Crimes Against Animal Life Research Paper

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This research paper addresses the trade and trafficking in animals and discusses this multivariate crime through the lens of animal abuse and speciesism, as these phenomena are discussed within green, eco-global criminology. The “wildlife” trade is one of the fastest increasing illegal transnational trades and a threat to a great number of species, as animals are used, for example, in Asian traditional medicine, as “pets” or as part of collections, for meat, for trophies, or for their fur. The trafficking causes tremendous suffering to the individuals which are abducted from their habitats to be trafficked, and great numbers die before they reach their destination. Offenders are both local villagers and large organized groups which either concentrate on this crime alone or combine it with other organized crime, for example, the drug trade. The “wildlife” trade is controlled by means of the CITES convention, which sees “wildlife” as natural resources, the trade in which must be regulated in order to preserve species from extinction. Through this convention, animals are not accorded rights, only value as “specimen” representing a species. This research paper concludes by encouraging criminological research which includes a non-speciesist perspective, taking into consideration the harms of the animal trade, whether legal or illegal.

Key Issues

As the field of “green” (Lynch 1990; South 1998) or “eco-global” (White 2008, 2011) criminology has developed and expanded since the 1990s, so has the number of articles and publications related to so-called “wildlife” crime, both criminological, from other academic fields and from NGOs (e.g., Zimmerman 2003; Warchol et al. 2003; Lemieux and Clarke 2009; Westerhuis in press; Pires and Clarke 2011a, b; Traffic 2008; IWAF 2008; Gonzales 2003; Wyatt 2009, 2011; Sollund 2011; Wellsmith 2011). A reason is the growth of the trade, placing it variably as the second or third largest illegal trade worldwide, competing with the illegal drugs and arms trades and with human trafficking. As with other harm encompassed by green criminology, this phenomenon is far from one dimensional. It is local, regional, and transnational, organized or part of individual and culturally rooted exploitation, reflecting its broad spectrum of actors, their varied motivations, the causes of the trade and also its impact, for example, the massive suffering of the victims and species loss. This research paper will discuss some typical findings in the literature describing the field and see them through the lens of animal abuse and speciesism.

First, some linguistic clarifications are required. The term “wildlife” is anthropocentric and antagonistic and implies that those animals who are not living under human control and domestication in fundamental ways are different from and dangerous to humans and that (often) they must be controlled for human protection. It also implies the “othering” of these animal(s) and species as “nature” in contrast to human “culture.”

Generally, the word “poaching” is used to describe the act of illegally killing or abducting animals from their habitats. This implies that other animals are regarded as the property of humans, regardless of the negative impact this has on the well-being of each individual victim, such as pain and death. To be closer to the true character of killing and removing animals in and from their habitats, the terms theriocide (Beirne 1999, 2009) and abduction (Sollund 2011) are preferred. This emphasizes that nonhuman animals have equal interests to humans in living a full life free from pain and abuse in their natural, local domain (Singer 1975; Regan 1983). The word “animal” is a rejection of the fact that humans are also animals. Authors have solved this difficulty in different ways, for example, by applying the terms “nonhuman animals” and “animals other than humans.” These concepts can still be criticized for giving humans priority over other species, as humans are the yardstick other species are measured against, and thereby categorizing other animals as the same, despite the obvious interspecies differences. In the absence of better alternatives and for consistency of style, the term “animal,” when referring to animals who are not human, will still be applied.

Animal trafficking is a splendid case to illustrate why a broader perspective than that represented by traditional, mainstream criminology is necessary in addressing the transnational crime of animal trafficking. Green or eco-global criminology represents a perspective encompassing a variety of counter-hegemonic approaches that are concerned not only with the health of the environment but also with the animals living in environments, acknowledging their inherent value and that animals and the environment are mutually interdependent (Beirne 2011: 353).

