The Ethics and Welfare Implications of Keeping Western European Hedgehogs (erinaceus Europaeus) in Captivity
Patient outcomes for hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) casualties are not limited to release versus euthanasia; some hedgehogs have conditions that do not preclude their ability to survive in captivity with human intervention. This research explored the welfare implications and ethical issues of keeping disabled hedgehogs in permanent captivity. Currently, there is very little in the literature and the subject is highly emotive and controversial. A questionnaire was used to assess welfare and these data contrasted with the normal behaviors, environment, and diet of free-living hedgehogs. The most convincing argument for keeping wild animals in captivity is species conservation; however, hedgehogs are not currently listed as endangered. Sixty-six datasets were obtained, representing 194 hedgehogs kept in permanent captivity. Results were mixed, i.e., many respondents providing suitable habitat features (for example, grass and soil 83.3% of respondents, shrubs and/or hedges 69.7% of respondents) observing “positive” behaviors such as foraging for natural foods (69.7% of respondents), and observing appropriate behavioral responses to humans; and some areas for concern, i.e., habitat size (22.7% of respondents reported habitats <10m2), presence of badgers (only 48.5% of respondents reported no badgers in the area), evidence of aggressive behavior (22.7% of respondents had observed non-food-related aggression between hedgehogs) and seven hedgehogs having sustained bite wounds whilst in captivity. The authors are cautious about drawing any definitive conclusions from this research, though it would appear that some of the hedgehogs in the survey had welfare comparable to their free-living counterparts.