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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 1740-ii
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Environmental Audit Committee
Thursday 22 March 2012
Tania McCrea-Steele, Stephanie Pendry, Mary Rice and Simon Pope
Evidence heard in Public Questions 91 - 158
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee
on Thursday 22 March 2012
Joan Walley (Chair)
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Tania McCrea-Steele, Senior Campaigns and Prosecutions Officer, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Stephanie Pendry, Enforcement Programme Leader, TRAFFIC, Mary Rice, Executive Director, Environmental Investigation Agency, and Simon Pope, Head of External Affairs, World Society for the Protection of Animals, gave evidence.
Q91 Chair: Thank you all very much indeed for coming along this afternoon. It is not the usual day for our Committee session so we are slightly depleted in numbers, but it is an important inquiry for us and we are very grateful to all of you for coming along. I wonder if at the very beginning you would like to introduce yourselves to the Committee, so we know exactly what your area of interest is-perhaps starting with you, Ms McCrea-Steele.
Tania McCrea-Steele: I am Tania McCrea-Steele. I work for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and we work on animal welfare and conservation issues around the world. We have over 40 projects spread throughout the world. My role within IFAW is as our enforcement officer. I work within the UK and within Europe promoting the need for better enforcement of wildlife trade issues specifically. We work closely with Interpol. We are members of the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime. We work closely with the National Wildlife Crime Unit, so we have a lot of international and UK specific experience.
Mary Rice: My name is Mary Rice. I am the Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency here in the UK. EIA works on the illegal trade in wildlife and natural resources, and also looks at environmental crime. We focus predominantly on illegal international trade. That covers a whole multitude of sins, including timber and wildlife products.
Simon Pope: I am Simon Pope. I am Head of External Affairs at the World Society for the Protection of Animals. We have been working very closely with the Wildlife Crime Unit of the Metropolitan Police, in order to give them a means of being able to properly resource up their unit to make it a combative force for enforcing on wildlife crime in London. In particular, my association with the issue is I worked in rhino protection in southern Africa for the Save the Rhino Trust for two years, back in the early 1990s. I have also carried out undercover investigations for IFAW, and the David Shepherd Foundation, into the ivory trade and the rhino horn trade in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Stephanie Pendry: I am Stephanie Pendry, the Enforcement Programme Leader for TRAFFIC. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of the World Wildlife Fund and IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. I have been with TRAFFIC for 14 years. TRAFFIC monitors the wildlife trade-both legal and illegal-around the world. We have about 120 staff in 30 different countries. I am also seconded part-time to the National Wildlife Crime Unit. TRAFFIC is a member of PAW, and I co-ordinate the PAW forensics working group.
Q92 Chair: Thank you. That is very helpful, and it puts the inquiry we are doing into perspective. I want to start off by saying it is some time since this Committee looked at the whole issue of wildlife crime, back in 2004, and I would like to get some idea of the scale of it. We are very much aware that it is somewhere behind drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking, but we are also aware that there are linkages. It would be helpful to get on the record what the scale of the trade is, in financial terms, if that is something you could help us understand a bit better.
Tania McCrea-Steele: Just before coming into the room we were talking about how difficult it is to measure the scale effectively. In the last investigation you did in 2004, I saw that one of the recommendations was for the Home Office to have a specific code for wildlife crime so that we could measure it within the UK. Internationally, the recent Global Financial Integrity Report, Transnational Crime in the Developing World, estimated the trade to be worth US$10 billion annually, so it is certainly operating at a very large, significant scale.
In terms of the UK data that was available, I note the Home Office submission that from 2004 to 2011 you are looking at almost 1 million seizures, so again it is very significant here. It was not possible to get the prosecution figures. We have done a lot of investigations on the internet in terms of IFAW’s specialist areas, and any day of the year, and I guarantee if you go on to the internet today, you could find ivory items for sale on there. It is not clear whether they are legal or illegal, and often the sellers are disguising those items. In a snapshot survey that we did in 2011, in just over a period of two weeks, we found 61 items for sale in the UK and that was just over those two weeks. Again, that would indicate a significant level of trade. Internationally, seizures of illegal ivory are increasing dramatically, with 2011 being the worst year for large ivory seizures since records began. That shows that it is really a significant problem.
In terms of rhinos-which I know is another area you are asking us to look at-the western black rhino has just been declared extinct at the end of 2011. Over a period of three years 800 South African rhinos were killed, and now their horns are worth more than gold. In terms of tigers, at the start of the 20th century we had 100,000 tigers and now we are looking at about 3,000 in the wild. So you can see the real cost to animals in the wild from this illegal trade.
