Duty of Care, Naturally

The central question of this Opinion of the Council on Animal Affairs (RDA) is what should society’s (individual or collective) responsibility be towards the welfare (including the health) of non-captive animals; and how can, may and must this responsibility be fulfilled in practice.

Animals in the wild

The Council observes that a strict line of division is drawn in policy – both central and decentralized -- between animals that are kept by humans and animals that live in the wild. Animals living in the wild tend to be seen exclusively as part of an ecosystem, and the so-called ‘hands off’ policy is the dominant principle guiding human intervention. For kept animals, the focus is on the welfare of each individual animal, and the duty to provide proper care is dominant. The sharing of knowledge and alignment of goals between the two domains is very limited, because representatives of the one domain frequently perceive the assumptions and arguments of the other domain as in conflict with their own goals – and vice versa.