Culling: A Controversy in Conservation
It must be remembered that in all cases culling is an attempt to rectify a problem which has been created by us. For example, culling invasive species which we have introduced can be an effective way of protecting native flora and fauna.
Culling, the killing of animals, is a controversial management strategy which is used throughout the world to control invasive species and manage animal populations. There have been many famous cases where culling has sparked an uproar from the general public. One case in particular resulted in the South African government being forced to place a moratorium on the culling of elephants because of international pressure. So, why does culling provoke such a reaction; are there any viable alternatives and most importantly, why do we cull animals in the first place?
It must be remembered that in all cases culling is an attempt to rectify a problem which has been created by us. For example, culling invasive species which we have introduced can be an effective way of protecting native flora and fauna. Animals in game reserves have to be culled to keep their populations under control but only because we have limited the space in which they can live. This means that there are just enough resources to sustain a certain number of animals, so we have to control their numbers. The cold hard truth is that culling is necessary if we want to conserve some aspects of our natural world; something that is getting harder and harder to do every day. I can assure you, I have been present during the culling of animals, nobody is happy about what they are doing but it is usually a last resort.
So why are people against culling? We are extremely good at anthropomorphisising animals. This means we relate better to certain animals because we can see ourselves in them. Elephants are a good example as they have an extremely complex social system. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t kill an elephant but I can guarantee that pretty much everyone has crushed a spider, yet both are members of the animal kingdom.
The only viable alternative to culling would be immunocontraception to stop the growth of populations. There is a considerable amount of research into this, but in many cases a successful method of contraception has not yet been found.
Culling is often perceived as murder. However, the use of this term criminalises our efforts to conserve the natural world. It implies that we actually want to kill.