I note that in your last report the EAC noted the links to organised crime. Now there are reports from Interpol, Europol and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that make those links as well. I have gone to umpteen meetings with enforcers who continually repeat that this is not just about the ivory trade or the trade in rhino horn; this is about wider organised crime and, in some instances, ivory being sold to support militias and terrorists in certain countries: for example, the Janjaweed.
Q93 Chair: Do you think that that interconnectedness with other crimes gets the profile that it should really be getting?
Tania McCrea-Steele: I think there is room for improvement, in terms of making the wider public aware of that.
Simon Pope: Just to echo what Tania said, there was a very useful report that the Congressional Research Service produced for the US Congress in 2008. They said that the trade could actually be up to $20 billion annually. Again, to reinforce what Tania said, this is not a niche kind of illicit trade. We are talking about members of the Italian Mafia, the former Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, other groups in Central Asia and Brazil allegedly being involved in trafficking rare parrots and falcons, East Asian triad societies, and Japanese Yakuza reportedly being involved in smuggling elephant ivory, rhino horn, tiger, shark fin and whale meat. To give you some indication of the scale of this, and the scale of the individuals who are involved, people are making an enormous amount of money out of this and they are not about to stop.
Mary Rice: I agree with everything that my colleagues here have said, but putting an actual cost or value is contentious. The very nature of illegal trade makes it very difficult to determine what it is worth, also what people forget is the cost towards ecosystems and livelihoods lost and species extinction. The involvement of criminal elements can undermine national security in countries. These are all side effects of the illegal trade in any of these species.
Stephanie Pendry: I want to add to what Tania was saying. In the report that she quoted the $10 billion figure is for illegal wildlife trade, but that excludes fisheries and timber, which for fisheries is a further $4.2 billion to $9 billion and for timber another $7 billion. So, actually, it does become very close to or above the $20 billion that we are talking about here. Fisheries and timber are by far the biggest.
Chair: You get the sense that it has all intensified since we did our last report. You are all nodding; okay.
Q94 Caroline Lucas: Can we try to work out what is driving that? Is it that enforcement has gone down or is it that other options for people to get involved in ways to make money have gone down? What do you think is driving the fact that 2011-I think you said, Tania-has been the worst year?
Tania McCrea-Steele: One key issue is that it is a low-risk, high-profit activity. No doubt, if you were looking to trade in drugs or arms, and you were mindful of the chances of being caught if you engage in this trade, while you can make a huge amount of profit-and, as we have said, the amount of money you can get now for rhino horn has dramatically increased-you are going to be more motivated to shift into that level of criminality. An example of that is the Irish gangs that have been operating in the UK targeting museums and stealing rhino horns from museums. I understand that Europol were monitoring that group because they were a group that was already identified as being a criminal syndicate, but they expanded out into rhino horns because of the sheer value of them. I guess they are just looking at it, from a business case, that the chances of them being penalised are slim.
Q95 Chair: We had some rhino horns on display at an exhibition here in the House just a few weeks ago, actually. I think they varied in price from about £27,000 to £39,000. Given that there is no legal trade, how do those dealing actually fix a value on to it?
Tania McCrea-Steele: Animal Health have been talking about how rhino horn is measured in terms of its weight, so I think that is part of the process now for identifying the value. In terms of sales, what we have seen, and what Animal Health and the UK Government has picked up on, is that there was an increasing amount of rhino horns available for auction in the UK and that those horns were then going on to East Asia. We welcomed the news that the UK Government has tightened up the restrictions on licences that are issued for those sales, and the fact that they have the tightening of the licences adopted at a European level. That is a good example of what can be done and how Britain can lead the way in terms of protecting these animals.
Q96 Sheryll Murray: My question fits in quite nicely with that, but it is about fisheries. There was a case, which was highlighted to me recently, where an illegal catch was seized in Gran Canaria. The Spanish Government retained it for four months and then, because of the translation between the European legislation into the various languages, they felt they could not keep it and it was returned to the pirates and it was sold for profit. Do you think this is a big loophole and there is a way that we could perhaps tighten up on that?
Mary Rice: I don’t have any fisheries expertise, I am afraid.
Stephanie Pendry: It is not my area of expertise, but it certainly sounds like something could be tightened up on that.
Q97 Sheryll Murray: You mentioned fisheries, which is why I asked the question. It was a case that was brought to me by the European Justice Foundation, but obviously illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing is becoming a real problem.
Tania McCrea-Steele: Yes, it is a major problem.
Q98 Sheryll Murray: Let’s go back on to something that perhaps you do know a bit about. Given the financial scale of international wildlife crime, is this a battle that can be won if it is fought on the current terms of engagement?
