild animals are varyingly impacted by human behaviour, we ask what is at the heart of being wild, and more broadly press the worlds of conservation and animal protection to reckon with how to return the power of being wild to animals that have been stripped of it.
To develop a reliable assessment process that is robust, meaningful, and reproducible, external validation and standardization of the wildness index has been necessary. This has involved applying the index within and across varied situations. In particular, we have assessed formerly captive (rewilded) elephants introduced to native habitat, as well as individuals living in more controlled environments.
Baker, L. (2013). Why individuals matter: Lessons in animal welfare and conservation. In M. Bekoff (Ed.), Ignoring nature no more. The case for compassionate conservation (pp. 159-166). University of Chicago Press.
Baker, L., & Winkler, B. (2020). Asian Elephants rescue, rehabilitation and rewilding. Animal Sentience, 28(1). https://www.wellbeingintlstudiesrepository.org/animsent/vol5/iss28/1/
Baker, L. (2020). Rewilding and mixed-community collaboration in conservation. Animal Sentience, 28(21). https://www.wellbeingintlstudiesrepository.org/animsent/vol5/iss28/21/
Team Lead: Mara-Daria Cojocaru, PhD
Animal-assisted philosophy (AAP) is a term coined tongue in cheek for a serious project: to combine philosophy and creative writing informed by companion dogs. The intention is for humans to grow healthier relations with both other animals and their own animality. One of the central tenets of AAP is that humans have a lot to learn from other animals and that people can start right with those with whom they already share their homes. In the parlance of animal-assisted interventions, this is a ‘flipped model’ where the dogs are not specifically bred or trained to perform certain behaviours. AAP aims to offer various learning experiences for people and their dogs: guided walks, workshops in open fields and online interventions.For more on both the philosophy and poetry of AAP, see Mara’s Vicarious Wildness and Multispecies Poetry.
Team Leads: William Lynn, PhD and Francisco Santiago-Ávila, PhD
Controversies over human and animal interactions are frequently characterized by moral panics. The extreme rhetoric around cats and wolves in conservation politics are cases in point. These panics cloud our moral and political judgement and generate policies that wrongly harm wild and domesticated animals. This project is an ongoing effort to address such panics, and reframe such debates to emphasis coexistence and wellbeing for the entire community of life.
- Explore the scientific and ethical roots of moral panics involving wild and domesticated animals
- Reframe the debate to avoid profiling, stigmatizing and scapegoating animals
- Offer ethical insight to help guide public policies towards wise and ethical interactions animals
Peer-reviewed articles, popular essays, workshops and training
Moral panics are rooted in often irrational fears that a social or environmental problem is an existential threat. Seen as a crisis requiring an immediate and extreme response, it is often blamed on individuals, communities and species who are profiled as evil. Even real problems are subject to moral panic when their scale or impact is exaggerated. Fanned by moral entrepreneurs in the media, politics, religion and science, moral panics thereby foment a rush to judgment resulting in unwise and unjust actions by a community.
Examples of moral panics include the Salem witch trials in the 1690s, the Red Scare of the mid-twentieth century, and contemporary debates over same-sex marriage and gender identity. Each of these panics is characterized by irrational fears over a fictitious crisis fanned by vested interests seeking to exploit the panic for their own benefit.Moral panics also involve the relationship between people, animals and nature. These panics usually arise over the introduction of novel species, zoonotic threats to public health, claims of economic ruin, or fears over personal safety. Rhetoric around outdoor cats decimating biodiversity, urban wildlife spreading disease, marine mammals denuding the seas of fish, and wolves threatening people and their pets are all examples of animal-related moral panics.
Some moral panics are fictitious and require debunking. Others are rooted in a real if exaggerated problems. In both cases, strict ethical and scientific scrutiny is needed in the development of policy responses grounded in reason and evidence as opposed to fear mongering.
Lynn, W. S., Santiago-Ávila, F. J., Lindenmayer, J., Hadidian, J., Wallach, A., & King, B. J. (2019). A Moral Panic Over Cats. Conservation Biology, 33(4), 768-776. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13346
Lynn, W. S., Santiago-Ávila, F. J., Hadidian, J., Wallach, A., & Lindenmayer, J. (2020). Misunderstandings of Science and Ethics in the Moral Panic Over Cats. Conservation Biology, 34(4), 1038-1040. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13527
Maloney, C., & Unnithan, N. P. (2019). Reacting to Invasive Species: The Construction of a Moral Panic over Burmese Pythons. Sociological Inquiry, 89(3), 351-372. https://doi.org/10.1111/soin.12255
Team Leads: Tanja Straka, PhD and Michael Strohbach, PhD
Led by our colleagues in the European Union, this project explores the ethics of coexisting in a mixed community of humans and other species. Despite and because of humans, cities and other urban areas are hotspots for wild and domestic animals as well as historical and novel forms of biodiversity. As in any cohabitation, the relationships between humans, non-human animals and the broader community of life varies from harmony to conflict at both the individual and community levels. In this project we explore how people can facilitate and best coexist with other animals and nature in urban areas.
