Killing charismatic animals
For some, the taking of any life is the antithesis of conservation. When a rhino was auctioned off for a planned hunt, a furore erupted even though the auction raised $350,000 for conservation (Howard 2014). In February, many were incensed at reports of the killing of a young giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo (and subsequent feeding of the body to resident lions), explained by the zoo as necessary to prevent inbreeding in captive populations (Eriksen 2014).
Morality of killing for conservation
But there’s no similar outrage for competitions that incentivize the hunting of lionfish. From this response (or lack of it), it would appear to not be ethically questionable to kill an invasive species, and particularly to control an animal problem in which humans had a hand initially. (Genetic analysis has traced the origin of the lionfish invasion to accidental or intentional release of a dozen or fewer individuals on the Florida coast.) So is killing of any animals morally reprehensible, as some would have it, or is the higher purpose of trying to right a wrong taking the moral high road?
Hoag, H (2014) An affordable price tag for saving Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest. Nature 513, 294–295 (15 September 2014) doi:10.1038/513294a
Howard, B C (2014) Rhino Hunt Auction Stirs More Controversy. National Geographic News, January 13, 2014
Eriksen, L (2014) Copenhagen zoo sparks outrage by killing healthy giraffe named Marius. Guardian, February 9, 2014