Wild animal conservation and welfare in agricultural systems
At least one-third of the land on earth is used for agricultural production and conflicts with the interests of wildlife are inevitable. These conflicts are likely to escalate as the human population expands and as the scale and intensity of agricultural production increases. This paper argues that the same underlying causes frequently affect both wild animal welfare and conservation. Three key threats are discussed: disease transmission from domestic animals and the interventions used to manage wildlife reservoirs of zoonotic diseases; physical operations such as harvesting and the conversion of wildlife habitat to farmland; and the use of agrochemicals, particularly for pest control. While direct effects, such as accidental poisoning, tend to attract the most public attention, it is argued that indirect effects, such as the reduction in food supplies or the disruption of social structures, are likely to be of greater importance. The suffering of pest animals has traditionally been undervalued. There is a need for broader adoption of integrated, ecologically based strategies which minimise suffering and also minimise the numbers of animals involved by preventing population resurgence. New research is urgently required to compare the effects of alternative, economically viable farming strategies on both wildlife conservation and welfare, possibly within the framework of ecosystem services assessments.
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