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Marc Bekoff: Dogs, Geese, Speciesism, and Compassionate Conservation

No single animal is disposable, because there are many more like them. Their lives matter, because they are alive; each individual has inherent or intrinsic value. They're valued for who they are, not for what they can do for us. They matter because they exist.

MARC BEKOFF:The mass killing of geese in Denver, Colorado, has attracted a lot of attention from around the world, much to the surprise of many people who saw the slaughter as more of a form of “a local problem and local execution”… The loss of geese has irritated a lot of local people who loved seeing the geese and feeling like they were “out in nature” when they came to know them as individuals… I’ve had a good number of discussions with different people about the goose problem in Denver and elsewhere, and some form of the following question has come up a number of times: “Why do they kill ‘problem’ geese and not ‘problem’ dogs?”…

I’ve been thinking a lot about why dogs, for example, are spared when they become “neighborhood problem animals,” and why other nonhuman animals (animals) are routinely killed when they’re perceived to be problem animals. I know it has a lot to do with the special relationship that mainly homed dogs have with many, but not all, people. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how the basic principles of compassionate conservation can be used to save geese and other animals who typically are killed when some people don’t want them around…

Killing geese, but not dogs, is a form of speciesism. Speciesism “is a form of discrimination based on species membership. It involves treating members of one species as morally more important than members of other species, even when their interests are equivalent. More precisely, speciesism is the failure to consider interests of equal strength to an equal extent because of the species of which the individuals are a member.” So, using dogs and geese as examples, dogs are usually seen as being smart and emotional, and most people get very upset when they hear about the abuse of dogs.

Geese, on the other hand, all too often are mistakenly taken to be dumb and unemotional, so their loss by whatever means doesn’t cause many people to lose much sleep. The same can be said for numerous other nonhumans who people write off as being “not so smart” or having no emotional lives, including the capacities to feel pain and to suffer physically or psychologically… These “dumbing-down” stereotypes also misrepresent who geese and many other animals truly are. Geese, in fact, are rather intelligent and highly emotional. When they’re rounded up and killed, families and friendships are broken up, and there’s no doubt that they miss their relatives and friends…

Compassionate conservation is a rapidly growing global and interdisciplinary branch of conservation science… Compassionate conservation centers on four guiding principles, namely: First Do No harm, Individuals Matter, Valuing All Wildlife, and Peaceful Coexistence. Killing geese and other animals clearly violates these principles. Simply put, conservation is a moral pursuit and demands clear ethical guidelines… With its focus on the value of the life of each and every individual, no single animal is disposable, because there are many more like them. Their lives matter, because they are alive; each individual has inherent or intrinsic value. They’re valued for who they are, not for what they can do for us. They matter because they exist’. SOURCE…

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