The introduction of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 1973 (in force from 1975) established a divide in the perception of the animal trade and trafficking. It introduced a move from the legally free exploitation of “wild” nonhuman species to a requirement for regulation, recognizing the need to preserve species from extinction due to overexploitation from hunting and “poaching” (Hutton and Dickson 2000; Reeve 2002). Previously, the wildlife trade phenomenon, much as other “green crimes,” for example, those related to pollution, waste, and land degradation (Beirne and South 2007; White 2008, 2011), was neglected by criminologists, probably because the “wildlife” trade like much other harm was not a crime and the trade and trafficking in animals has a long history in which animals have been regarded as resources that can rightfully be exploited – “harvested” like a crop – by humans and used for a wide variety of purposes, for example, refined as cultural apparel, in traditional medicine, for adornment, clothing, and food.

What determines whether trade and trafficking of a nonhuman individual is legal or criminalized is the degree of protection attributed to its species and the growing scarcity of individuals belonging to a species, defined by which of the three CITES appendices the species is listed in, if any (see below). The CITES convention seeks not to protect individuals from suffering, only as representatives of a species.

Trafficking in “wildlife” is partly a consequence of speciesism and entails massive animal abuse, death, and species extinction. The three phenomena – “wildlife” trade, animal abuse, and speciesism – are thus interrelated and inseparable, as animals cannot be traded without abuse and pain, and pain and abuse would not be inflicted upon them were it not for the ideological basis of speciesism permitting and legitimating it. Some space will therefore be dedicated to elaborate upon the phenomena of animal abuse and speciesism and how these are understood in a green criminology framework.

Background Description: Animal Abuse, Speciesism, And Animal Trafficking

Beirne (1999) should be credited with seriously introducing the topic of animal abuse to criminology in an article published in 1999. He argued that criminology had been speciesist and anthropocentric and that animal abuse should be included as a legitimate field of criminological research because animal abuse entails pain and suffering, a violation of rights, and is one of several forms of oppression, like sexism and racism (Beirne 1999: 140). Beirne’s call for a nonspeciesist criminology is by no means fully responded to in mainstream criminology, but with “green criminology” (Beirne and South 2007; South and Beirne 2006) or “eco-global criminology” (White 2008, 2011) and the introduction of terms such as “speciesism,” “ecological justice,” and “species justice,” it appears to be a move toward a criminology that researches animal abuse, not because it may be a symptom of interhuman violence but because animals increasingly are regarded as victims when abused (Beirne 2008).

This includes more than philosophical and ideological arguments for why animals should have rights (not to be abused) and proceeds to include empirical studies where animal abuse is studied in its own right.

Beirne builds on Robert Agnew’s (1998) definition of animal abuse as any act that contributes to the pain, suffering, or death of an animal or that otherwise threatens its welfare. Animal abuse may be physical, psychological, or emotional; may involve active maltreatment or passive neglect or omission; and may be direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional. (1999:121)

With this broad understanding, there is hardly any area of society where animals can be found that would be exempt from research, yet to narrow it down, one could start by limiting the studies to human-inflicted pain. Undoubtedly many animals suffer as prey, and, for example, a mouse being victim of a cat’s playful torture will likely suffer both physically and psychologically. The suffering caused by “cruelty play” by one animal against another is beyond the scope of this research paper, though interesting and meriting attention. Nonhuman animals and humans share an interest in killing for food. However, in the case of the 30 % of nonhuman animals that are carnivores, this is because of a need, while humans may hunt and kill for a number of other reasons, for example, for “sport” and status. It is highly debated whether humans need meat and rejected by many; nor do humans need to fight to position themselves as leaders of a pack or flock. Therefore, animal-inflicted suffering and death and human-inflicted suffering and death are differently motivated and not comparable. This discussion is therefore pursued no further here.

Most of the harm inflicted on animals is legal, yet as equally harmful and fatal as the very few criminalized acts directed against animals. Areas of animal abuse that should be prioritized in research are those where animals are abused by humans through a deliberate act that the human should understand would entail discomfort, suffering, or pain for the animal, or through omission, regardless of the motivations that could be sought, excused, or neutralized by appeal to higher loyalties, for example, in the case of vivisection. One could/should, for example, research all kinds of systemic animal abuse, as in the meat industry, research laboratories, the fur industry, as well as unsystemic, domestic animal abuse. The aim would be to start to look beyond human-centered understandings and interpretations of pain, in which only pain attributed to animals that does not counter human interests is defined as abuse by animal welfare legislation.

