Environmental and wildlife crime appear recently to be benefitting from an increasing profile amongst those agencies tasked with their control, as well as receiving growing criminological attention. Despite this, those with responsibilities in this area report that it remains marginalised, receiving limited resources and suffering from a lack of political impetus to push such problems higher up the agenda. This is particularly so for those agencies, such as the police, that may be seen to have many more pressing objectives. This discussion paper considers the problems of relying on an enforcement approach to controlling such offences, taking, as an example, those activities that may be termed ‘wildlife crime’, focusing on the situation in England and Wales. Firstly, the legislative framework that criminalises harm or exploitation of wildlife is presented, alongside the main enforcement methods used. Next, the problems facing an enforcement approach are critically considered, the key issues being: under-resourcing and marginalisation, the large ‘dark-figure’ of wildlife crime, the possibility of corruption, the lack of seriousness with which such crimes are viewed, and the lack of deterrent effect. Finally, responses to the problems of enforcement are presented, categorised as either methods to improve enforcement or, as the author advocates, methods which are alternatives to enforcement (such as adopting a crime prevention approach). The paper concludes with suggestions for future research in this field.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The use of the differing terminologies for the study of harm to the environment and animals other than humans by criminologists has not yet been resolved. All the key terms have their weaknesses, but for the purposes of this paper the term eco-criminology will be used, with due recognition of the equivocal nature of such labels
Another contentious term, writers in this field have found a need to distinguish human animals and nonhuman animals, but have not identified a satisfactory nonspeciesist label. Referring to nonhuman or animals other than humans, tends to raise the importance of humans over other animal species (see, e.g., Beirne 1999), thus there is a tendency to fall back on the more common use of ‘animals’ to exclude humans, which will be adopted for the remainder of this paper.
See, for example, discussions regarding the recently held St Petersburg Tiger Summit and the Global Tiger Initiative, which includes partner organisations such as the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institute and Save the Tiger Fund (www.globaltigerinitative.org)
Akella, A.S. and Cannon, J.B. (2004). Strengthening the weakest links: Strategies for improving the enforcement of environmental laws globally. Washington, DC: Center for Conservation and Government. In: R. White (Ed) (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader, 528-67. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.
BBC News (2010). Emperor Exmoor deer kill brings call for protection. 27 October 2010. [online] available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-11633614 (accessed 29 October 2010).
Beirne, P. (1999). For a nonspeciesist criminology; Animal abuse as an object of study. Criminology, 37(1), 117–47.
Beirne, P., & South, N. (Eds.). (2007). Issues in Green Criminology. Cullompton: Willan.
Braithwaite, J. (2002). Restorative Justice and Responsive Regulation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Brack, D. (2002). Combatting international environmental crime. Global Environmental Change, 12, 142-7. In R. White (Ed.), (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader, 485-92. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.
Bulte, E., & Rondeau, D. (2007). Compensation for wildlife damages; Habitat conversion, species preservation and local welfare. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 54, 311–22.
Cantu Guzman, J. C. (2007). The Illegal Parrot Trade in Mexico; A comprehensive assessment. Washington, DC: Defenders of Wildlife.
Cazaux, G. (2007). Labelling Animals; Non-speciesist criminology and techniques to identify other animals. In P. Beirne & N. South (Eds.), Issues in Green Criminology (pp. 87–113). Cullompton: Willan Publishing.
Chancellor of the Exchequer. (2010). Spending Review 2010. London: The Stationery Office.
Chan, J., & Oxley, D. (2004). The deterrent effect of capital punishment; A review of the research evidence. New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research: Crime and Justice Bulletin. Sydney.
Clarke, R.V. (2009). Designing Out Crime from Products. Workshop on Crime Science. University of Twente, Entschede, May 2009.
Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social Change and Crime Rate Trends. American Sociological Review, 44, 588–608.
Cook, D., Roberts, M., & Lowther, J. (2002). The International Wildlife Trade and Organised Crime; A review of the evidence and the role of the UK. Godalming: WWF-UK.
Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. G. (1986). The Reasoning Criminal. New York: Springer.
Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. (2003). Opportunities, Precipitators and Criminal Decisions; A reply to Wortley’s critique of situational crime prevention. In M. J. Smith & D. B. Cornish (Eds.), Theory for Practice in Situational Crime Prevention. Crime Prevention Studies Vol. 16, 41-96. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.
Cowdrey, D. (2002). Switching Channels; Wildlife trade routes into Europe and the UK. A WWF/TRAFFIC report. Godalming: WWF-UK.
Damania, R. and Bulte, E.H. (2001). The Economics of Captive Breeding and Endangered Species Conservation. Centre for International Economic Studies. Adelaide: University of Adelaide.
Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) (2010). Wildlife Crime. [online] available at http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-pets/wildlife-crime/ (accessed 28 October 2010).
de Prez, P. (2000). Excuses, excuses: the ritual trivialisation of environmental prosecutions. Journal of Environmental Law, 12(1), 65-77. In: R. White (Ed) (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader, 656-69. Cullompton: Willan.
