Ironically, I was sitting in a lecture hall filled with ecologists and animal welfare scientists discussing the ethics of killing for conservation when I first heard of Cecil the lion.
The public outcry over this cruel and senseless killing highlights the pertinence of the growing movement for Compassionate Conservation and the eponymous conference I was attending.
Over the course of three days I heard speakers from Australia, Canada, America, New Zealand, Israel and India discuss the growing opposition to exploitation and persecution of wildlife in the name of conservation. Around the world, people are increasingly rejecting the traditional view of 'wildlife management' that sees nature as a 'resource' to be used and abused for the benefit of human interests.
Conservationists on every continent are now questioning the ethics and impact of routinely killing predators and non-native species and beginning to encourage coexistence with wild animals, including those living close to human habitations.
Much of this paradigm shift is born out of the realisation that blind faith in killing predators and non-native species as a means of protecting livestock and threatened species is not justified. Centuries of killing dingoes in Australia, coyotes and wolves in North America, and foxes in the UK has not resolved conflicts with these species.
In fact, evidence now shows that this killing is often counterproductive. It is much better for livestock farmers to have stable populations of canid species that are used to preying on wild animals, rather than a high turnover of naïve individuals who are more likely to go for easy livestock prey. This awareness has led to a growing network of predator-friendly farmers that currently spans America, Australia and Africa. The network links farmers who are committed to non-lethal management of predators and offers a predator-friendly certification with global recognition.
Of course education and advocacy has played a crucial role in this sea change, with organisations such as Australia's Dingo for Biodoversity Project, Predator Defense and Project Coyote in the US and Coyote Watch Canada using science to dispel myths about these species and help people learn to coexist with them.
At the League Against Cruel Sports we have begun similar work here with our Foxycology campaign and will continue to build on this.
As the largest carnivore left in Britain, foxes play an essential role in regulating ecosystems and controlling rodent populations in urban environments. As the wave of tolerance and coexistence sweeps the globe, we will work to ensure foxes get the respect they deserve and look forward to a day when the cruel and needless killing of a fox sparks as much public outrage as the killing of Cecil.
Wildlife management is dead. Long live compassionate conservation!