Thus green eco-global criminology entails an expansion of the traditional foci of criminology, from breaches of the law (whether from a control, offender, or victim perspective) to include harm as a central category (Beirne and South 2007; White 2008, 2011). In this, the analysis of abuse must be broadened to include not only those animals who are ascribed a social status as companions to humans (and consequently whose status is thus “elevated” to imply that they may also be ascribed victim status) but all sentient beings, regardless of their actual or potential, direct, or indirect value for humans. In such a perspective, the topic mainly addressed in this research paper – the legal and illegal abduction, trade, trafficking and theriocide of animals (theriocide is a term introduced by Piers Beirne, as a parallel to homicide, referring to the acts in which nonhuman animals are killed by humans) (Beirne 2009: 17), not only that which is criminalized, finds its place.

It is estimated that nine and a half billion animals are killed annually in the USA alone, of which nine billion are killed for food, while twenty to one hundred million animals are killed in experiments (Agnew 1998: 180). Animals destined to become “meat” or “research tools” live under conditions that are equivalent to torture, confined in narrow cages, deprived of offspring, seldom allowed to ever move freely or feel the sun, and exposed to painful and fatal experiments. These are conditions which would never have been accepted if applied to humans and under such circumstances would be criminalized. Agnew developed a theory that could grasp not only the illegal abuse but also the vastly dispersed and culturally accepted legal animal abuse. In his model (1998: 182) are several factors that are important for a person’s involvement in abusive acts toward animals: (1) his/her social position – gender, “race” [sic] education, occupation, and place of residence, urban/rural; (2) individual traits, most importantly empathy and self-control, socialization models, nature of animals; and (3) ignorance re abusive consequences of behavior, beliefs justifying abuse and perceived benefits/costs of abuse. The last, ignorance, may be the most important factor, as it accounts for much of the systemic abuse taking place in industrial complexes, on which, for example, the consumption of meat and production of medicine and cosmetics rely. However, this ignorance may also be the consequence of a desired ignorance and denial, as confronting oneself with the harmful effects of one’s consumption may be harder than to act upon the knowledge of the harm this consumption entails, and end it (Sollund 2008).

Neutralization techniques are important in minimizing and justifying abusive acts – as appeals to higher loyalties, for example, in the case of vivisection (Agnew 1998; Regan 1983), and the condemnation of the condemners – for example, attacking animal rights activists as “extremists” and “terrorists.” These techniques of neutralization, however, would not make sense, if it were not for the fact that they are underpinned by a governing ideology and doxic practice (Bourdieu 1995) – speciesism.


The term speciesism was coined by Richard Ryder in 1970 and has since been expanded and defined in various ways. Peter Singer made the term speciesism famous with his book Animal Liberation (1975), which also ignited the animal liberation movement. Speciesism can be understood as a prejudice or biased attitude favoring the interests of the members of one’s own species against those of members of other species. As with sexism and racism, speciesism rests on domination and subordination (Nibert 2002), rooted in patriarchal ideology, based on the fact that other species are not human and paralleling the way that women are seen as different and inferior to the white male (Donovan and Adams 1996; Noske 1997).

The most important issue regarding a prejudice is not necessarily the prejudice itself but whether the prejudice is turned into practice. As an example, racists may not transform racist prejudice into racist acts if they find themselves in a social environment where racist acts are socially unacceptable. In that case, their prejudices, though racist, may not have much significance because informal and/or formal social control will usually prohibit them from coming out in the open. In the case of speciesism, ideology legitimates and upholds prejudice, thus more easily converting it into abusive acts and exploitative practice Nibert (2002). Speciesism (like racism, sexism, and classism) is a set of widely and socially shared beliefs that result from and support oppressive social arrangements. These include the objectification of animals (e.g., as “meat” or “fur”), thereby obscuring animals as beings with individual selves, desires, and needs as well as characteristics based on a sex. Their exploitation is facilitated by the denial of any individuality.

