In February of 2019, Lysanne Snijders (Behavioral Ecology, Wageningen University) and Tanja Straka (Human Dimensions, Technische Universität Berlin) had a brilliant idea. They created an editorial column on Medium to explore the intersections of ethics and human-wildlife interaction. Their’s was an open and welcoming approach as Lysanne and Tanja sought to do justice to the diversity of valuable perspectives in conservation conflicts by exploring their ecological, human dimensions and ethical points of view.
This was a bold idea and one not restricted to human-wildlife conflict in exotic places Rather they sought to look at the realities of ongoing contact between human and nonhuman animals, and the possibilities of coexistence in urban to wild places across the globe.
While the “human dimensions of wildlife” research has grown over the decades, not all of it takes as seriously as it should the ethics, morals and values that drive conflicts in human-animal relations and conservation. Consequently, people to people conflicts over wildlife arise between different groups of human beings. The dispute over the killing of Cecil the lion between the general public, conservationists and trophy hunters is one example. Or the conflict may involve interactions between wild and/or domesticated animals themselves. Coyotes killing companion animals in North American suburbs is another example. Whatever the precise configuration this might take, avoiding, mitigating and resolving such conflicts are necessary for people, animals and nature to thrive in coexistence.
And so ‘Exploring Conservation Conflicts’ was born.
February 2019 also marked the beginnings of the global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Ironically, Covid-19 was and remains an example of a zoonotic disease underscoring humanity’s failures of coexistence. Predictably, zoonotic disease outbreaks, including the devastating avian flu, commonly arise within the nexus of the destruction of wild lands, a burgeoning bush-meat trade, the continued existence of wet markets, and industrialized animal agriculture. These proximate causes are symptoms of worldviews that instrumentalize and deny adequate moral value to the more-than-human world.
About a year after founding Exploring Conservation Conflicts, Lysanne and Tanja joined with PAN Works — an ethics think tank dedicated to the well-being of animals (www.panworks.io). Ethics think tanks are key organizations for envisioning how we ought to live and translating that into specific ideas, best practices and policy proposals for the community at large. While there are a plethora of think tanks focusing on social issues, and a few for the environment and sustainability, there are almost none for animals either domesticated or wild. Inspired in large part by the work of Mary Midgley, PAN Works is a global platform investigating “why animals matter” and what that means for the “mixed community” of people, animals and nature.
Our mutual commitment to exploring the normative aspects of how humans related to wild and domesticated animls made this a natural collaboration. So as of today, Exploring Conservation Conflicts is starting a new chapter as People*Animals*Nature (PAN), the editorial column of PAN Works.
We intend to continue the fine work started by Lysanne and Tanja, and hope that you’ll continue to follow their individual work as well as this column. They will continue to write and moderate editorial columns to the benefit of us all. We will also introduce new regular and guest columnists.
In addition, we are expanding the mission of PAN to complement discussions of particular cases and conflicts with broader consideration to innovative ideas and practices. Animal wellbeing, one health ethics, compassionate conservation, multispecies justice, and rewilding are a few of these. We also intend to enliven our column with articles, images and interpretations from creatives including fiction, poetry and the digital arts.
We hope you’ll find the new content stimulating to your thinking and walk in the world, and we look forward to being in dialogue with you
Cheers, Bill Lynn
Founder, PAN Works