Compassionate Conservation in Action: An Introduction and Canadian Case Study

Dr. Sara Dubois, Chief Scientific Officer, British Columbia SPCA
Erin Ryan, Research Coordinator, British Columbia SPCA

Traditional conservation philosophies and management practices have not changed since the field emerged in the early 20th century, struggling to keep pace with increasing human-caused damage, discoveries in animal science and evolving societal values. For those animals labeled as unwanted - often abundant and introduced species - efforts to reduce or eradicate populations trump concerns for harm done to animals and the environment. A growing body of academic and practitioner voices is calling for a new era for conservation and wildlife management, a shift towards Compassionate Conservation (CC). This cross-disciplinary field reimagines our relationship with, and responsibility towards, wild animals and nature by unifying animal welfare science with conservation. This presentation will outline the historical beginnings of the CC movement, summarize its Guiding Principles, and give examples of current projects. A Canadian case study of a CC project, the BC SPCA Humane Wildlife Control Standards Project, will also be outlined.

 Key Learnings:
1. Introduction to the field of Compassionate Conservation (CC) and its Guiding Principles
2. Examples of CC work in action globally
3. An update on the Humane Wildlife Control Standards Project – Canadian CC case study


Dr. Sara Dubois
has worked as a wildlife biologist within the humane movement since 2001. As the BC SPCA’s Chief Scientific Officer, Sara directs province-wide welfare science operations, education and advocacy projects. She works on diverse issues from wildlife rehabilitation and oil spill response, to captive wild animal management, exotic pets, urban wildlife conflict, compassionate conservation and assists in wildlife cruelty investigations. Sara’s role also aims to develop relationships with academia and advocate for animals used in science. She is a founding Director and President of the Animals in Science Policy Institute. Sara has a Biology BSc, Animal Science MSc, and Animal Science PhD. Sara is an Adjunct Professor at the UBC’s Applied Biology Program in the Faculty of Land & Food Systems and an Associate Academic at the Centre for Compassionate Conservation, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Erin Ryan is a Research Coordinator with the BC SPCA, and assists the Chief Scientific Officer in province-wide science initiatives. Erin’s primary focus with the organization is to formulate a Humane Wildlife Control Accreditation Program model, based on a consensus of international expert opinion to ensure high standards of humane treatment in vertebrate pest control. The project involves humane standards research, review of accreditation programs, industry consultation, hosting an international panel of scientific experts, and program pilot development for BC. She has previous experience in Communications with consultation event planning, online engagement, data entry and data analysis. Erin has a BSc in Applied Animal Biology from the UBC Faculty of Land & Food Systems.