When considering the treatment of animals regarded as suitable for consumption as “meat,” it is interesting to question how this is compatible with the love and care directed toward domestic pet animals. However, as already noted, there is a difference in the perceptions of harm inflicted on humans and animals related to their status: [.. .] some harms are defined as criminal, others as abusive, but not criminal, and still others as neither criminal nor abusive (Beirne 2009: 200). This state of affairs is generally unquestioned and hence facilitates speciesism in a way that means it operates even without conscious prejudice. Critics of this status quo would argue that not to take a stand is also to take a stand, by refusing to reflect upon the consequences of one’s actions. Such refusal may be caused by emotional or other reactions to consideration of the harms done to animals and for that reason be connected to various forms of denial, but it is also facilitated by the meat industry which distributes advertisements of “happy cows in pasture” far remote from the reality of intensive and factory farming. All of this contributes to the cultural denial in which whole societies partake in collective denial of atrocities (Cohen 2001: 11).

Speciesism can thus be defined either as ideology or practice – or as the two in tandem– supported by discourse that polices and maintains the human-nonhuman boundary. There are, for example, numerous derogatory terms referring to animals, such as “stupid as a hen,” “stupid cow,” “sly as a wolf,” “fat as a pig,” or “old dirty pig” when referring to an old male human with an appetite for young girls. In fact, such terms are so integrated into our language(s) that it takes a very conscious mind to avoid them. Terms are often sexist, thus combining prejudice against animals and female humans, like “bitch.” Derogatory terms serve not only to denigrate the individual they are directed to but also to prepare the ground for use, abuse, and objectification of this individual and others of the same kind, and thus its legitimacy (Cohen 2001; Sollund 2008). When animals, reptiles, and birds are referred to as “specimens” in the CITES convention, this is another way of objectifying them and depriving them of individuality and victim status, through which their only value is as part of a specie.

State Of The Art: The Trafficking And Trade In Animals

The growing number of criminological articles about the abduction of animals from their habitats usually refers to these acts as poaching (Lemieux and Clarke 2009; Pires and Clarke 2011a, b; Warchol et al. 2003). This term includes both abduction of “wild” living animals from their habitats and also killing them on the spot – theriocide. They are subsequently trafficked and traded, and the purpose of the live abduction or killing determines whether their entire bodies are trafficked or only part of them. These actions are encompassed under the terms wildlife trafficking (Wyatt 2011; Warchol et al. 2003) or/and wildlife trade (in print; Zimmerman 2003; Westerhuis’ in print; Wyatt 2009), or the narrower wildlife crime (Wellsmith 2011; Zimmerman 2003), emphasizing that the trade in animals represents a crime. This indicates that the abduction, trade, and trafficking in animals are criminal acts; however, this is not always the case, as a significant part of the animal trade is indeed taking place in accordance with regulations. Actually, the legal “wildlife trade,” excluding “fisheries,” is variously estimated to be worth from 5 to 50 billion US dollars annually (Reeve 2002: 10) and to 160 billion US dollars per year (Duffy in White 2011: 55). Whether the trafficking and trade in an animal is legal or illegal will depend on how threatened his/ her species is.

The CITES convention (also referred to as the Washington Convention) is an agreement that was initiated in 1973, now signed by 175 states (parties to the convention) which through the convention are obliged to pass legislation meeting the requirements of the convention, and consequently also to punish those breaching this legislation. The aim of CITES is to regulate trade, not to prevent trade, so that the trade in animals can be sustainable and species conserved. As quoted from the CITES webpage, Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens (sic) of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES can be criticized for legitimating trade and trafficking in animals and for prolonging a situation encouraging animal abuse and species decline through its anthropocentric approach to other species (Sollund 2011; Hutton and Dickson 2000). In the CITES convention, species are accorded protection depending on the threat of the trade, which is defined in the appendices. Those listed on Appendix I may be traded only in exceptional cases (as scientific research with the prospect of the significant harm this implies), because they are close to extinction. Appendix I species can only be traded if accompanied by an export and import certificate, or a reexport certificate issued for individuals who have previously been imported (Wijnsiekers 2001, here in Wyatt 2011). Appendix II lists those species which are not yet necessarily threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called look-alike species, that is, species that look like those listed for conservation. International trade in Appendix II species may be authorized by the granting of an export permit or reexport certificate. No import permit is necessary for these species under CITES. On Appendix III are those species which there at the request of one of the parties to the convention, which may imply that the species is not necessarily threatened worldwide but in this state, and this state needs the cooperation of other parties to prevent the species from becoming extinct. Through the conferences of the parties, species may be suggested for inclusion on the appendices and also moved between them, for example, when a species is moved from Appendix I to Appendix II. There are also recommendations on how large the quota for export of individuals can be and directions regarding the purpose of the abduction, theriocide, trade, or trafficking. As an example, at the conference of 2007, it was suggested that the Panthera pardus (leopard) in Uganda be transferred from Appendix I to Appendix II with the following annotation:

