Latin America / Cooperation between justice systems

The protection of animals against organised crime

26 April 2021

In coordination with the AIAMP Environmental Defence network led by the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation of Colombia, EL PAcCTO has developed a virtual encounter dedicated to the fight against animal abuse. The objective is to study the situation in Latin America in order to apply regulatory changes that protect animals.

But what is the link between organised crime and animal abuse? Some examples:

  •  Species trafficking: it has been shown that the movement of animal species takes place in pitiful conditions (lack of ventilation, lack of food, or unsuitable temperatures).
  • Illegal hunting: the use of methods which are particularly threatening to animal welfare.
  • In cases of illegal livestock farms: the means of physical restraint used is harmful to animals. Even the carrying out of practices disrespectful towards animals.
  • In certain clandestine events, animals are used with the aim of competing with each other to generate profits through public betting.

Animal protection and sustainable development

Representatives from Prosecutor’s Offices at the meeting concluded that animal protection is in need of urgent attention. Besides, a civilised society is synonymous not only with upholding the rights of people, but also the rights of animals.

Furthermore, animal protection is linked to sustainable development. Thus, an objective philosophical approach of a moral nature is established, where man recognises other species as similar. They are, therefore, subject to protection by legal systems when minimum guarantees of dignity are violated.

Species trafficking is considered one of the transactional criminal activities with the greatest economic benefits. It is, after arms and drugs, the third largest organised criminal activity in the world and the second biggest cause of loss of biodiversity on the planet. The trafficking of species has not stopped growing, affecting a high percentage of endangered species, which is why it is especially harmful.

Birds are the live animals most trafficked in Latin America in cruel conditions

Birds are the most trafficked live animals in Latin America given their high demand in local pet and collector markets. Reptiles and amphibians come next. All of them in cruel conditions. The reality is that traffickers are not interested in the welfare of these animals, even transporting them wrapped in socks and taped to the chest and legs, or hidden inside clothing.

They are also sent by courier, inside boxes, rolls of film and even bottles, causing them unjustified suffering. Therefore, they are the object of mistreatment that in many cases ends up killing them.

The trafficking of these species is managed by very well organised networks that end up involving very poor indigenous or peasant communities. They take the animals from the wild and generally do not realise that they are part of a larger illegal business. They are generally the lowest paid link in the chain.

International trafficking affects many countries in combination with other illicit activities. Typically bribery, document forgery, fraud and money laundering.

Cooperation and regulation among all the countries of the region

As conclusions of the online session we can highlight that:

  • It is necessary to foster cooperation between the different state institutions and private organisations whose mission it is to protect biodiversity, to overcome the social barrier that normalises illegal trafficking and which qualifies it as an activity of minor importance.
  • Adequate regulation of confiscation in cases of species trafficking is also important, including regulation on the animals that are seized and recovered, which are then handed over to the official services that manage natural areas.
  • With regard to the abuse of animals, it would be a significant step forward if a penalty proving for the specific disqualification from exercising a profession or trade related to animals and the keeping of animals was brought in.

In this regard, the EL PAcCTO programme will continue to work to strengthen the institutions responsible for fighting environmental crime, including species trafficking.