Justice and food security in a changing climate

Gerwen, M.A.A.M. van; Nieuwland, J.; Meijboom, Franck


During previous EurSafe conferences we presented our work about the treatment of liminal rodents in pest management. When it comes to moral status and animal welfare, these animals are generally overlooked. We found that stakeholders involved with pest management feel the need to take the moral position and welfare of liminal rodents more seriously. The outcomes of this study were the start of a multi-stakeholder project to develop an assessment frame for a more responsible rodent management. In order to facilitate ethical decision-making in pest management, various authors have indicated animal research ethics as a valuable source. In this paper we question the relevance of animal research ethics for dealing with liminal animals. Our main concern is that animal research ethics seem to start with the assumption that animal interests can be infringed upon when good reasons are given as a justification. Anectodical information from professionals in the field of rodent management indicates that it is possible to leave the current default position and minimize or even abolished such infringement of rodent interests, while still addressing the nuisance experienced by humans. We aim to explore the potential of non-killing methods as a means to mediate liminal rodent – human conflicts by employing a thought experiment in which we retract the ‘licence to kill’. We elaborate on this informed by the concept of liminal rodents as denizens, looking into ecological and socio-cultural carrying capacity and ways to overcome stigmatisation due to feelings of fear and disgust. With this paper we hope to inspire other scientists and professionals in the field to think out-of-the-box when it comes to the relation between humans and liminal rodents.