Considering welfare of target and non-target animals in planning vertebrate control programs


Ratification Date: 14 Jun 2019


  1. Welfare assessment of vertebrate control programs should aim to quantify the welfare impacts on all target and non-target animals likely to be affected.
  2. Consideration should be given to the number of individual animals involved and the magnitude of both positive and negative impacts.
  3. Control programs should aim to maximise the net welfare of all target and non-target animals, rather than simply considering the direct effect on the program’s target species.
  4. Management techniques that have higher levels of public acceptance, but poor animal welfare outcomes, should not be chosen over less popular but more humane techniques.
  5. Animal welfare should not be compromised by economic factors.


Introduced vertebrate animals have negative environmental, economic and social impacts.  There are economic, conservation and welfare consequences to both inaction and human intervention.

The effects on the welfare and habitats of all individual animals that may benefit from a problem animal control program should be considered with equal regard to any negative welfare effects on the target and non-target animals.

Management of interspecific competition for an optimal outcome may in some cases require the reintroduction of native predators extinct from a control area, or the translocation of native predators to balance other anthropogenic change.1,2 Use of native predators for the management of introduced and overabundant animals would be appropriate where scientific assessment predicted a net positive effect on the welfare of all animals in the landscape and defined safeguards to be followed.

It should be acknowledged there are animal welfare consequences to delaying or failing to control problem animals.3

Best practice pest animal control incorporates community engagement and involvement in planning and initiation of a control program.4

Non-lethal removal methods or ex situ killing methods should not be assumed to be more humane than in situ killing methods. Management techniques that have higher levels of public acceptance (for example translocation) but poor animal welfare outcomes should not be chosen over less popular techniques that can be demonstrated to be more humane (for example, shooting).  To maximize animal welfare control, programs should include proactive and scientifically designed peer reviewed audits and the use of independent observers.5

Whether directly by predation or competition, or indirectly by behavioural or habitat effects, invasive or over-abundant animals can impact the welfare of livestock and sympatric wildlife. 

Algorithm: For the community of animals in a problem animal control program area

([Population sympatric animals] x [positive effect on sympatric animal welfare]) -  ([Population target animals] x [negative effect on target animal welfare]) = net welfare change (in welfare /animal)

Because suboptimal control of target species will have an ongoing negative affect on many animals in the landscape, time can be included as a factor, and inactivity is compared with intervention.

(([Population sympatric animals] x [positive effect on sympatric animal welfare]) x years inactivity) – (([Population target animals] x [negative effect on target animal welfare]) x years duration of program = net welfare change (in welfare-years/ animal)


Harvesting, culling, trapping, shooting and biological control programs must have a firm scientific basis and take account of the net welfare of all individual animals affected, whether of the target species or not.

While biological control agents should have minimal effect on the normal behaviour and demeanour of the target animal (unless such effects are part of the control objective) the other vertebrate animals living in the area of the control program should equally have their welfare taken into consideration.

Welfare of all individuals in the affected biological community should be considered when the benefits and risks of a biological or non-biological control agent are evaluated.

Mistakes have been made with biological controls in the past so management programs using biological controls should use scientifically accepted principles.

Other relevant policies and position statements


  1. Yugovic, Jeff. Do ecosystems need top predators?: A review of native predator-prey imbalances in south-east Australia [online]. Victorian Naturalist, The, Vol. 132, No. 1, Feb 2015: 4-11. 
  2. E. Moseby, G.W. Lollback, C.E. Lynch, Too much of a good thing; successful reintroduction leads to overpopulation in a threatened mammal, Biological Conservation, Volume 219,2018, Pages 78-88,
  3. Hampton, J. O., Warburton, B. and Sandøe, P. (2019), Compassionate versus consequentialist conservation. Conservation Biology. doi:1111/cobi.13249
  4. Braysher M and Saunders G (2003a). PESTPLAN: A Guide to Setting Priorities and Developing a Management Plan for Pest Animals. Natural Heritage Trust, Canberra.
  5. Hampton Jordan O., Jones Bidda, Perry Andrew L., Miller Corissa J., Hart Quentin (2016) Integrating animal welfare into wild herbivore management: lessons from the Australian Feral Camel Management Project. The Rangeland Journal 38, 163-171.


To provide guidance about animal welfare and animal ethics assessment of animal control projects, accenting the concept that animal welfare considerations apply equally to target and non-target animals.