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Wild mammals and the human food chain


  • Editor: RM

P. C. L. White. E-mail:


  • 1Wild mammals have a long history of association with the human food chain, with some being the source for domesticated animals and others being considered traditionally as game species. Wild mammals are of negligible importance in terms of overall energy flows in agricultural ecosystems in Britain, but some wild mammals can have detrimental effects on the human food chain through predation, competition and disease transmission.
  • 2Understanding these ecological processes at the level of populations and individuals can assist with devising appropriate management strategies to reduce human–wildlife conflict over limited resources. There remains a dearth of reliable information on the economic impacts of wild mammals on human food production, although the available quantified evidence suggests that the impacts are generally minor and localized, and are far outweighed by the wider public benefits associated with wild mammals.
  • 3Greater public awareness of environmental and animal welfare issues, together with changes to rural communities resulting from human population movements, are changing the social landscape of interactions between people and wild mammals in the British countryside, and leading to an increase in more ambivalent attitudes towards wild mammals than has typically been the case in the past.
  • 4Reform of agricultural policy is placing greater emphasis on the management of the land for biodiversity and environmental protection. While the benefits deriving from many previous agri-environment schemes have been mixed, there is increasing evidence that an emphasis on targeted and coordinated management at the landscape scale can enhance success. This type of approach is essential if some of the major threats facing declining wild mammal populations, such as population fragmentation, are to be overcome.
  • 5There is an increasing divergence between regulation of agricultural ecosystems for food production and disease minimization and regulation of the land for biodiversity production via agri-environment schemes. The resolution of these tensions at the policy level will have major implications for future interactions between wild mammals and the human food chain.