What is possible to ensure that existing control methods are more humane?

A paradigm that seeks to encourage best practice use of vertebrate pest control techniques must also actively promote their continuous improvement. This acknowledges that the community has diverse expectations of vertebrate pest control that may change with time and context; as will the general public acceptability of different techniques. There are many possibilities for improving the humaneness of existing techniques that also enhance their efficacy. In this paper I briefly give four examples of research that have led to tangible outcomes towards this end. (1) Fluoroacetic acid (1080) is an important lethal compound used for wild dog (Canis familiaris) and fox (Vulpes vulpes) control. The welfare implications of its use in carnivores remain controversial and difficult to determine given its mode of action. The formulation of analgesic and anti-anxiety agents with 1080 is a viable approach for managing the ‘possibility’ that pain and distress is perceived. Studies have revealed two drug agents that do not compromise the efficacy of this toxicant. Baiting with a 1080/analgesic combination is currently being implemented at two Victorian field sites. (2) Chloropicrin is a rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) warren fumigant that causes intense irritation and distress to rabbits prior to death and is commonly regarded as an inhumane agent. Experimentation has shown that carbon monoxide (CO) fumigation is both humane and probably a much more effective alternative than other fumigants. Extensive research has produced a prototype CO fumigator that produces adequate quantities of CO in a cost-effective manner. (3) The humaneness of leg-hold traps has received much attention from animal welfare and anti-trapping lobby groups. Some modern traps produce much less physical trauma, but do not prevent damage caused by struggling and anxiety associated with prolonged capture. The Tranquilliser Trap Device (TTD) is used in the United States to dose trapped dogs with sedative and anti-anxiety drugs. The TTD appears to be a viable means to dose trapped dingoes and dingo hybrids upon capture with drug agents or rapid acting and humane toxicants. Use of the TTD has the potential to significantly increase the humaneness of trapping. (4) In south-eastern Australia some 35 native mammals have the potential to be exposed to chemical agents used in surface placed meat-based predator baits. Whilst exposure to bait agents does not always imply negative welfare impacts, increasing the target-specificity of control ensures that any known or possible impacts are minimised. By exploiting different methods that promote selective uptake by exotic predators, off-target impacts can be greatly minimised. The use of mechanical ejectors for fox control and selective presentations of toxicants for feral cat baiting are discussed. There is sometimes little economic incentive for private industry to invest in the commercialisation of vertebrate pest control techniques. If better welfare outcomes are not seen to add value to current practices, there is little motivation for their adoption. In order to ensure that these and other improved vertebrate pest control techniques are adopted in the field, an implementation strategy that addresses this potential barrier should be considered.

Author Marks, C.A.
Year 2003
Secondary title 2003 RSPCA Australia Scientific Seminar
Place published Conference Location
Publisher Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ani
Pages 85-94
Notes Notes
Region Australia - national