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Conceptualizing Indigenous Human-Animal Relationships in Aotearoa New Zealand: An Ethical Perspective

By J. Woodhouse, A. Carr, N. Liebergreen, L. Anderson, N. J. Beausoleil, G. Zobel, M. King

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This article considers the complexity and diversity of ethical concepts and beliefs held by Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand (hereafter New Zealand), relating to animals. A combination of interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with individuals who identify as Māori and were working with wildlife, primarily in an eco-tourism and conservation context. Two main themes emerged from the data: ethical concepts relating to the environment, and concepts relating to the spiritual relationships between people, animals and the environment. These findings highlight that the connections between humans and animals through a Māori lens are nuanced in ways not typically accounted for in Western philosophy. This is of particular importance because of the extent to which standard Western thought is embodied in law and policy related to human treatment of animals and the environment. In New Zealand, relationships and partnerships are informed by Te Tiriti ō Waitangi, one of New Zealand's founding documents. Where these partnerships include activities and environments involving human-animal interaction, policy and legislation should account for Māori knowledge, and diverse of thought among different hapū (tribal groups). We conclude by exploring ways of including Māori ethical concepts around animals in general, and wild animals in particular, in law and policy, providing a case study relevant to other bicultural or multicultural societies.

Publication Title Animals (Basel)
Volume 11
Issue 10
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615 (Print)2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani11102899
Author Address Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand.Department of Tourism, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand.Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre, School of Veterinary Science, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.Animal Welfare Team, AgResearch Ltd., Ruakura Research Centre, 10 Bisley Road, Hamilton 3214, New Zealand.
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal ethics
  2. Animal welfare
  3. data
  4. Ethics
  5. Indigenous populations
  6. open access
  7. Spirituality
  8. values
  1. open access