How IFAW defines itself in larger universe of animal protection and conservation

The International Fund for Animal Welfare prescribes to being both conservationists and advocates for animal welfare. Photo: © I¬¬¬FAW/Barbara Hollweg¬In this day and age when oversimplification is the norm and the nuances of our complex value systems are overshadowed by a trend toward polarization, we must embrace every chance we can to discuss and ultimately understand the different perspectives we take in the noble journey to protect humans, other animals, and nature.

That is why I relish the opportunity to contribute to a roundtable discussion about “conservation, animal welfare and animal rights” during the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii this week. I am thankful that it aims to explore not only the tensions, or differences, but the synergies. More often than not, aren’t we heading in the same direction, merely disagreeing somewhat on the tactics on how to get there?

Here at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we are both conservationists and advocates for animal welfare. In fact, our mantra is to inject more animal welfare ideals into the larger conservation conversation.

We partner with organizations and attend high-level conferences such as these, knowing that we might not be traditional ‘conservationists,’ but confident that the vision we do bring to the table is respected, even embraced, for its unique balance of ideals. Likewise, we sometimes find ourselves fighting alongside those who advocate for animal rights. Their views may be more extreme than ours, but the goals of our campaigns can often be the same.

READ: Why IUCN’s World Congress in Hawaii matters

Our views are thus: Conservation decisions should be guided by the precautionary principle and ecological and biological sustainability, but we also must achieve sustainability within an ethical framework for animals. Conservation scientists may focus more on population trends. While we believe policy should be based on sound science, we also understand that all policy decisions involve value judgements.

The welfare of individual animals within those populations matters to us – for ethical reasons and in many cases for conservation reasons as well. It is not appropriate or effective to make decisions based solely on current total population numbers.

Traditional conservation strategies can include allowing individual animals to suffer as long as the population is not threatened. We believe we should challenge ourselves to find conservation solutions that respect the individual animals.

The animal rights perspective may overlook the very real needs of human populations in pursuing animal rights. 

Again, we think solutions must be forged with the interests of both animals and people in mind.

Many agreements and an increasing number of government policies—even constitutions—recognise the intrinsic value of biodiversity as well as the many ways in which it benefits humans. For example, the Convention of Biological Diversity acknowleges the “intrinsic value of biological diversity and the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values of biological diversity and its components.”

I am pleased to see many of the global conservation decision-making bodies moving further in recognizing all of those values, yet I believe they can and should do more.

For IFAW, we champion the concept of “animal welfare” (it’s in our name), but respect the many views other animal and environmental groups bring to the table to help us conserve this world and the animals and people that inhabit it.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime