UK Government outlines its commitment to ending illegal wildlife trade

06 February 2014

'Commitment to Action' includes two years’ funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

This article was written when we were called the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Find out about our name change.

The UK Government has released details of its new commitments to ending the illegal wildlife trade.

The ‘Commitment to Action’ outlines how the Government intends to tackle the issue both internationally, and within our own borders. 

Some of the commitments include:

  • Funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit until 2016;
  • Funding for staff and training in international bodies tackling the illegal wildlife trade;
  • Ensuring the UK’s efforts are linked to our national ‘Serious and Organised Crime Strategy’;
  • Supporting Police Wildlife Crime Coordinators across the UK; and
  • Raising awareness to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products in the UK.

The UK Government joins the United Nations, President Barack Obama and HRH Prince Charles in describing illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime with devastating impacts for people, animals and the environment and is now actively encouraging other Governments to follow suit. 

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) welcomes the Commitment to Action outlined by the UK Government, and will be encouraging relevant Government departments to outline how these commitments will be delivered in practice. We want to ensure that the pledges that have been made will deliver meaningful, positive results for wild animals in the UK and globally.

We will also be addressing specific concerns not mentioned in the published plan, by:

  • Encouraging the Home Office to make wildlife crime offences recordable, so that enforcement bodies can properly measure and analyse the scale of the problem;
  • Calling for more effective prosecution and tougher sentencing of wildlife criminals, that properly reflect the seriousness of the crimes they commit;
  • Calling for long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, just as was recently announced for London’s Wildlife Crime Unit, so that it can continue and enhance its excellent work without the shadow of insecurity about its future.

Detective Inspector Nevin Hunter, Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit has reacted to the Government’s announcement by saying, “This funding commitment will enable the NWCU to continue to provide support to Police Wildlife Crime Coordinators and Police Wildlife Crime Officers across the UK. We will work with them to address the UK national wildlife crime priorities. The IWT announcement yesterday by the UK Government is hugely important, but it is vital that we also provide support to investigations involving bats, badgers, fresh water pearl mussels and where poaching and raptor persecution take place”.

WSPA has been calling for the UK Government to ensure wildlife crime is recognised as serious, organised crime and is tackled effectively across the UK through long-term strategic and financial support, including protecting the National Wildlife Crime Unit. A Motion in the House of Commons calling for this has now been signed by 139 MPs and MPs will be debating wildlife crime in the House of Commons today (Thursday 6 February).

The announcement also comes ahead of an international conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade on 13 February, being hosted in London by the Prime Minister and attended by government delegates from over 50 countries, including some Heads of State.

We want to ensure that the pledges that have been made will deliver meaningful, positive results for wild animals in the UK and globally.
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