  1. For the exclusive purpose of sport hunting for trophies and skins for personal use, to be exported as personal effects
  2. With an annual export quota of 50 leopards for the whole country

As this example shows, CITES does not regard the capture and killing of animals as a crime. However, from the perspectives of ecological justice and species justice (White 2008), though not breaching laws, these acts justify the use of the term crime (ibid), thereby emphasizing the serious nature of such actions. For the leopards involved, it makes no difference that killing them is not a crime. Whether legal or illegal, both entail tremendous harm for the victims and for the environment because removing species from their habitats ruins ecosystems (e.g., Herbig 2010).

As mentioned in the introduction, there exists a body of literature on the animal trade with contributions from the natural sciences, such as biology and ornithology. These form a necessary basis for criminological discussion together with the work from Traffic and UWAF (Pires and Clarke 2011a, b; Sollund 2011; White 2011) although in the following the focus is on the main features and findings of a selection of studies from criminology.

From Local Abductors To Transnational Organized Crime

A principal finding in the literature reporting research on animal trafficking is its multidimensional character. The markets are multiple; animals are trafficked for a large number of reasons, as rare objects for collectors, as trophies, for medicine (e.g., gall blathers and rhino horn), for experiments in western laboratories, for the “pet” market, for collectors, for their fur, for meat, for ornament, and for falconry (Warchol et al. 2003; Wyatt 2009, 2011; Pires and Clarke 2011a, b; Herbig 2010; Sollund 2011; Reeve 2002; Hutton and Dickson 2000; Reeve 2002).

Illegal animal trafficking is categorized as follows: first, local farmers who abduct and sell individuals to supplement their income; second, larger, mafia-like groups who buy from local peasantry and sell the animals at great profit; and third, major international smuggling rings which are often involved in other illegal trades (Zimmerman 2003: 1668). These rings tend to use violence, have considerable resources, are aware of smuggling routes, and consequently pose the largest threat to the regulation of the illegal “wildlife” trade. For example, there are three ways in which the drug trade may be linked with the “wildlife” trade: by parallel trafficking along shared smuggling routes, by the use of “legal” “wildlife” shipments to conceal drugs, and by the use of “wildlife” products to barter for drugs, and the exchange of drugs for “wildlife” to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking (Reeve 2002: 12–13; South and Wyatt 2011). Animals are used as receptacles for illegal drugs, whether they are alive or entailing their death, and planeloads of birds are exchanged for drugs; in Brazil the police estimate that perhaps 40 % of illegal drug shipments are combined with “wildlife” traffic (Reeve 2002: 13). With established distribution chains and buyers, such organized trade has far greater impact on the numbers of individuals traded than caused by unorganized individual abductors. Such groups are vigorous, for example, in Africa and Asia, in the illegal ivory trade (Lemieux and Clarke 2009), and in Colombia where the same routes can be used to smuggle primates as drugs (Zimmerman 2003: 1672). Estimates show that between 200,000 and 600,000 primates are illegally exported from Colombia every year, destined for laboratories and research centers (Zimmerman 2003).

In addition to the harm done to the individuals that are victims of trafficking, this trade can also lead to infection of domestic species with contagious diseases (Herbig 2010: 126–128).

