Conservation and animal welfare are similar causes with many overlaps. However, there are occasions when the two concepts conflict. Conservation is focused on the survival of species in the wild, while animal welfare is concerned with the well-being of individual animals.
One example of this conflict relates to the attitude toward zoos. Modern zoos focus on conservation, especially of species which are endangered in the wild. In addition, they reconnect urban people with nature and wildlife. For these reasons, conservationists strongly support zoos and the work they do. On the other hand, life in captivity is not considered to be in the welfare of individual animals. Because of this, many animal welfare organizations disapprove of zoos, whose main goal (as they see it) is to entertain people.
Another example of this conflict is when conservationists support killing animals in order to protect another species. For instance, killing feral cats to protect declining song birds. While this may be a good thing for the environment as a whole, it is clearly not a good thing for the feral cats.
The conflict between these two causes often causes political battles, with each cause trying to prevent the other from accomplishing its goals. Support for conservation is easier to garner than support for animal welfare. Conservation is important to humans, since it serves them, but issues concerning the welfare of animals alone are low-down on people’s priorities.
The way to solve this conflict is through cooperation of animal welfare organizations with conservationists. Both causes could work together to find a balance in each case between the needs of the individual animal and the needs of the species as a whole. After all, both conservation and animal welfare are motivated by the same principle: respect for all living things.