To me, it seems perfectly natural that if you grew up loving furry animals, you'd want to conserve habitat to help other furry animals grow and thrive. If you love nature and feel motivated to protect it, of course you'd feel an affinity for the creatures who live in it.
So you may imagine my consternation when I started encountering people who were in one camp, and not only disinterested in the other but actually hostile to it.
In graduate school, I was part of a group tasked with figuring out management options for addressing the toll of invasive species on native wildlife in New Zealand. In many island ecosystems, introduced species--commonly rats, cats, and possums--have had a devastating impact on native wildlife, decimating the many native endemic species of ground-nesting birds and others who have no defense against these predators.
This project seemed like a perfect opportunity to me to see what humane options are out there for dealing with nonnative wildlife to protect indigenous species.
I was surprised with the vitriol with which some of my colleagues said we should "just shoot 'em," which seemed not only a cruel way to deal with cats and rats but also an inefficient one. A little bit of digging uncovered some fascinating work being done on Virus-Vectored Immunosterilization for nonnative species--a sort of hands-off TNR program for feral animals--and this ended up being the approach our group advocated.
At the other end of the spectrum are animal advocates who have not taken the trouble to inform themselves of basic tenets of ecosystem science. Nathan Winograd, a prominent No Kill advocate who is addressed in an excellent letter by Edie at Will My Dog Hate Me?, says that simply by virtue of being there first, native wildlife have no precedence over the nonnatives who have taken over.
An ethic that, if brought to its natural conclusion, will leave us humans to enjoy our kudzu-filled and brown tree snake-infested gardens free from the trill of songbirds and the wonder and complexity of native, functioning ecosystems.
While I absolutely embrace the concept of No Kill and am grateful for the growing awareness of its possibility and the simple steps that make it possible, (Check out the great list at In Black & White, for example) I do feel that a proponent of such an important movement needs to be much more thoughtful before venturing into territory where his knowledge is so lacking and his views could be used to justify so much ecological havoc.
Animal rights advocates and conservationists are natural allies, and we should be working harder at nurturing a symbiosis rather than advocating for each other's extinction.