- Finding effective measures and management options to foster biodiversity in gardens, parks and the built environment, using empirical research on urban wildlife
- Increasing our understanding of how humans influence the ‘nature’ of cities, e.g., how urban food webs are affected by wildlife feeding and outdoor pets
- Understanding how people think and feel about urban wildness, novel urban ecosystems, and how to navigate conflicts with wild and domesticated animals
- Bolstering ethical considerations in conservation education and field work
Peer-reviewed articles, workshops, trans-disciplinary research projects
More information shortly.
Team Lead: Francisco Santiago-Ávila, PhD
Multispecies justice (MSJ) asks what we owe people, animals and nature as a matter of justice, now and in the future. MSJ parallels the ‘rights of nature’ as the newest discourse in sustainability and nature ethics.
- Promote the dignity and wellbeing of nonhuman life through justice
- Critique unjust worldviews and arrangements (e.g., anthropocentric social, economic and legal beliefs and practices)
- Visualize and advance paradigms of multispecies justice
- Articulate maxims and best practices for just policies and procedures for nonhuman persons
Peer-reviewed and popular publications, presentations and training
Nonetheless, ethical, philosophical and scientific advances in the last centuries have made short work of arguments to exclude animals from the spheres of justice. Today, the view we have of all animals, humans included, is more nuanced and accurate. The weight of our current knowledge highlights a gradient of cognitive, emotional, and physical capabilities, and a diversity of types of rationalities, within and across all animal species. Sentience, sapience, sociality, autonomy and a diverse array of other morally-relevant capabilities are in play, and characterize the needs and relationships that are widespread throughout the animal kingdom and nonhuman world.Moreover, as humans we are embedded in an inevitable diversity of interacting relationships and have unavoidable responsibilities towards nonhumans. These social and ecological relationships highlight the lack of a purely ‘human community’, promoting instead what Mary Midgley named a ‘mixed-moral community’. Multispecies justice therefore promotes the appropriate consideration of individual nonhuman beings as members of our mixed-moral community through the establishment of baseline duties to others, individually and collectively.
Celermajer, D., Chatterjee, S., Cochrane, A., Fishel, S., Neimanis, A., O’brien, A., Reid, S., Srinivasan, K., Schlosberg, D., & Waldow, A. (2020). Justice through a multispecies lens. Contemporary Political Theory, 19(3), 475-512.
Plumwood, V. (2000). Ecological Ethics from Rights to Recognition: Multiple Spheres of Justice for Humans, Animals and Nature. In N. Low (Ed.), Global Ethics and the Environment (pp. 188-212). Routledge.
Santiago-Ávila, F. J., & Lynn, W. S. (2020). Bridging compassion and justice in conservation ethics. Biological Conservation, 248, 108648. 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108648
One Health Ethics
Team Lead: Joann Lindenmayer, DVM MPH
One Health is the concept that the health and well-being of people, other animals and nature is interconnected and interdependent. Drawing from the traditions of bio- and other ethics, it asks us to envision how we ought to live in a world where the optimal health and well-being of humans, animals and the natural world are considered together as a goal for a sustainable and just future. This project seeks to map out this vision.
- Ethical guidelines for the conceptualization, design, and implementation of One Health teaching, research, policy, and practice
- A multispecies understanding of the term “One Health” that stays true to its original vision
- Ensuring One Health Ethics is integrated into conferences and journals
- Work towards a consensus on the ethical principles One Health
Peer-reviewed articles, popular essays, workshops, and training.
Even today, science tends to reduce questions of health and wellbeing to direct cause-and-effect relationships separate from the complex context in which they occur. This belies the fact that, as demonstrated so clearly in the COVID19 pandemic, we are often forced to make decisions in complex cases where “facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.” Furthermore, “Our understanding of the world emerges not from isolated, linear lines of scientific inquiry but rather from multiple, sometimes conflicting perspectives, and varying historical, moral, and ethical frameworks, not all of which are based in science (Bunch and Waltner-Toews, 2015).
Science is never value-free. This becomes clear in the trajectory of One Health today. One Health is applied overwhelmingly for the benefit of people, privileging human health and wellbeing over that of animals and nature. This is particularly true concerning questions about emerging infectious diseases (Humboldt-Dachroeden 2020). Yet the ethics and science of nature, society and medicine increasingly appreciates the complex interdependence of living beings in ecological and social systems. One Health needs to keep pace and develop a rigorous multispecies ethic.
