Animal Welfare and International Environmental Law
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Animal Welfare and International Environmental Law

From Conservation to Compassion

Edited by Werner Scholtz

At a time when the planet’s wildlife faces countless dangers, international environmental law continues to overlook its evolving welfare interests. This thought-provoking book provides a crucial exploration of how international environmental law must adapt to take account of the growing recognition of the intrinsic value of wildlife.
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Chapter 4: Wildlife law and animal welfare: competing interests and ethics

Sophie Riley


Wildlife law and concepts of animal welfare evolved at different times, for different reasons and along different pathways. Few treaty systems broach wildlife welfare, while at the national level, regimes cover a plethora of wildlife law and animal welfare issues, yet the two systems remain largely disengaged. Early welfare laws predominantly applied to domesticated animals, initiating a disconnect that became entrenched by management practices that classified animals in a useful/harmful dichotomy. Wildlife was thus seen as the problem, with little acknowledgement that many human–wildlife conflicts are, in reality, conflicts among humans and their differing uses of wildlife. It was also rare that balancing conflicts involved significant consideration of animal welfare. Using examples from Australian wildlife law, focusing on New South Wales, the chapter evaluates the relationship between policy, legislation and the lack of weight given to animal welfare in wildlife management. Deficiencies that are evident at both national and international levels suggest that an international solution would be appropriate. While proposals in the literature include expanding the purview of existing treaty systems and establishing a new international organization for animal welfare, the emerging concept of compassionate conservation shows the most promise for integrating animal well-being into wildlife regimes.

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