Irus Braverman Follow. Typically, the legal investigation of nonhuman life, and of animal life in particular, is conducted through the discourse of animal rights. Within this discourse, legal rights are extended to certain nonhuman animals through the same liberal framework that has afforded human rights before it.
Animals, Biopolitics, Law envisions the possibility of lively legalities that move beyond the humanist perspective. The case was brought to court in The legal argument came to focus on questions of property, ownership, and responsibility. The cattle and horses at OVP are not tagged and thus individuated and have not been handled for more than twenty years.
Occasionally injured or especially troublesome animals have been shot but there is no infrastructure or experience at the reserve for catching or tranquilizing animals. Once livestock, these were now wild or at least feral animals. Property rights had been formally relinquished, the animals de-commodified and responsibility derogated. This is a rare perhaps even unique event in the history of human-cattle and human-horse legalities.
Cattle and horses have been abandoned or deliberately introduced to support colonial settlement or future expeditions Ritvo Outside the courtroom, this result quickly turned into a public relations disaster. Emaciated charismatic animals starving to death behind high fences in the suburbs are not easily tolerated—however wild they may be. The government had to find a compromise: it assembled an international commission of scientists and ethicists to arrive at an acceptable solution.
The report attributed the problem of overpopulation to the absence of predators and a reserve warden was ordered to proactively cull those cattle and horses adjudged to be unable to survive the winter. Between 30 and 60 percent of the population has been killed in this way every year.
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To judge cattle welfare, the OVP authorities refined their own experience of watching herbivores through an engagement with the embodied expertise, behavioral criteria, and associated legislation developed to assess dairy and beef cattle. Recognized systems exist for scoring the condition of domestic cattle Grandin , though as these often require proximity, touch, and individual familiarity with cattle bodies they were not altogether operational at the OVP.
The small size of the reserve makes it unsuitable for the reintroduction of wolves. Such legislation would also likely rule out the de-domestication or retraining of dogs as wolf surrogates to create the ecology of fear so valued at Yellowstone see above.
This option has not been considered, not least because hunting with dogs is illegal in many parts of Europe. No one seems sure what should be done if a wolf found its way to the OVP independently, which is looking increasingly possible as the wolf makes its return to Western Europe Seddon et al. It would be illegal for members of the public to either feed or hunt these animals—unlike, for example, cattle on proximal farmland or the deer in the neighbouring Veluwe forest.
The heat of political controversy forced a blending and morphing of practices, criteria, and legislation. Drawing together norms associated with the farm and the hunting reserve has enabled the emergence of a novel mode of biopolitics. A group of ethicists and applied philosophers who have been advising the Dutch government have argued that the eye of the wolf, population management model respects the welfare of individual animals, but understands them as parts of both wider social groups and a dynamic, more functional ecology Klaver et al.
This model thus expands on the atomized figure of animal personhood at the center of proposals for feeding and veterinary care that were made by some opponents of the OVP experiment. At the same time it also mitigates the aggregate level of suffering associated with high levels of geriatric animal life and death associated with a resource rich ecology lacking its apex predators.
It also shows wildness as a multiple, related to the specific ethological and ecological properties of specific nonhuman constituents—in this case, cattle and horses.
It seeks to replace relations of domination with those of trust, trust that animals and their ecologies will flourish with a relinquishing of human control Klaver et al. The status quo at the OVP is still far from ideal as a result of the limited size of the reserve.
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Rewilding and Biodiversity Conservation In addition to these debates about animal welfare, political and legal tensions also emerged at the intersections between the process-oriented understanding of ecology that is at the heart of the OVP rewilding experiment and the powerful legislative framework that enacts biodiversity conservation around species composition. This legislation is embodied in the European Species and Habitats Directives, a pan-European legislation that designates a network of protected areas, commonly referred to as Natura Natura identifies a list of rare and threatened species and habitats whose populations and acreages are to be secured.
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They are the best known and most watched of all European taxa and their conservation is the best resourced Lorimer By contrast, rewilders at OVP and elsewhere are generally less interested in species as such i. They also argue that naturalistic grazing can be significantly cheaper than subsidising forms of low-intensity agriculture—a practice which currently constitutes a significant part of the EU Common Agricultural Policy Merckx and Pereira Rewilders accept that species provide intuitive, accessible, and charismatic means for monitoring ecological dynamics and promoting causes, but argue that they figure secondary to ecological change.
Local extinction matters less than systemic dysfunction. Here form is secondary to process. Technically, this placed an obligation on the site managers to count the populations of rare birds and manage in their specific interests. In , local birdwatchers, unconnected to and often antipathetic towards the management of the OVP, began to notice significant declines in the populations of spoonbills on the reserve. Spoonbills are a priority species under the Birds Directive; their population in the OVP crashed from three hundred to zero.
