The idea that you cannot kill any animal is "fatally flawed" as a conservation concept, scientists argue.

Conservation measures should concentrate on species or habitats rather than individual animals, they observe.

Invasive species, they argue, often require mass culling of an animal in order to protect an endangered species.

Under so called "compassionate conservation", such an approach would not be allowed.

"The argument is that conservation and sustainability needs a variety of approaches. You need to be pluralistic about both the cultural and scientific approaches," explained study co-author Prof Kartik Shanker from the Indian Institute of Science.

"There is universal agreement that animal welfare is important by which we mean that we should aim to reduce cruelty to animals and this applies to both wild biodiversity and domestic animals.

"I think the problem arises when compassionate conservation states that you should not kill animals for any reason whatsoever,"

Prof Shanker and his team of co-authors referred to a paper published last year that outlined a framework for compassionate conservation.The team challenged the "no kill" philosophy of this paper.

They wrote: "Our view is that compassionate conservation… is seriously flawed. Compassion need not preclude humanely killing an animal if that reduces the animal's suffering, enhances the survival of the species or its habitat, or safeguards human life or other more threatened species."

The compassionate conservation approach is widely viewed as having its base in privileged, western, and largely urban centres.

"It is clear that there are numerous incidences where taking a compassionate conservation approach clearly does not look at the larger goals of biodiversity conservation," Prof Shanker argued.

He said that imposing a different world view on a local community often failed to respect the people's values and culture.

"Therefore, imposing such a view, would make it very hard to convince that community of the value of changing their way of doing things in order to protect a species or habitat."

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