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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Wild-But-Not-Too-Wild Animals

Von Essen, Erica; Allen, Michael P.


Rewilding is positioned as ‘post'-conservation through its emphasis on unleashing the autonomy of natural processes. In this paper, we argue that the autonomy of nature rhetoric in rewilding is challenged by human interventions. Instead of joining critique toward the ‘managed wilderness' approach of rewilding, however, we examine the injustices this entails for keystone species. Reintroduction case studies demonstrate how arbitrary standards for wildness are imposed on these animals as they do their assigned duty to rehabilitate ecosystems. These ‘Goldilocks' standards are predicated on aesthetic values that sanction interventions inconsistent with the premise of animal sovereignty. These include culling, relocations and sterilizations of animals that demonstrate the kind of autonomy championed in rewilding rhetoric. Drawing from Donaldson and Kymlicka's framework for political animal categories, we conclude by arguing that rewilding needs to re-position itself in one of two ways. Either it should align itself more closely to mainstream conservation and embrace full animal sovereignty without Goldilocks conditions, or it should commit to taking full responsibility for reintroduced animals, including supplementary feeding and care.

Published in

Between the species
2016, volume: 19, number: 1, article number: 4

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Allen, Michael P.
East Tennessee State University

UKÄ Subject classification

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Sociology (excluding Social work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

URI (permanent link to this page)