While pests and predators must be controlled to prevent the damage they cause this must be done humanely to be ethical and regulations shouldn't cause double standards.
Pests and predators are unwanted organisms that cause damage to resources that we value. This damage can be highly variable and can be expensive to fix.
This damage can range from the soiling of stored products such as weevils in the pantry at home to mice invading raw materials. It may be damage to assets such as rats chewing on electrical cables to birds’ nests being a fire hazard in the roofs of buildings. It may also be the transmission of diseases to livestock, such as bovine TB in cattle or toxoplasmosis in sheep. It may even be damage to wildlife through predation of adults and young or competition for food and space in natural habitats.
Just as the range and scale of the damage that pests and predators cause can be highly variable so the identity of the pest or predator can be highly variable. They come from all groups of organisms known to science including invertebrates such as insects, spiders and even worms and vertebrates such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
In response to this vast array of nuisance organisms and the problems they cause, an equally vast array of responses has been developed to control and remove these animals. From the ubiquitous can of fly spray to ingenious traps and deadly poisons we have an arsenal of weapons at our disposal to counter the threats from pests and predators.
However, the right to use of any of those weapons in the arsenal also carries with it the responsibility to use them lawfully and ethically. Over time, the ethics of pest and predator control has shifted and what was once acceptable may now be unlawful. Items that have been consigned to history include gin traps used to catch animals by the legs, glue boards used to ensnare rodents and chemicals such as DDT used to kill insects.
So where are ethics today? Animal welfare ethics are increasingly driving legal requirements. Today it is a requirement to check live capture traps at least once a day and soon Britain will outlaw the use of Fenn traps for the capture of stoats on the grounds of humaneness. Interestingly, the Fenn trap was developed as the replacement for gin traps when these were outlawed in Britain so the wheel has turned full circle.
We believe that humaneness is paramount so we have clearly stated our position on this. We have also made clear our position on the vexed question of feral cat management and would welcome feedback on either of these statements.
We are also concerned about the risks of double standards when comparing the ethical and legal frameworks around pest and predator trapping versus poisoning. On the one hand required minimum standards are set to guard against unnecessary pain and distress caused by trapping yet on the other hand, here in New Zealand, it is OK to broadcast poison in the environment where it can have disastrous effects on non target animals.
We think this conversation needs to be further advanced using good information and reliable data as opposed to emotion and prejudge. However difficult this conversation may be we are equally certain the outcome will be worth it and pest and predator control will be better for it.
What's in a Name?
The familiar saying "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" warns about the risks that come with trying to achieve more by challenging the status quo.