In this respect, One Health Ethics ought to emphasize that the health and well-being of all three domains is considered simultaneously. It should ensure that the entire health and wellbeing of the planet and all its occupants is considered in the design, implementation and evaluation of education, research, policy and practice.
As such, it requires us to make informed choices that balance the health and wellbeing of all. This is not a zero-sum game and may even require us to trade off short-term gains for people in the interests of other animals and nature. It also requires us to anticipate, as best we can, broader and longer-term consequences of our actions or inactions on the entire community of life.
Bunch, M.J. & Walter-Toews, D. (2015). Grappling with complexity: The context for One Health and the EcoHealth approach. In One Health: The Theory and Practice of Integrated Health Approaches. ed. Bresalier, M., Cassidy, A., Woods, A et al. Oxfordshire: CAB International, 415-426.
Coghlan, S., & Coghlan, B. (2018). One Health, Bioethics, and Nonhuman Ethics. American Journal of Bioethics, 18(11), 3-5. https://doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2018.1524224
Humboldt-Dachroeden, S., Rubin, O., & Frid-Nielsen, S. S. (2020). The state of One Health research across disciplines and sectors–a bibliometric analysis. One Health, 10, 100146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.onehlt.2020.100146
Lindenmayer, J. M., & Kaufman, G. E. (2021). One Health and One Welfare. In One Welfare in Practice (pp. 1-30). CRC Press. https://tinyurl.com/OHC-OHOW-Chapter
Nieuwland, J., & Meijboom, F. L. B. (2019). One health: How interdependence enriches veterinary ethics education. Animals, 10(1), 13. https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/1/13/pdf
Ethics of Rewilding
Team Leads: William Lynn, PhD and Tristan Durham, PhD
Rewilding has grown into a movement for continental-scale conservation, with avid proponents across the globe. Despite its success, rewinding has lost its guiding moral vision. This project seeks to recover the ethical meaning behind the theory and practice of rewilding.
- Critique paradigms of society and conservation that marginalize wild lives and wild nature
- Envision a rewilded world where people, animals, and nature thrive together
- Offer ethical principles and maxims to guide rewilding in urban areas, working landscapes, and protected places
- Position animal wellbeing at the core of rewilding’s concerns
Peer-reviewed articles, popular essays, workshops and training
This focus on human benefits betrays the early roots of rewilding. Born out of critiques of human supremacy from animal protection, deep ecology and ecofeminism, the ethics of rewilding ought to concern more than humanity and recognize that we owe a direct moral responsibility to animals and nature.Like all paradigm shifts in society, rewilding is fundamentally rooted in changing values and ethics. Recovering the ethical meaning of rewilding is indispensable to its long-term success, which depends on articulating a compelling moral and political vision that reframes the personal and political.
Key to an ethical vision of rewilding is recognizing that many animals are sentient beings, who should not be reduced to their functional role in ecology or membership in a species. As individuals, their wellbeing counts in rewilding. What we need, and what this project works towards, is a deep rewilding that embraces our ethical responsibilities to people, animals and nature, as both individuals and members of social and ecological communities.
Crist, E., Kopnina, H., Cafaro, P., Gray, J., Ripple, W. J., Safina, C., Davis, J., DellaSala, D. A., Noss, R. F., & Washington, H. (2021). Protecting half the planet and transforming human systems are complementary goals. Frontiers in Conservation Science, 91. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcosc.2021.761292/full?fbclid=IwAR3D4rL2zAAJU_rzz0k7IaYfLv1yF5sju-mbt_8Jjlgh4E8RiZAYRjMGSgE
Crist, E. (2019). Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.
Derham, T., & Mathews, F. (2020). Elephants as refugees. People and Nature, 2(1), 103-110. https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1002/pan3.10070
Derham, T. T., Duncan, R. P., Johnson, C. N., & Jones, M. E. (2018). Hope and caution: rewilding to mitigate the impacts of biological invasions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 373(1761), 20180127. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rstb.2018.0127
Kopnina, H., & Cryer, P. (2019). The golden rules of rewilding – examining the case of Oostvaardersplassen. Ecos, 40(6), 1-19. https://www.ecos.org.uk/ecos-406-the-golden-rules-of-rewilding-examining-the-case-of-oostvaardersplassen/
Lynn, W. S. (2015). Rewilding: The Ethical Imperative. Geographical. http://geographical.co.uk/opinion/item/1390-the-ethical-imperative
Lynn, W. S. (2020). Rewilding the Covenant of Life with Compassion: A Future for Global and Sustainability Ethics. In P. Burdon, K. Bosselmann, & K. Engel (Eds.), The Crisis in Global Ethics and the Future of Global Governance: Fulfilling the Promise of the Earth Charter Debate (pp. 225-245). Edward Elgar Publishing.