A discussion of the animal welfare and ethical considerations of the response to wildlife casualties in natural disasters....
The 2019/2020 bushfires put the plight of Australian wildlife and the realities of Anthropocene-related climate change on the international stage. In the often resource- and attention-poor field of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, offers of financial and well-meaning practical help were abundant. As the world grappled with a sense of collective ecological grief, veterinarians and wildlife rescuers were placed under immense pressure to achieve positive outcomes with unprecedented levels of traditional and social media exposure.
In comparison to the estimated losses, relatively small numbers of limited species were presented to triage centres and clinics for veterinary assessment. The animal welfare considerations for wildlife during triage, emergency treatment, rehabilitation and post-release are always complex and in this event were compounded by the acute and extensive loss of habitat and human safety considerations.
Ethical conflicts in this necessarily and variably multi-agency response included speciesism, animal rights, respect for nature and utilitarian perspectives. Veterinary responsibilities were complicated by differing personal, stakeholder and community expectations.