Whether on a small or large scale, the motivation is economic though the gain will vary with the position of the trafficker in the distribution chain. For example, poor indigenous villagers acting as abductors can earn $5–25 for each salmon-crested cockatoo, but by the time the birds reach the infamous bird markets in Indonesia, they will each cost up to $150 dollars (Metz 2007; Low 2003; Pires and Clarke 2011). A scarlet macaw or hyacinth parrot can retail for $10–15,000 in the USA or Europe (Speart 1993 in Warchol et al. 2003: 6); rare parrots can be sold for even 100,000 $ per pair (Reeve 2002: 11). The value of illegal ivory has grown significantly from US$200 per kilogram in 2004 to up to US$1,700 per kilogram in 2009 (Grossman 2009). The hunting of “bushmeat” now represents a considerable threat to biodiversity, especially in Central Africa, where the existing impact of hunting for sustenance by indigenous groups is being added to by commercial interests which abduct and export animals from the forests to markets and restaurants in Europe. Elsewhere, Australian native species are on the tables of restaurants in Europe and the USA (Westerhuis in print).

There is a point to making a distinction between legal and illegal animal trafficking for whether an act is a breach of law or not may be central to discussion of how it can be combated, for example, by means of law enforcement strategies and by studying the market and exploring how CITES actually works (Warchol et al. 2003; Pires and Clarke 2010; 2011; Zimmerman 2003; Lemieux and Clarke 2009; Wellsmith 2010, 2011). However, in the case of animal trafficking, the legal/illegal distinction is insufficient, and it is necessary to build an approach from a more holistic, multidisciplinary basis in order to expand understanding of the field, and this entails embracing the concept of harm rather than (just) crime (Beirne and South 2007). It is also important that the underpinning rationale of cultural practices and ideology – speciesism – is also explored.

Although they may be investigating animal trafficking, the perspective adopted by some researchers seems anthropocentric, and their terminology implies that the animal trafficking is a crime more directed to humanity than to the animal victims themselves (see White 2011: 68–69). For example, by uncritically and dryly referring to abduction and theriocide as “poaching” (Lemieux and Clarke 2009; Pires and Clarke 2010, 2011), the suffering of the victim is not central, but instead the focus is on someone appropriating a “common good – a common property.” The term “wildlife” creates a social distance between local animals and humans and domesticated animals. Investigating animal trafficking appears important, not because of the pain and suffering it involves but because it is a “crime,” and thus fit for criminological analyses (Pires and Clarke 2011). The reason why this is an insufficient approach will prove evident in the following when some of the consequences of animal trafficking are sketched out.

The Suffering Caused By Animal Trafficking

Trade and trafficking in combination with habitat loss and habitat degradation constitute the largest threat to a great number of species (Du Plessis 2000). It is maintained that the earth now faces mass extinction of species on a scale potentially akin to the disappearance of the dinosaurs, which will result in the loss of 50 % of the earth’s species by the end of the century if unhindered. UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) states that 24 % of all mammals (1,130 species) and 12 % of birds (1,183 species) are globally threatened (Reeve 2002: 7, 8). Of the 90 parrot species at risk of extinction, 81 % are threatened by habitat loss, while 43 % by the trade in live birds for the “pet” trade (Du Plessis 2000: 21). The growth in the trafficking industry witnessed during the past two decades cannot be disconnected from the expansion of the World Wide Web and its significant role as a marketplace (IWAF 2008).

These numbers, though great, say nothing about the suffering involved for the victims. For example, one report describes how antitank weapons are used to blow the heads off elephants in the hunt for “bushmeat” and how mammals, birds, and reptiles which are seized by customs are found dead, malnourished, or starved, with broken limbs and bones, with lesions and frozen to death (Warchol et al. 2003: 8). Regarding parrots abducted for the “pet market,” a report about the parrot trade in Mexico revealed that 65,000–78,500 Mexican parrots are captured each year and [that] the overall mortality rate for trapped parrots exceeds 75 % before reaching a purchaser. This means that 50,000–60,000 parrots per year die in the trade (Weston and Memon 2009). Up to 75–90 % of illegally trafficked parrots die during transportation (Gonzales 2003). A study of the trade of parrots listed on the CITES appendices estimated that 1.2 million birds were exported between 1991 and 1996, and this is likely to be a gross underestimation of the real figures (Wright et al. 2001). Nearly a third of the 145 parrot species in the Neotropics (Mexico and Central and South America) are threatened, making them among the most endangered groups of birds worldwide (Reeve 2002). In the case of reptiles, studies show a mortality rate of 90 % during the first year in captivity (Herbig 2010: 120).

