The politics of animal extinction and conservation: Interests, framing, and policy

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Why do conservation policies fail to prevent species extinctions and die-offs in contravention of stated intentions and goals? Bringing together a range of literature, including political ecology, political theory, conservation science, communication theory and environmental communication with original data, this article explores this question, then addresses these failures within Aotearoa New Zealand's context. Using the New Zealand case, it offers a systems-level view of these failures, focusing on the influences and limitations that arise from the political-economic structures, fractured governance, interest group influence, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in representative democracies. Secondly, in these settings, we argue that communication and framing by the interested parties—politicians, government officials, interest groups and NGOs—buttress this system, partly by normalizing it, obscuring scientific realities, shifting focus away from deeper issues, and thus limiting the possibility of substantive solutions in what might be called a colonization of consciousness. Together, this economic-political-communication complex has failed to prevent—and in some ways aided—mass die-offs of native animal species. The article then suggests exploring alternative models, such as deliberative democracy, to this seemingly intractable problem, to strengthen the influence of scientific expertise, better inform decision-makers, advance public understandings of science, and improve democracy by engaging members of the public in decision-making processes. While this study focuses on New Zealand, the issues related to political ecology, the political-economic systems, and the framing of issues, apply to many democratic countries.

Keywords: animals, animal species, biodiversity, conservation, environment, extinction, framing, New Zealand, deliberative democracy

How to Cite: Armoudian, M. & Poulsen, W. (2023) “The politics of animal extinction and conservation: Interests, framing, and policy”, Journal of Political Ecology. 30(1). doi: