EU – a soft touch for illegal wildlife trade
A new study commissioned by the European Union (EU) into the illegal wildlife trade within the Community reveals some shocking results. The illegal trade into and within the EU may total billions of Euros each year and is believed to have increased in recent years. Illegal trade, according to the report, is more easily carried out amongst Member States since the EU is a single market. Illegal traders exploit easy entry points into the EU (presumably under-resourced land and sea borders) and then carry out their despicable business with relative impunity. The report also says that illegal trade appears to be driven by domestic demand and the legal trade pointing out, for example, that in Member States where there are many collectors of exotic birds and reptiles, demand for illegal live specimens appears higher.
And if illegal traders are caught, fines and prison sentences vary considerably from country to country. For example, the maximum fine for a CITES offence in Poland is 250 Euros whereas it is 75,000 Euros in Italy. In some Member States, penalties vary according to whether they apply to individuals or companies. So the maximum individual fine in the Netherlands is 45,000 Euros and the maximum company fine is 450,000 Euros but, in any event, a 2002 report confirms that most penalties rarely exceed one-quarter of the maximum fine or prison sentence available. For example, in France the maximum prison sentence of six months is almost always suspended or replaced by community service. In Italy, a payment can be made in place of a prison sentence and this payment removes the offence from the individual’s criminal record.
For goodness sake, what kind of nonsense is this? It is time the EU got its act together, got organised and got tough on illegal wildlife crime.