Mary Rice: I think, in order to address it, focus has to be both on the supply and the demand side. They are equally important, and you can’t tackle one without the other. Demand probably takes longer to address and there are organisations working on site in demand countries to try to raise awareness, but certainly countries need to improve their enforcement. There are examples where improved enforcement has provided positive results; for example, in Indonesia with ramin and, as an implementing body, CITES is only as effective as parties are willing to make it. There needs to be investment and intelligence-led investigations. Seizures need to be seen as just part of the enforcement, not as the success. There needs to be a lot of inter-agency co-operation and communication, because what we find is that jurisdiction is a problem when you are looking at international trade and you are crossing borders. There needs to be a lot more joined-up thinking.
Q99 Sheryll Murray: Since the implementation of CITES in 1975, international action against wildlife crime has largely focused on tackling the supply. Has this approach worked, or might it be more effective if we were looking at influencing the demand?
Mary Rice: From EIA’s point of view, the approach needs to be holistic-you need to employ all the different tools in the box. As the demand countries increase in disposable wealth and go up the socio-economic scale, there will be greater demand, so awareness is key to how you address any trade.
Tania McCrea-Steele: In terms of what the UK can do, again I know from the 2004 report there was talk about penalties not being implemented. Since the 2004 report there are more stringent penalties, so in some cases you can get up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine. Sadly, what we are seeing-harking back to your previous investigation-is that those penalties are not being applied. Frequently, when I am working with enforcers, I am seeing penalties of £500 to £1,000 being dished out for wildlife crime offences. That is not enough to act as a deterrent, when they can make hundreds of thousands of pounds in the sale of these items. It is great that those penalties are in place, but we need to get the judiciary to use them. In order to do that, we need to put together stronger cases, we need to have more joined-up policing and we need to make sure that the judiciary have sentencing guidelines. Another recommendation was that they have sentencing guidelines on these issues, because they do not come across these issues very often. In fact, I was talking to a Crown Court judge this morning about this very issue and asking him if he has seen any guidelines about wildlife crime. He has never come across it and he wouldn’t know where to begin if a case appeared before him in court.
Q100 Chair: Are you saying that there is no guidance given?
Tania McCrea-Steele: There is no guidance. There are no sentencing guidelines for the judiciary. There is a booklet called Costing the Earth, which PAW partners have worked together to provide for magistrates, but it is an issue of raising awareness that this booklet exists, keeping it up to date, and making the Crown Court aware of it as well as magistrates. You could issue sentencing guidelines for the Crown Court that encourage them to apply stronger penalties. You could also ensure that police officers have the level of support they need in order to put together strong cases. Often, wildlife crime officers put in a lot of their own spare time to carry out these investigations. They could do with support because some of the investigations are really complicated. That is what the National Wildlife Crime Unit is there to do, to provide them with additional support. Basically, the UK has the infrastructure; it is just a case of improving it and using it, so there are tangible steps.
In terms of dealing with consumer demand, I note that one of the submissions-I cannot remember if it was from Defra or the Home Office-talks about a lot of the seizures being from people accidentally bringing items into the UK. There is clearly a need for stronger public awareness of what items are illegal, and the impact that that has on wildlife. IFAW has a Think Twice campaign, and I know Operation Charm have a display cabinet that I hope you will soon be seeing in the House of Commons. You can use those tools to address the issue. The Think Twice campaign is basically a cabinet with items of confiscated animal parts and supporting materials, which informs people of the impact purchasing these items has on wild populations and makes them aware that they would be breaking the law. Governmental support for that is another tangible outcome that the Committee could consider recommending, to encourage airports to give us space to put up those types of displays because, at the moment, they want us to pay commercial rates, and I am afraid that is just not possible.
Q101 Chair: Before we move on from that, would you say there is sufficient clarity in the UK about licensing procedures?
Stephanie Pendry: For CITES at least it is a complex issue, and I think for the layman it can be quite a difficult thing to battle through. Animal Health have done a good job about putting information on their website, and give guidance, but we could definitely do more in terms of licensing.
Tania McCrea-Steele: One area within licensing that we are concerned about, especially in terms of the internet trade, is the antiques derogation. At the moment, when you are dealing with wildlife products, anybody who claims to be an antique dealer can say that an item is an antique. That is sufficient within the law for them to write-and it can take various forms-and basically say, "I am an experienced antique dealer and I say that this item of"-let us say-"ivory is an antique". What IFAW would like to see is experts carrying out that analysis, so it is not Joe Bloggs, who does not have experience in terms of identifying whether an item is genuinely antique.
Q102 Zac Goldsmith: I hope this has not already been asked; if it has, my apologies. If that were to happen, if you were to discover an online dealer of illegal products-let us say rhino products of some sort-and if that was exposed, what would the authorities usually do in response? What could that kind of person usually expect to happen to them as a result of being caught?
Tania McCrea-Steele: Let us say it was rhino horn, for example. If IFAW was to find that information, we would share that with the National Wildlife Crime Unit and we would hope they would follow that up with an investigation. If that investigation led to a successful prosecution, then the individual could get up to five years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine but, in practice, would probably get quite a small fine. Most of the fines I see are in the area of £1,000, which does not serve as a deterrent.
IFAW is working with Interpol at the moment on a project called Project Web, where we have engaged with 10 European countries and they are carrying out investigations into the online trade in ivory. The report is yet to be compiled so that information is yet to be made public, but it has been a useful tool for engaging with enforcers. It has taken investigations online, beyond just scoping the level of the problem but taking it to the investigators and getting them to look at whether they have enough evidence to prosecute people.
Q103 Caroline Lucas: What is the resistance to sentencing guidelines? It seems such an obvious thing, and I am shocked that they do not already exist. Presumably, you have been lobbying for that for some time, so why would Government not wish to put that in place?
Stephanie Pendry: It might be a good indicator of where wildlife crime sits in terms of Government priorities. With regard to offences involving CITES species, the problem is there are not enough cases for magistrates and Crown Court judges to be aware of to use previous case history, so that is where they struggle. Yes, on paper it seems like a really obvious thing to do, but the trouble is, although we are pushing for it, there has not been a desire from within the justice system for this to happen.
Q104 Chair: Before we leave this matter, can I ask about captive breeding? Is there a distinction that needs to be made between wildlife crime and captive breeding? Is that something that you would have a view on?
Mary Rice: Within the UK or-
Chair: In the UK.
Stephanie Pendry: In terms of whether there is any wildlife crime involving captive-bred specimens?
Chair: I just wonder whether there is an area of confusion around what is legitimately produced through captive breeding, given the concerns that there are in this inquiry about the extent of wildlife crime and the extent to which it needs to be addressed.
Mary Rice: We do not have any specific information on that as an organisation. We are aware that there are major problems in the bird trade and in relation to reptiles, but we do not have any expertise, so we would not be able to offer any data on it.
Q105 Zac Goldsmith: Would you mind if I go back one step, just on this point of the guidelines. Presumably, that would be a key recommendation, or a key ask, from the point of view of all your organisations. Would you regard that as a priority?
Stephanie Pendry: Yes. I think it needs to be part of a set of recommendations that apply to how these cases are prosecuted. From the point where the police officer is investigating the crime, he has to build his case file. He then has to talk to CPS. We have an issue with continuity with the CPS because there aren’t specialist prosecutors for wildlife. A police officer may meet with one CPS person; the file is then passed to another one, who is the one who takes it to court and so on. We have that issue in terms of specialism within the CPS. Beyond that, insufficient information is being provided to magistrates and judges when penalties are handed out
Q106 Zac Goldsmith: I cannot think of any obvious arguments against it-the first one would be police time-but actually if you have guidelines presumably you make it easier for the prosecutors to take a view. Have you heard any arguments against guidelines that could be described, even loosely, as compelling?
Stephanie Pendry: Against it, no.
Simon Pope: The only thing we have heard is obviously that it means you have to have a CPS and a prosecutor who is up to speed and expert in this issue, and probably not one but several.
Q107 Zac Goldsmith: But is that not precisely the problem that having guidelines solves?
Stephanie Pendry: No. The guidelines are for sentencing, not for the prosecutors. We need prosecutors who have the expertise to be able to take these cases, because often the prosecutor will take the case file half an hour before the time at court, has no expertise and has not seen a case like this before, and basically has to wing it.
Simon Pope: And may well be up against a defence lawyer who is much more expert in any case.
Q108 Zac Goldsmith: How do you resolve that?
Stephanie Pendry: By having a specialism within the Crown Prosecution Service. They are doing it in Scotland for wildlife crime, and it is something I think we should introduce here.
Q109 Zac Goldsmith: With the full range of wildlife crime?
Stephanie Pendry: Yes, not just for CITES elements.
Tania McCrea-Steele: In the UK we are told that there is a list of Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors who are experts, and there is supposed to be one per constabulary. I haven’t been able to get a list of who these people are, so that when I am working with police I can say, "Why don’t you get in touch with so and so". Then when I have been working with police at a constabulary level, they are quite often aware that there is a point person but they either don’t know who they are or they can’t get to them because, although they have been appointed, they don’t actually get the case files. There are actually clear, tangible steps or recommendations that the Committee could come up with, which, if implemented, would make a really big difference.
Going back to your point about the sentencing guidelines, I do not know if you were in the room when I was mentioning that the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime has come up with guidelines for magistrates called Costing the Earth. That would be in need of review, especially probably after what is happening with the Law Commission, but that is something that could be a starting point. The bulk of the work has been done in conjunction with lots of NGOs or wildlife crime officers, who have the expertise already, and the Crown Prosecution Service. It is just taking it to the next level.
Chair: Okay. We are going to have to move on.
Q110 Caroline Lucas: It does not sound like rocket science. I cannot quite understand why it has not been done. I wanted to ask you about the relationship between legal wildlife trade and the illegal wildlife trade. First of all, to what extent is the legal trade being used as a cover for illegal wildlife traffickers? If it is the case that that happens quite a bit then-to be provocative-is the legal wildlife trade sustainable, legitimate or even useful? To the extent that it gets used as a cover for illegal trade, should we be trying to get rid of it altogether?
Mary Rice: That question really only applies to Appendix I species. From EIA’s experience, if you look at the ivory trade or the one-off sales, it would appear that that has worsened the situation in terms of the illegal trade. For example, legal trade in farmed bear products has not stopped bear poaching. By sustaining and perpetuating demand, new products are brought on to the market and they are developed. From our point of view, the idea that legalised trade will stop poaching of wild animals is very simplistic and rather naïve and it is an enormous risk, especially when you are looking at species like rhino and tigers. It also assumes that there is a set, fixed demand for wildlife, but we have seen it growing. I think, as long as there is a legal trade, there will always be a means through which illegal product can be laundered.
Q111 Caroline Lucas: If you were writing the rules, would you prefer to see no legal trade of that kind of animal in Annex I at all?
Mary Rice: I would say, yes.
Stephanie Pendry: Mary has referred to one of the one-off sales, which was to Japan and China. ETIS, which records all the levels of illegal ivory trade, has shown that it is true that it did increase after those two sales. However, if we look back in time to the sales in 1999 when it was just to Japan, it did not increase after those sales, so it is not such a simple equation. You can’t say the sales caused an increase in illegal ivory trade. In one instance it didn’t, in one instance it did, so there were other factors at play there. What is good to focus on-and is one of the drivers for the illegal ivory trade-is the very large unregulated domestic markets in countries like China and Thailand. In China they have a system of regulating but it is not being properly enforced, and in Thailand there is no system of regulation at all. These very big domestic markets are really the drivers of the illegal ivory coming from Africa to Asia.
Q112 Caroline Lucas: Just to be clear on your position, would you say then that the legal trade is not something we should be focusing on specifically, but that it is other things that are going on that are the problem?
Stephanie Pendry: Yes.
Simon Pope: To give a practical example, fairly recently Namibia attempted to create a tourist market for ivory ekipas, which are little tribal badges of hierarchy. They were being made and manufactured from Namibia’s own stockpile. Word went out basically that these were being marketed and sold in Namibia and actually being promoted. As a consequence, copies started coming into Namibia from places like Congo, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe, all over the place. So the creation of a legal market there for tourists, then had the consequence of actually pulling in ivory trade from other countries.
Tania McCrea-Steele: Just to add to those points, IFAW’s position is that we are concerned that a legal trade provides a smokescreen for illegal trade, agreeing with Mary’s point about 2011 being the worst year for large ivory seizures on record. At the same time, we are seeing the impact of the countries that are pushing for that legal trade: the decimation of populations of elephants in some parts of central and western Africa. We have just had colleagues on the ground in Cameroon. I don’t know if you have seen the recent press coverage, but since the beginning of the year 300 to 400 elephants have been killed in Cameroon. Their ears had triangles sliced out of them, which would indicate that they are being hunted by Sudanese coming over the border, perhaps working in conjunction with the local people in Cameroon who have the knowledge of where the elephants are. The cutting of the ear is something that is not done in Cameroon, but is done in Sudan. We are seeing elephant populations being decimated in Chad, going from thousands down to hundreds so it is having a real impact. I know sometimes we talk about legislation and it removes us from the reality on the ground, but it is useful to really think about the impact that it is having on those animals and those populations. IFAW would also like to say that we welcome the current Government’s position, which is to push for an international ban on ivory sales.
Q113 Mark Lazarowicz: On the point about the decline in the elephant population, this is purely driven by ivory-the demand for ivory.
Tania McCrea-Steele: Yes. I guess we are focused on that because there have been the 2008 stockpile sales that went ahead, then subsequent to that we have seen an increase in ivory seizures.
Mary Rice: There is an issue of mixed messaging as well because with ivory it is particularly complicated, because you have split listings. You have some elephants on Appendix I, some on Appendix II, which in theory would allow trade. There is a quota and the one-off sales were intended to flood the market and reduce the price, particularly in China, and thereby remove the need for illegal ivory but that hasn’t happened.
Q114 Mark Lazarowicz: Why hasn’t it happened-because demand is so high?
Mary Rice: Demand has increased and the prices have been maintained. In effect, the Government has a monopoly on the ivory it bought, that stockpile, and is controlling the prices. It is controlling the speed at which it is releasing that ivory into the marketplace. The illegal traders have, in effect, recognised an opportunity and they can undercut the legal price. What you are seeing is a massive number of large seizures that are heading towards China. EIA’s investigations and other people’s investigations have documented that. There is clearly a problem.
You also have a situation where, for example, Zimbabwe is allowed to sell ivory as tourist products, and people are allowed to take that out of Zimbabwe and take it home for non-commercial purposes. In 2011, there was a new notification on the Chinese website, which said that, because the Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority had amended its parks and wildlife regulations, allowing export of elephant ivory from legal trophy hunts as well as worked ivory for personal use, they were now going to allow Chinese nationals to import products in personal luggage as travel souvenirs. Each permit would allow them to bring in a maximum of five pieces, the value of which should not exceed $5,000 or 10 kilograms in weight. But 10 kilograms is a significant amount of ivory. They are meant to be decorative objects, but it doesn’t include whole tusks unless they are carved or worked. There are a lot of mixed messages, people out there taking stuff back, either knowingly or unknowingly, and that is aside from the criminal syndicates operating.
Q115 Caroline Lucas: I want to get a bit clearer in my mind how strong the evidence base is both for the issue of the legal trade being used as a cover for the illegal trade but also, perhaps more widely, the legal trade fuelling the demand for illegal wildlife products. It seems that there are slightly nuanced positions between, say, TRAFFIC on one side and IFAW on the other. How strong is the evidence base in order to be able to try to make recommendations on the basis of it?
Mary Rice: EIA conducted investigations with Mandarin speakers at the end of 2010. They met with legal and illegal traders to try to assess what was happening on the ground, what the level of the illegal market was. The perception in Guangzhou, which is the epicentre for ivory trade in China, was that 90% of the ivory that was available on the marketplace at that time came from illegal sources. We have that documented on film, and that was the perception both from the legal and the illegal traders.
Q116 Zac Goldsmith: Can you tell me what percentage of ivory is sold in China?
Mary Rice: What percentage?
Zac Goldsmith: Of global illegal or general ivory sales? How much of it ends up in China?
Tania McCrea-Steele: It is difficult to measure because a lot of it is the illegal trade, so there is no facility for measuring it, but China has been identified as the new largest market. It overtook Japan recently. It was reported by the Elephant Trade Information System-ETIS-which we talked about earlier. They have now identified China as the emerging market. But, yes, it is difficult to quantify these things, as it is difficult to quantify poaching, because we are concerned that that is going under-reported. Again our colleagues who were in Cameroon-I think it was a week or two ago-were finding it difficult to find out exactly how many elephants had been poached, even though they were there, because there were safety issues about them going out into the field and getting to the elephants before they had been removed or decomposed. It is a real challenge getting hard figures on this, but last year probably 3,000 elephants were killed to fuel the ivory trade, and there are concrete statistics on the fact that 2011 was the worst year for large ivory seizures since records began back in the 1980s.
Stephanie Pendry: I want to follow up on that with a few more statistics about the year 2011. On ETIS we count seizures of over 800 kilograms as being significant. There were 13 of these large-scale seizures in 2011. That equalled about 23 tonnes, which is about 2,500 to 3,000 elephants. They mainly came from Kenya and Tanzania and nearly all of them were going to China and Thailand, so those are the two major markets. A lot of them are transiting through Malaysia. Six out of those 13 transited through Malaysia.
Mary Rice: Also, all the CITES documents have identified China as the single biggest destination for illicit ivory since 2005. Year on year, it has been identified in formal documents.
Q117 Zac Goldsmith: What do you think is the most useful thing the British Government can do to try to slow or tackle that issue? As a Government dealing with China, what is the most useful thing we can do?
Tania McCrea-Steele: I think going out there and pushing for better law enforcement in the countries where the poaching is taking place, using the colonial routes to promote best practice. As we have identified, the UK has a really good structure in place, albeit there is room for improvement, but going out there and sharing the model that we have for enforcement, encouraging greater engagement from enforcement bodies. IFAW has just completed-well, Interpol funded by IFAW-Operation Worthy, which is an enforcement operation across 14 south African countries where poaching is taking place. We provided them with training on identifying and gathering intelligence on people engaging in illegal ivory sales or in poaching, as well as with rhino horns. We would like to see more of that with Government support. I know that Defra are contributing to Project Predator, which is another Interpol project, and through that they can use that as a mechanism to engage with law enforcers on the ground in countries where the poaching is taking place.
Simon Pope: Another example of what the British Government can do: we lobbied the Foreign Office and Jeremy Browne quite heavily on an issue about bear bile farms in Korea, and there is a Bill passing through the Korean Parliament at the moment, which they are being slightly sticky about and not pushing as hard as they could do. Jeremy Browne made representations to the Korean authorities describing the practice as "abhorrent". That really hit home and made a big difference. We had a meeting with the embassy here in London as a consequence of that, and they were extremely anxious about the idea that a Foreign Office Minister had said to them that the practice that was going on in their country was to be described in that way. It is that kind of thing that could help.
Mary Rice: In terms of what the British Government can do, the British Government supported approving China as a trading partner based on their commitment that their system worked. The system does not work, so I think the British Government and the EU have a responsibility to redress that decision. China’s system does not work, so at the very least there needs to be a review of that system. We would go further and say that their trading partner status should be revoked, because they are clearly not implementing the system. You have figures of 63% to 90% of ivory on the market being illegal. The Chinese Government are aware of these figures, and they are doing very little to address that.
Q118 Zac Goldsmith: I thought they had massively ramped up the penalties in the last year-penalties for people being caught? Maybe they are not being enforced but the threat is there, and that is a new thing, isn’t it?
Mary Rice: The legislation may well be in place, but whether it is followed through is another matter. The Chinese authorities will go into a shop and seize goods if they have been told, but there is no proactive enforcement and there is no intelligence-led enforcement. They are not dealing with the networks and they are not dealing with these huge seizures that are coming in. They are aware of the level of illegal ivory available on the market, and doing nothing about it. Trade is going on in front of police.
Tania McCrea-Steele: Another couple of points that the UK Government could follow up on is writing enforcement requirements into trade agreements. This is something that IFAW is specifically looking at, trying to get that written into general trade agreements, because then it is also showing that wildlife crime is an issue. It is not just about the animals, it is about the social well-being of that country; it is about their political stability. We have seen that the ivory trade is funding some parts of the militias in certain areas within Africa. That is one tangible thing.
Another thing is it is great that the UK Government have this position that they want to push for an international ban on ivory sales. We would like to see them talking to other countries within Europe about that position, and forming a body of like-minded countries that are there to push for elephant conservation. It is possible there are other countries, Germany being one of them, that are supportive of our position, but it would be good to see more liaison there to build those ties.
Stephanie Pendry: Very briefly, just to echo what Mary was saying, if the UK Government could encourage China to enforce this regulatory system that they have in place, which clearly they are not enforcing at the moment, then that would be a big step.
Q119 Chair: How do you think the UK Government could do that?
Stephanie Pendry: As Simon was talking about, making approaches through the ambassadors and that sort of thing would be really helpful.
Mary Rice: Also through the EU, because any decision on this would be taken at CITES and the EU has to vote as a bloc. In order for any of this stuff to go through, we need consensus within the EU and that has been very difficult.
Q120 Zac Goldsmith: Are there any particular countries in the EU that are dragging their feet or preventing consensus?
Mary Rice: Based on the last COP, the majority were in support of trade; it was only a small blocking minority that forced an abstention.
Q121 Zac Goldsmith: We can only speak through Europe on this?
Mary Rice: Yes, through the CITES platform, but as Simon has highlighted, you can use other means: one-to-one representations and raising the issue through different bilateral agreements.
Tania McCrea-Steele: Also doing it well in advance of CITES because in the past these positions have been made very late on in the day, so you need to have a longer lead-in time for lobbying. CITES is in March 2013, so I would say it would be good to start building those ties now.
Chair: Okay. I think we are in danger of looking at a whole lot of different issues all at one time. One that we did want to home in on a little bit was rhinoceros, and I think Peter Aldous is going to do that.
Q122 Peter Aldous: Looking at the rhino, we understand there has been a significant increase in killings in recent years. That can largely be attributed to the belief-particularly in south-east Asia-that rhino horn cures cancer. Is that the case? Has there been a longstanding view, a cultural belief, that that is the case?
Stephanie Pendry: No. The whole issue about rhino horn being a cure for cancer is something very recent, in the last few years I would say. It has come out of Vietnam. It is not something that has been taken on board by any of the other south-east Asian countries. Rhino is not prescribed in Chinese medicine as a cure for cancer. Rhino horn has not been prescribed at all. It is just this rumour, this urban myth, really, that has come out of Vietnam. We have tried very hard to try to pinpoint where it has come from, that a Minister in the Government has been cured by taking rhino horn.
Mary Rice: Nobody has been able to identify who said it.
Stephanie Pendry: No, but it has been taken on board.
Q123 Peter Aldous: Has that belief increased; that is the main reason for the-
Stephanie Pendry: Yes. That is the main driver of the poaching in South Africa going from South Africa to Vietnam.
