Representing the wild. A study on animal advocacy in policy networks surrounding Dutch human-wildlife conflicts: the cases of geese and muskrats
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Human-wildlife conflict has become a complex policy area due to an increase in the amount and different types of involved actors. In the Netherlands, the two most recent policies dealing with wildlife nuisance did not sufficiently take into account the interest of the involved animals. It is important to better understand the decision-making process surrounding human-wildlife conflict in order to explain the results regarding animal welfare measures in policies on wildlife nuisance. Therefore, in this study the policy networks surrounding the recent goose and muskrat policies were explored by means of policy network analyses. This was done according to the Typology of Network Structures by Adam and Kriesi (2007), by analysing the interaction between pairs and coalitions of actors and the power distribution among actors in the networks. An outline of important events and the perceived power distribution was used to characterise the predominant types of network structures. This qualitative study was based on literature research and semi-structured, audio-recorded and transcribed interviews with 12 respondents from the case of the geese and 19 respondents from the case of the muskrats. The respondents from the policy network surrounding goose nuisance represented nature management organisations, agricultural organisations, animal advocacy groups, a hunting association and the provincial government. Respondents from the case of the muskrats represented the water board governments, the muskrat extermination organisation and an animal advocating political party. The gathered data was used to describe the development of the nuisance problems, the interests of the involved actors, the important events and interaction during the policy-making process and the power distribution among the involved actors. The two cases were compared to each other in order to find differences and similarities with regard to their network characteristics and the final policies’ implementation of animal welfare measures. In both the cases, animal advocacy groups were dissatisfied with the final policy content because lethal removal continued to be the main focus. There was a clear divide between animal advocacy groups and all the other actors in the policy networks regarding respectively their protective and managerial point of view. The policy content can be attributed to a cooperative type of interaction between actors in a decision-making coalition among which animal advocacy groups were a minority. Because of this suboptimal position, animal advocacy groups did not succeed in enforcing un-lethal measures. However, as a result of a compromising interaction between two actors including an animal advocacy group, the geese policy does ensure the protection of hibernating geese. On top of these results it was discovered that within the policy networks the effectiveness and efficiency of un-lethal measures was a big topic of debate. Based on these findings, a recurring pattern in human-wildlife decision-making is proposed.