Common stories of reintroduction: a discourse analysis of documents supporting animal reintroductions to Scotland

Koen Arts, Anke Fischer, Rene van der Wal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Political decisions on environmental issues are increasingly required to be 'knowledge based', which has led to a wealth of (scientific) expert documents that aim to inform decision-making. However, the roles of rhetoric and argumentation in those documents have received relatively little scientific attention. We studied 111 expert documents in support of reintroductions to Scotland and identified the elements that constituted the discourses of white-tailed eagle, beaver and lynx. Similar building blocks (so-called storylines) were found in all three debates. The pro-reintroduction discourse as a whole bore resemblance with other contemporary environmental management discourses: In what could be termed 'win-win logic', positive storylines were combined to point at the necessity of a management intervention, in our case a reintroduction. Yet, additional mechanisms were also at work which suggests that downplaying negatives can be as important as dwelling on positives. Crucially, we found that the Scottish pro-reintroduction discourse might have become increasingly 'reflexive' in terms of its rhetoric and argumentation. The latter development may have major implications for political decision-making. A more critical use of rhetoric and argumentation in expert documentation is needed to achieve environmental political decision-making that is open to any possible outcome of deliberation (including non-reintroduction). (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)911-920
Number of pages10
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • environment
  • lynx
  • beaver
  • white-tailed eagle
  • storyline
  • reflexive


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