Attention was raised through the media and accusations were made that the decline was due to the lack of responsible predator management Bosman The build-up of dead animal bodies on the reserve was believed to be encouraging the growth in the population of foxes that would eat the eggs and young of ground nesting birds—like spoonbills. Local bird enthusiasts noted that Staatsbosbeheer were not monitoring their bird populations and were not explicitly managing in their interests. With this disclosure and in the face of pressure from the influential bird lobby, Staatsbosbeheer was forced to act.
This time, the case never came before the courts. Instead, the international commission charged with resolving the animal welfare controversy was also asked to look into the conservation situation. The senior scientist in charge of the reserve was charged with drafting a management plan to try and bring the OVP into line with prevalent practice. The resulting document Staatsbosbeheer makes for an awkward reading, offering a masterpiece of bureaucratic and ecological linguistics to shuttle between legal commitments to species and the rewilding commitment to processes.
The management plan emphasizes both stability and change and seeks to articulate the complicated pragmatics of monitoring an uncertain, nonlinear system. The broad challenge this document faces is to justify the type of open-ended forms of science and management that have come to characterize rewilding in terms that can detect and anticipate trends that might undermine its future functioning, assessed over a variety of different geographies and temporalities.
For example, desired population totals for protected species, like the spoonbill, are specified within ranges to allow for temporal and spatial variations. The OVP conservation controversy subsided when it was discovered that the spoonbills had moved out from the reserve and returned in future years. Chapter 2 of Irus Braverman ed Animals, Biopolitics, Law: Lively Legalities Routledge, London dispute forced rewilders to refine, specify, and better secure their policy. These negotiations also shed important light on the mode of biopolitics that rewilding has sought to enact.
This dispute illustrates how Dutch rewilding orients and specifies a commitment to the flourishing of nonhuman difference in relation to entrenched political commitments to species and habitats. In so doing, it avoids the extreme forms of biocentrism of which Wolfe is critical, by attending to the ecological and less successfully, the political specificities necessary to secure particular valued functions and relations. The biopolitical implications of a species ontology are not central to his analysis, although they have been discussed elsewhere Braverman ; Biermann and Mansfield Instead, species figure as populations—here incarnated as both sentient life forms and ecological agents.
In mobilizing species, the rewilders at the OVP seek to modify an ascendant preoccupation in conservation with the diversity and quantity of system forms to create space for systemic properties—like resilience, abundance, and connectivity. This involves acknowledging the cultural, ethical, and ecological significance of the species and habitat forms through which such properties are delivered. Rewilding and Biosecurity Death is more central to the third and final set of tensions in this story, which relates to the biosecurity implications of rewilding.
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The first relates to the risks posed to human life and property by the bodily presence of predators wolves , large and sometimes aggressive herbivores cattle, bison, horses , and organisms capable of significant landscape modification like beaver and boar. The second biosecurity concern relates to the potential of these animals and their carcasses to act as reservoirs, hosts and vectors for zoonotic and other animal diseases with the potential to jeopardize human life, or more commonly the hygiene and security of agricultural systems. Anxieties about wolf predation continue to trouble efforts to reintroduce and conserve the species in North America and Europe Nilsen et al.
Although the actual risks are often overplayed, animals like wolves provide the most visceral illustration of the human immunitary impulse to protect bodies, kin, and property. The return of predators exemplifies some of deficiencies that Wolfe identifies with forms of biocentric ethics, which fail to offer grounds for securing the human and thus extending hospitality to nonhuman others.
But this immunity impulse is not unwavering. There are ongoing efforts to develop modes of co-existence or even conviviality with wolves that begin to acknowledge their claims to space and resources—though not to human flesh. For example, schemes exist to compensate pastoralists affected by wolf predation, and to train dogs to guard flocks and tourists in European alpine regions Haraway , Additionally, there has been substantial investment in wider education, marketing, and development programs.
In biopolitical terms, we might understand the re-evaluation of the wolf as a recognition of the pathogenic or auto-immune risks of the anthropocentric and antibiotic immunity impulse of modern thought, which seeks the eradication of risky nonhuman difference. Concerns with being eaten are less prominent with naturalistic grazing and have not featured in debates over the management of the OVP. The herbivores are constrained within the reserve and tend to avoid people.
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Instead, tensions relate more to the second set of biosecurity regulations governing the risks that the large herbivores might pose as disease carriers, as a result of their differential immunity in comparison to more domesticated neighbouring kin. Although the animals themselves are relatively immobile, they are frequently exposed to human and other animal disease vectors that link the reserve to other populations; birds, tourists, water and wind connect the site to its wider environment.
In the wake of a series of animal health crisis e. For example, all cattle in the European Union must be individuated by attaching two distinctive, numbered yellow ear tags. Agricultural animals are frequently vaccinated against disease and may receive antibiotics. Regulations also prohibit leaving cattle and horse carcasses to decay in the field and stipulate that bodies should be disposed of through sanitary mechanisms.
Many of these regulations contravene the desired mode of rewilding at the OVP. For example, tagging, monitoring, and inoculating cattle are expensive practices that require cattle that are amenable to human contact. Second, rewilders argue that dead animal bodies are an important functional input to their desired ecology.
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