Biological control of pests and a social model of animal welfare.
This paper considers the sociocultural implications of biological pest control that sit at the cusp of managing an invasive species for conservation or productivity (i.e. a 'natural enemy') and socially driven 'manipulating life' arguments. We consider the role of perceived humaneness or, more accurately, animal welfare as it relates to managing invasive species from a scientific and social perspective. In order to highlight and articulate particular nuances and standards across different pest control contexts, we use three case examples (feral cats, wild rabbits, and invasive cane toads) and explore where biological pest control and animal welfare interests intersect. The paper summarises key scientific welfare concerns and then extends the literature to also examine key social characteristics of each pest management scenario, including lay perceptions of animal welfare, the sociocultural context that pests exist within, and overarching psychological factors contributing to public sentiment, including perceived risks. The subsequent descriptive model presented is useful in articulating core sociocultural beliefs relative to each case and how these antecedent associations and attitudes about an animal influence subsequent beliefs about a pest management strategy and ultimately acceptance of the management approach. The model can inform invasive species management policies and highlight key sociocultural factors likely to influence public responses. The model also informs interdisciplinary science designed to develop acceptable and socially responsible biocontrol strategies that consider public perceptions of animal welfare and cultural appropriateness.