License to Cull: Rural and urban geographies of wild animal culling

Last changed: 30 March 2023

Maintaining the public good of biosecurity means disposing of alien, invasive, feral, pest and public hazard animals. These out-of-place animals are culled as part of UN and EU goals to protect biodiversity, agricultural assemblages and maintain public health in sustainable cities, but the practices and principles that comprise their culling in everyday work are often shrouded in obscurity.

In the present study, we unpack the values and calculations (necropolitics) on which pest controllers and hunters rely when they cull undesirable animals in urban and rural geographies respectively.

We ask: what values, norms and knowledges guide pest controllers and hunters engaged in culling? We examine how pest controllers’ and hunters’ shared norms and categorizations, urban and rural geographies and animal agency impact the animal’s relative ‘killability’. This will also enable an analysis of how and to what extent the practice of culling corresponds with policies regarding city planning, biodiversity and animal welfare.

The study involves ethnographic engagement and in-depth interviews with two communities that come to be seen as ‘the garbage collectors of society’, containing zoonoses, animal attacks, damage to agricultural assemblages and protecting native biota. Mapping culling norms among pest controllers and hunters is an important contribution to both the ethics and politics of killing: for whom, when, and for what good this is justifiable in society.


Project leader

Erica von Essen, Researcher, Division of Environmental Communication, SLU

Project participants

Wiebren Boonstra, Researcher, Department of Earth Sciences, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, Uppsala University
Read more on Wiebren Boonstra's presentation page

Karin Dirke, Associate Professor, Department of Culture and Aesthetics, Stockholm University
Read more on Karin Dirke's presentation page

Åsa Fahlman, Researcher, Swedish Biodiversity Center, SLU
Read more on Åsa Fahlman's CV page

Tora Holmberg, Professor, Department of Sociology, Uppsala University
Read more on Tora Holmberg's presentation page

David Redmalm, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Mälardalen University

Helena Röcklinsberg, Senior Lecturer, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Section of Ethology and Animal Welfare, SLU
Read more on Helena Röcklinsberg's CV page

Project time


External funding

Formas Dnr 2019-01168