Land clearing has a devastating effect on animals, leading to habitat destruction, increased predation, food scarcity and even extinction. The physical process of clearing the land can cause direct death for animals that cannot flee in time, while those that survive are left with no natural habitat to return to. Animals suffer physical injuries and psychological distress as they try to survive in unfamiliar environments. Deforestation also affects the forest ecosystem, reducing evapoperspiration processes and leading to warmer conditions.
Reforms are necessary to ensure that decision makers take into account the welfare of wild animals when evaluating development proposals and requests for dismantling. Tropical rainforests are home to almost 50 percent of all plant and animal species, yet they cover only 2 percent of the Earth's surface. People cut down up to 15 billion trees every year to clear land for food production, urban development and other uses. This leads to less land and food available, resulting in increased competition for resources among animals that are forced to leave their natural habitats. The water table can rise and bring salt to the surface, causing salinization and destroying the habitat of species.
Agricultural activities, such as farmland, palm oil plantations, subsistence agriculture and livestock grazing, also contribute to deforestation. At a minimum, those requesting to clear native vegetation should be required to provide an estimate of the number and type of native animals that will die during the proposed clearing. The basic objective of any reform must be to ensure that the damage that land clearing causes to individual wild animals is duly taken into account in all forms of environmental decision-making and that such assessments are based on clear and objective criteria for animal welfare.