Invasion biology and its discontents

Human supremacy, language, and animal treatment

  • Helen Kopnina
  • Simon Coghlan


Invasion biology is increasingly facing criticism for its moral attitude towards and treatment of “invasive alien species.” In this paper, we argue that invasion biology relies upon dubious assumptions of human supremacy. We also argue that the language and official classification of introduced animals is intertwined with their ethically problematic treatment. Our focus is on several factors that help to shape the meaning of terms such as “invasive,” “alien,” “pest” and “feral.” These factors are the differential treatment of “invasives” versus humans and other ecologically damaging animals (especially animals in agriculture); and the stock or normalized treatment and the performative treatment of animals who are demonized as invasive aliens. The resulting language and classifications in turn tend to promote the wrongful treatment of these animals. We propose that such language should be essentially removed from biological and conservation sciences. Indeed, invasion biologists should come together to find a new name for their discipline—or rather, for the discipline “invasion biology” might become when it jettisons its problematic allegiance to human supremacy and embraces a more progressive moral attitude towards nonhuman sentient beings.