CenSAS Animal Assembly 2019: Whose backyard is it anyway?!
On the 28th of November 2019 the second CenSAS Animal Assembly was held. Over 100 participants and facilitators gathered in Royel Burger’s Zoo to speak about animals. This time the dialogue was about animals in nature reserves, in and around homes, and in cities.
Animals are everywhere. There are millions of animals in the Netherlands, and we encounter them throughout the country. Often we see them in places where they are to be expected, such as in the wild or in a zoo. But we also encounter them in unexpected places: wild pigs in a residential area, mice in the garage or a sperm whale on the beach. These instances are often what spark discussion and debate.
Some of these discussions have been going for decades, such as the issue of how to care for injured seals. Other animals raise new concerns, such as the raccoons and wolves that have made their way into the Netherlands. Sometimes it is the choices made by humans, not the animals themselves, that give rise to discussion: the construction of a new residential park in an area with a badger population, for example, or how to deal with moles on a golf course.
We hope that this report serves not only to inform readers about what happened on that evening, but also as inspiration to continually engage in the discussion about our relationship with animals.
During this assembly we saw that it is possible for people from different backgrounds and with a wide range of differing views to engage in productive discussion on (sometimes very delicate) animal issues. Focusing on the future allows us to take a step back, focus on the possibilities and opportunities, and not dwell too much on what is wrong or laying the blame.
Let nature take its course
A very common view among participants was that we should let nature take its course, and not intervene too often. Animals in need should be helped, especially if humans are the ones responsible for their predicament. Humans should give the environment and the animals living in it more space, instead of claiming and managing all of it for ourselves. Wildlife bridges and tunnels are effective ways of helping animals, and if the animals are causing a problem, humane solutions should be sought wherever possible. This approach will ensure a balanced coexistence between humans, animals and the environment. Habitats therefore belong to both humans and animals – we cannot draw a line between separate living spaces.
It should not surprise you that we did not solve all of these problems over the course of one evening. But this report does outline the discussions that took place, how they were run, and that concrete ideas did emerge about alternative and better ways to deal with mice, moles, muskrats, and all of those other beautiful animals.
I hope that this report serves not only to inform readers about what happened on that evening, but also as inspiration to continually engage in the discussion about our relationship with animals.
CenSAS is a collaborative effort between the faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Utrecht University) and Animal Sciences (Wageningen University & Research).