Social licence to cull: examining scepticism toward lethal wildlife removal in cities.

Published online
20 Sep 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Essen, E. von & Redmalm, D.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Sweden & Nordic Countries


enThis link goes to a English sectionsvThis link goes to a English section The public may sometimes resist orders to cull wildlife, even when these pose a biosecurity threat. Managers and researchers desire to know why this is so. Research overwhelmingly focuses on the role of the species in conditioning resistance but our approach also shows the circumstances, settings, people responsible and methods used that undermine the legitimacy of the cull. We bring these together and use a social licence to operate (SLO) framework to demonstrate how support for wildlife culling in the context of biosecurity may be revoked. In the absence of SLO, resistance to wildlife culling can range from personal unease at seeing a cherished species or a neighbourhood fox being culled, to openly confronting the municipal hunter. By interviewing (n = 32) and following (n = 4) municipal hunter in Swedish cities who cull wildlife individuals or populations deemed to pose a threat to public health, safety or other societal interests, we uncover parameters by which culling wildlife are deemed to be problematic: who performs the culling, when the culling is done, how it is done and where it is done. This leads us to the concept of necroaesthetics: taboo ways of taking animal lives. In a unique perspective, we apprehend two forms of resistance: one that hunters attribute to the public and that of hunters' own unease at performing certain culling interventions. While the public and municipal hunters disagree, they also have similar criteria for opposing culls. We conclude by considering the future of the SLO of culling wildlife for biosecurity, including the subjective nature of its Revocation. This goes toward identifying parameters that make culls likely to produce controversy, hence granting some predictive value for managers in their planning. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

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