From Obstructionism to Communication: Local, National and Transnational Dimensions of Contestations on the Swedish Wolf Cull Controversy

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Two obstructionist ways of doing politics on contentious wildlife management issues currently reflect a legitimacy deficit in official channels for public engagement. The first is that of a pernicious “direct-action” politics, in the form of resort by hunters in rural Sweden to illegal killings of protected wolves over whose policy they contest. The second obstruction is when environmental non-governmental organizations routinely file appeals in higher-level courtrooms contesting democratically mandated wolf cull decisions. Although markedly different when it comes to their categorically deliberative values as well as fidelity to the law, we argue both extra-legal and the litigative phenomena reflect disenfranchisement with the participation channels in which such controversies may be resolved through a public dialogue. We also argue that both possess negative systemic deliberative value inasmuch as they frustrate goals of reaching deliberative consensus, by contributing to a stalled public communication on wolf management. We address this deficit by appeal to recent developments in the theory and practice of mini-publics that promote both the categorical and systemic deliberative value of channeling contestation. In particular, we appeal to a novel conception of hunter-initiated, but citizen controlled, mini-publics as a vehicle for re-starting stalled public communication on wolf conservation.