Du Rées, H. (2001). Can criminal law protect the environment? Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 2, 109-26. In R. White (Ed.), (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader (pp. 638–55). Cullompton: Willan.
Engler, M., & Parry-Jones, R. (2007). Opportunity or threat; The role of the European Union in global wildlife trade. Brussels: TRAFFIC Europe.
Felson, M. (1995). Those who discourage crime. In J. Eck & D. Weisburd (Eds.), Crime and Place. Crime Prevention Studies Vol. 4, 53-66. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.
Fortney, D. C. (2003). Thinking outside the ‘black box’; tailored enforcement in environmental criminal law. Texas Law Review, 81(6), 1609-35. In R. White (Ed.), (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader, 692-715. Cullompton: Willan.
Francione, G. L. (1996). Rain without Thunder; The ideology of the animal rights movement. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Fyfe, N., & Reeves, A. (2008). The Thin Green Line; The challenges of policing wildlife crime in Scotland. Stockholm, Sweden: Presentation to the Stockholm Criminology Symposium.
Garstecki, T. (2006). Implementation of Article 16, Council Regulation (EC) No. 338/97 in the 25 member states of the European Union. A TRAFFIC Report for the European Commission. Brussels: TRAFFIC Europe.
Gibbs, C., Gore, M. L., McGarrell, E. F., & Rivers, L., III. (2010). Introducing Conservation Criminology; Towards interdisciplinary scholarship on environmental crimes and risks. British Journal of Criminology, 50(1), 124–44.
Goldstein, H. (1990). Problem-oriented Policing. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Guardian (2010). Hunting Act convictions at their highest. 29 October 2010.[online] available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/oct/29/hunting-act-convictions-highest-level (accessed 29 October 2010).
Gunningham, N. and Grabosky, P. (1998). Smart Regulation; Designing environmental policy. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Cited in: R. White (2003) Environmental Issues and the Criminological Imagination. Theoretical Criminology, 7(4), 483-506.
Guy, J. L. (2008). Migrants of No Return. Unpublished application to the UK Home Office Tilley Awards 2008.
Hastings, S. (2010). Calls for change to law as attacks on birds of prey soar. Yorkshire Post 16 September 2010. [online] available at http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/features/Calls-for-change-to-law.6536538.jp (accessed 26 December 2010).
Herbig, F. J. W., & Joubert, S. J. (2006). Criminological Semantics; Conservation criminology – Vision or vagary? Acta Criminologica, 19, 88–103.
Herbig, J. (2010). The illegal reptile trade as a form of conservation crime; A South African criminological investigation. In R. White (Ed.), Global Environmental Harm; Criminological Perspectives (pp. 110–31). Cullompton: Willan.
Interpol (2010). Environmental Crime. [online] available at http://www.interpol.int/Public/EnvironmentalCrime/Default.asp (accessed 1 Nov 2010).
Jenkins, C. (2008). Operation Charm. Investigative Practice Journal, 19, 6–9.
Joint Nature Conservation Committee (2010). UK Legislation. [online] available at http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1376 (accessed 28 October 2010).
Lemieux, A. M., & Clarke, R. V. (2009). The International Ban on Ivory Sales and Its Effects on Elephant Poaching in Africa. British Journal of Criminology, 49(4), 451–71.
Lowther, J., Cook, D., & Roberts, M. (2002). Crime and Punishment in the Wildlife Trade. A WWF/TRAFFIC Report. Godalming: WWF-UK.
Lynch, M. J., & Stretesky, P. B. (2003). The Meaning of Green; Contrasting criminological perspectives. Theoretical Criminology, 7, 217–38.
MacKenzie, D. L. (2002). Reducing the criminal activities of known offenders and delinquents; Crime prevention in the courts and corrections. In L. W. Sherman, D. P. Farrington, B. C. Welsh, & D. L. MacKenzie (Eds.), Evidenced-based Crime Prevention (pp. 330–404). Abingdon: Routledge.
Magistrates’ Court Association (2002). Sentencing for Wildlife Trade and Conservation Offences. [online] available at http://www.eurocbc.org/wildlife_guidelines.pdf (accessed 1 November 2010).
Mailley, J. (2008). Situational Crime Prevention in Wildlife Crime. London: Presentation to the National Environmental Crime Conference.
Mailley, J., & Clarke, R. V. (2008). Environmental Criminology and Wildlife Crime. Izmir, Turkey: Presentation to the Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis Symposium (ECCA).
McMullan, J. L., & Perrier, D. C. (2002). Lobster poaching and the ironies of law enforcement. Law & Society Review, 36(4), 679-720. In R. White (Ed.), (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader, 412-44. Cullompton: Willan.
National Wildlife Crime Unit (2009). What is wildlife crime? [online] available at http://www.nwcu.police.uk/pages/wildlifecrime/whatiswildlifecrime.asp (accessed 29 October 2009).
NWCU. (2010). UK National Wildlife Crime Unit; Annual Report 2010. Livingston: NWCU.
Ong, D. M. (1998). The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES 1973); Implications of recent developments in international and EC environmental law. Journal of Environmental Law, 10, 291–314.
Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) (2010). About us. [online] available at http://www.defra.gov.uk/paw/what/default.htm (accessed 29 October 2010).
Pires, S., & Clarke, R. (2010). Sequential foraging, itinerant fences and parrot poaching in Bolivia. Brisbane, Australia: Presentation to the Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis Symposium (ECCA).
Rao, K. S., Maikhuri, R. K., Nautiyal, S., & Saxena, K. G. (2002). Crop damage and livestock depredation by wildlife; A case study from Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, India. Journal of Environmental Management, 66, 317–27.
RSPB (2009). Birdcrime 2009; Offences against wild bird legislation in 2009. Sandy: RSPB.
Schneider, J. L. (2008). Reducing the Illicit Trade in Wildlife; The Market Reduction Approach. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 24, 274–95.
Schmidt, C. W. (2004). Environmental Crimes; Profiting at the earth’s expense. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(2), A96-A103. In R. White (Ed.), (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader, 269/77. Cullompton: Willan.
Scottish Government. (2008). Natural Justice; A joint thematic inspection of the arrangements in Scotland for preventing, investigating and prosecuting wildlife crime. Edinburgh: The Scottish Government.
Select Committee on Environmental Audit (2004). Sixth Report. [online] available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmenvaud/126/12604.htm (accessed 1 November 2010).
Sentencing Guidelines Council (2009). Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines. [online] available at http://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/docs/web_sgc_magistrates_guidelines_including_update_1__2__3_web.pdf (accessed 1 November 2010).
Smith, R. J., & Walpole, M. J. (2005). Forum; Should conservationists pay more attention to corruption? Oryx, 39, 251–6.
Smith, R.J., Muir, R.D.J., Walpole, M.J., Blamford, A. and Leader-Williams, N. (2003). Governance and the Loss of Biodiversity. Nature, 426, 67–70.
Sutinen, J.G. (1987). Enforcement of the MFCMA; An economist’s perspective. Marine Fisheries, 49(3), 36-43. Cited in Akela, A.S. and Cannon, J.B. (2004). Strengthening the weakest links: Strategies for improving the enforcement of environmental laws globally. Washington, DC: Center for Conservation and Government. In: R. White (Ed) (2009), Environmental Crime; A reader, 528-67. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.
Sutton, M. (1998). Handling Stolen Goods and Theft; A Market Reduction Approach. Home Office Research Study 178. London: Home Office.
Tilley, N. (2002). Crime prevention in Britain 1975-2010; Breaking out, breaking in and breaking down. In G. Hughes, E. McLaughlin, & J. Muncie (Eds.), Crime Prevention and Community Safety; New Directions (pp. 12–36). London: Sage.
Tittle, C. (1969). Crime Rates and Legal Sanctions. Social Problems, 16, 409–23.
UK Environmental Law Association (2009a). Law and Your Environment [online] available at http://www.environmentlaw.org.uk/rte.asp (accessed 28 October 2010).
UK Environmental Law Association (2009b). Wildlife Offences: General Rules. [online] available at http://www.environmentlaw.org.uk/rte.asp?id=217 (accessed 28 October 2010).
Wellsmith, M. (2008). Controlling Trade in Endangered Species; A role for crime prevention? British Society of Criminology Conference. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield. July 2008.
Wellsmith, M. (2010). The applicability of crime prevention to problems of environmental harm; A consideration of illicit trade in endangered species. In R. White (Ed.), Global Environmental Harm; Criminological perspectives (pp. 132–49). Cullompton: Willan.
White, R. (2003). Environmental Issues and the Criminological Imagination. Theoretical Criminology, 7(4), 483–506.
White, R. (2005). Environmental Crime in Global Context; Exploring the theoretical and empirical complexities. Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 16(3), 271–85.
White, R. (2008). Crimes Against Nature. Cullompton: Willan.
White, R. (Ed.). (2009). Environmental Crime; A reader. Cullompton: Willan.
White, R. (Ed.). (2010). Global Environmental Harm; Criminological perspectives. Cullompton: Willan.
Willock, A., Burgener, M., & Sancho, A. (2004). First Choice or Fall Back; An examination of issues relating to Appendix III of CITES to marine species. Cambridge: Traffic International.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (2010). UK’s Wildlife Crime Unit endangered [online] available at http://beta.955wwf.org.uk/wwf_articles.cfm?unewsid=4261 (accessed 29 October 2010).
Zimring, F., & Hawkins, G. (1973). Deterrence; The legal threat in crime control. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Zimmerman, M. E. (2003). The Black Market for Wildlife; Combating transnational organized crime in the illegal wildlife trade. Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 36, 1657–90.
Melanie is a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Huddersfield, UK and previously worked as a research fellow with the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science. Her research interests are in crime and place, situational crime prevention, crime analysis, criminal law and eco-criminology, particularly harms against animals.
About this article
Cite this article
Wellsmith, M. Wildlife Crime: The Problems of Enforcement. Eur J Crim Policy Res 17, 125–148 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-011-9140-4