Emotions and the Ethics of Consequence in Conservation Decisions: Lessons from Cecil the Lion

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© 2016 The Authors. Conservation Letters published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Though the conservation community has long premised its moral foundations on consequentialist thinking and has embraced a dualistic worldview severing reason from emotion, the conservation community has erred by failing to address—or even acknowledge—the limitations of these fundamental tenets. This failure reemerged in 2015 when a wealthy hunter killed an African Lion named Cecil for a trophy, in turn, prompting a debate within the conservation community about the appropriateness of killing Cecil. A number of conservationists: (1) defended such instances of trophy hunting on the basis that money generated by trophy hunting can support conservation and (2) ridiculed as irrational those who oppose such instances of killing in the name of conservation. We suggest this response by the conservation community represents common, but problematic, ethical reasoning. We offer a critique of both the ethical underpinning of such reasoning and the assumptions about the relationship between reason and emotion. We urge ethical and social psychological maturation on behalf of the conservation community.

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Conservation Letters