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Minimizing harm in possum control operations and experiments in New Zealand

By M. C. Morris, S. A. Weaver

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Pest control operations and experimentation on sentient animals such as the brushtail possum can cause unnecessary and avoidable suffering in the animal subjects. Minimizing animal suffering is an animal welfare goal and can be used as a guide in the design and execution of animal experimentation and pest control operations. The public has little sympathy for the possum, which can cause widespread environmental damage, but does believe that control should be as painless as possible. Trapping and poisoning provide only short-term solutions to the possum problem and often involve methods that cause suffering. Intrusive experiments connected with these methods of control and published in the last 6 years are reviewed. Many of the experiments do not attain the welfare standards required by members of the public. Possums also act as vectors for bovine tuberculosis. While this is not as important in the minds of the public as environmental degradation, as long as people wish to continue raising cattle, this disease needs to be controlled. Immunocontraception is a humane means of controlling possums with wide public acceptance. The use of vaccines for cows and/or possums would also cause far less suffering than present eradication operations. Research into these methods does require some intrusive experimentation. This can be reduced if live animals are not used for secondary antibody harvesting, if adequate analgesia is provided, and if potential vaccines or contraceptives are tested under conditions that would be experienced in the field.

Date 2003
Publication Title Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Volume 16
Issue 4
Pages 367-385
ISBN/ISSN 1187-7863
DOI 10.1023/A:1025690218626
Language English
Author Address School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal rights
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Attitudes
  4. Australasia
  5. Bacteria
  6. Bait
  7. Biological control
  8. Birth
  9. Cattle
  10. Commonwealth of Nations
  11. Contraception
  12. Control
  13. Developed countries
  14. Diseases
  15. Integrated pest management
  16. Mammals
  17. Marsupials
  18. New Zealand
  19. Oceania
  20. OECD countries
  21. pathogens
  22. peer-reviewed
  23. pest control
  24. Pesticides and Drugs
  25. Pests.
  26. Poisoning
  27. possums
  28. prokaryotes
  29. Repellents and Attractants
  30. Research
  31. Resistance and Immunity
  32. Ruminants
  33. trapping
  34. Tuberculosis
  35. vaccination
  36. Wild animals
  1. peer-reviewed