Future Directions: How To Approach The Crime Of Animal Trafficking?

While entailing loss in biodiversity, destruction of ecosystems, and generally a far poorer world, the treatment of the animals traded for profit – whether on a small or big scale – entails unimaginable suffering and abuse. Or one can try to imagine what it is like to be abducted from the nest and the flock to have one’s eyes sewn closed (see Wyatt 2009, 2011), the arms (wings) strapped to the body, the mouth (beak) taped, and to be stuffed in a bottle just big enough to fit the body in this strapped condition, and then stuffed into another box or a suitcase with hundreds of other victims for days without food or water. If one survives the journey, the rest of life will be spent in a cage or on a leash. This important dimension of animal trafficking is rarely discussed. However, there are exceptions, as in Westerhuis’ examination of Australian legislation and discussion of the moral question of the “wildlife” trade. Westerhuis concludes [.. .] the anthropocentric nature of environmental ethics in contemporary law and regulation allows the killing and trading of native wildlife, and does not recognize the sentience of wild animals. When tested, Preston’s hypothesis that a new ecological ethic would replace the traditional anthropomorphic ethic cannot be supported (Westerhuis in print). By carefully examining the criminological literature addressing animal trafficking, sympathy for the victims at times shines through – animal abuse and suffering is mentioned (Warchol et al. 2003; Wyatt 2011: 116), and may also be a motivation for the research (Wellsmith 2011). Generally, however, empathy does not seem to be an important reason for studies in this field. This may be related to speciesism. Those researchers who are not themselves speciesist and are therefore interested in the field but do not address the abuse may fear of collegial attitudes and repercussions, including getting funded or published. Instead, to enhance their case and broaden its perceived relevance, they may center discussion around the harm done to humans or to the environment through the loss of biodiversity. Or it may be agreed in principle that this is another environmental crime, like pollution and the trade in toxic waste, which is therefore interesting for a criminologist. Or trafficking in animals may be studied because it is an expanding global transnational crime, which should and could be studied by criminologists because studying crime, to simplify, is what criminologists do, and this is an under explored field. However, animal abuse is increasingly becoming a legitimate field of study in criminology and as it does one can ask whether it is possible to research the animal trade without discussing the abuse it entails? To draw a parallel, does it make sense, for example, to research genocide, as in the case of Rwanda, without taking into account death, suffering, and power relations?

No matter what the motivation for research, further study is required in order to determine what measures must be taken to combat animal-related crime. It is clear though that different actors and differing motivations call for refined and differentiated preventative measures, reactions, and sanctions. While organized criminal groups may be deterred by long prison sentences and huge fines, in the case of local peasants, other measures such as teaching them the value of their victims and encouraging ecotourism which could provide employment as guides are more likely to succeed in combating the animal trade. It has been suggested that in the case of the illegal trade in raptors in Russia that breeding programs should be encouraged to reduce the suffering of the birds who are victims of illegal trafficking and to preserve species from extinction (Wyatt 2011). However, such legal interventions and breeding programs can bring their own risks as exemplified by the CITES convention which permits rather than prohibits harmful trade in animals. When such trades depend on certificates and export permits, these can lead to criminal enterprise producing forgeries (Zimmerman 2003; Weston and Memon 2009; Wyatt 2009), and it is up to customs to distinguish between “legal” and “illegal” species which is not always a dependable (or honest) process. By introducing a total ban on trade in “wild” animals, customs and law enforcement agents would not have to distinguish between forged and authentic certificates and permits and between look-alike and protected species. A total ban would, however, encourage collectors and traffickers as the price of rare species would increase, as occurs when species are moved from Appendix II to Appendix I (Reeve 2002).

Nonetheless, by legitimating animal trafficking (e.g., as through CITES), speciesist ideology accepts and promotes animals as “natural resources” and as a “crop” to be harvested by humans (Sollund 2011). If research into animal trafficking is undertaken without paying attention to the victims of the trade and its ideological basis – speciesism – the trade will prevail. To increase awareness of the inherent value of other animals is to do them justice and acknowledge their place in the world and their intrinsic right to not suffer abuse, whether this be one-onone harm, institutionalized harm, or harm arising from human action (White 2011: 23).


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