The value of argument analysis for understanding ethical considerations pertaining to trophy hunting and lion conservation

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Wild lions are threatened by loss of habitat and prey and various forms of human-caused mortality. Despite examples of locally effective lion conservation, many populations have declined drastically over recent decades, and prospects for averting those threats over the long-term and at large spatial scales are not especially bright. Yet, many maintain hope for the future of lions. Some believe trophy hunting of lions is an appropriate measure for conserving lions because it can incentivize maintenance of lands in a condition suitable for lions and other wildlife. Others disagree. We analyze the issue with formal argument analysis, an important tool in applied ethics. The analysis indicates that in some regions of Africa trophy hunting of lions would be inappropriate insomuch as at least one empirical premise – necessary for supporting the conclusion that trophy hunting of lions should be tolerated – does not hold. The analysis also draws on principles of utilitarianism and deontology. The value of this analysis does not emerge from expecting it to resolve the issue – that would be an inappropriate standard by which to judge even a purely scientific paper. Rather the value of argument analysis lies in clarifying premises and logic upon which an ethical view rests. While the authors are not uniform in their intuitions about one of the argument's ethical premises, we all agree the considerations offered here about that premise are essential for better understanding the issue. Reactions to this analysis – be they endorsements or criticisms – are vital for identifying critical points of disagreement more precisely than otherwise possible.

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Copyright 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.04.012

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Biological Conservation