The illegal wildlife trade is a global conservation priority, and conservationists are increasingly interested in ways to persuade people to stop buying wildlife products like rhino horn or elephant ivory. When trying to change someone’s behaviour, it is a good idea to appeal to the values that they hold. However, many campaigns that are meant to reduce demand for wildlife products are designed to promote values common in Western morality. This is could be a problem as lots of consumers of wildlife products live in East Asia, where Confucianism and Daoism has had a major impact on societies. This paper examines some of the central concepts of classical Chinese philosophy to help conservationists design more effective behaviour change campaigns.
There is a long history of consuming wildlife in East Asia, where animals are often viewed as resources rather than sentient individuals. However, there are still important values and beliefs that could be featured in demand reduction campaigns. A core tenet in Chinese philosophy is the belief that nature is unified and interconnected. Qi is the vital force of the universe that links all life-forms, including non-human ones, creating the basis for a profound reciprocity between humans and the natural world. We also consider some of the key virtues in Chinese philosophy, and how they could be promoted to help reduce demand for illegal wildlife products. This includes li, ritual propriety, and ren, the inner moral force which keeps us in balance. We use examples from existing campaigns to see how they can be used in practice. Finally, we cover important writings, identifying many historical verses that are relevant to modern conservationists.