Tania McCrea-Steele: In China, people are buying rhino horn as an investment. That is why it is comparable with the price of gold but being more than gold; the rarer the animal, the higher the value of that animal’s product. Rhino horn is being bought from UK auction houses. It makes its way into China and they are banking it, basically like they are banking gold. It is one of the secure things that you can bank in. IFAW carried out an investigation of a website called Taobao, which is like China’s eBay. Taobao means "treasure hunt". Of all the wildlife products found on there, 99% of them were being sold as antiques or collectibles. Only 1% was traditional Chinese medicine products. That is an indicator that people are purchasing this because they are putting it in a bank. They see it as having investment value.
Q124 Peter Aldous: This myth that started off in Vietnam in recent years-what attempts have actually been made to dispel that myth, to challenge that belief?
Stephanie Pendry: Attempts have been made not just for this, but in previous years in carrying out scientific research to show that there is no medicinal value in rhino horn. There have been papers produced and published in scientific journals about it. But what we are talking about here is a belief system of a different culture, and it is very difficult to change those beliefs quickly. It is back to this argument, "Control the supply but also try to change the demand". Demand reduction takes an awfully long time for us to achieve.
Q125 Peter Aldous: A few minutes ago there was a response that the Korean Government had been responsive to approaches. Have any approaches been made to the Vietnamese Government, and how successful have they been?
Stephanie Pendry: The UK through CAWT, the coalition against wildlife trafficking, has led a bilateral visit that took place between South Africa and Vietnam. South Africa went to Vietnam, and then vice versa, to try to encourage an increase in dialogue between the two countries and to show the impact that the Vietnamese demand is creating and causing on the rhino population in South Africa. I think some sort of memorandum was drawn up after that meeting but, as far as I am aware, it has not been signed. Perhaps that is something else that the UK could push on.
Simon Pope: This has been described as a bubble economy that will burst because, inevitably, anybody who has cancer and takes rhino horn is not going to get better in the long run. At least in part, the extent of the rhino poaching that is going on at the moment has capitalised on something that is a bit like the emperor’s new clothes. Eventually, people are going to realise that this is not something that is going to benefit them at all. Traders have a fairly short window of opportunity in order to get as many rhinos as possible, stockpile those horns if necessary, and sell them at the highest possible price they can.
Mary Rice: There is a fairly significant dialogue going on in South Africa at the moment that, in order to save their wild rhino populations, the best thing is to actually allow international trade in the horn to countries like Vietnam and China. For example, there are companies who have developed business plans involving the use of rhino horn, so as the discussion around the economic value increases, then so does the pressure on rhino increase. This is the result now that you are seeing in South Africa.
Q126 Peter Aldous: I think last week the European Commission announced new restrictions on the export of rhino horn. That is obviously designed to address this stockpiling. As I said that is going to deal with some rhino horn, which may be several hundred years old, but how will that protect rhinos today?
Tania McCrea-Steele: To put that in context, Animal Health-the body within Defra who are responsible for issuing the CITES licences on CITES protected species-saw an increase in demand for re-export of rhino horn from the UK, and that mirrored the increase in poaching. That led to the concerns that the UK was being used as a transit route. By clamping down on the permits, and encouraging European countries to do that, they are shutting down Europe as a transit route market. It is good because then that means Europe is doing all that they can, and we welcome that. We would encourage Britain and Europe to get other countries to adopt a similar approach. I was talking to enforcement colleagues in Australia and New Zealand and they were saying that they do not have these measures in place, so it would be good to use the British ties with countries such as Australia and New Zealand and encourage them to adopt stricter measures.
Q127 Sheryll Murray: A similar sort of question, really. Tigers seem to have been a major focus of international wildlife crime. What is driving the demand for tiger products and where does it come from?
Mary Rice: China is still the primary consumer, and that is evidenced from the seizures from neighbouring countries. Tiger and other Asian big cat skins are used for luxury home décor, taxidermy, among the business, political and military elite, and for personal purchase as gifts. Raw bone is also available in the marketplace in China, and the areas where it has been easiest to infiltrate trade include the major cities in Tibet, Qinghai and Guangzhou. Tiger meat, teeth, claws are also in demand in China. Traditionally, the focus has been on traditional medicines, but skins and non-formal tonics-wine, for example-have become perhaps the primary problem now.
Q128 Sheryll Murray: What can be done to address the behavioural and cultural factors that underpin this? At the same time, can I ask you: what is the extent of demand for tiger products in the UK?
Stephanie Pendry: To take the first part, as Mary has described, the demand for the various parts of the tiger is quite broad. It is not just for medicinal purposes. A lot of it is for status, it is for show, so it is going to be difficult for us to combat that, because we need to try to get a change in the motivation behind individuals in China. They are buying items, like tiger bone wine, which are conspicuously expensive, as gifts to their superiors, as gifts to others. It is very much a social status thing. It is the kudos of the items. It is difficult to know how to get around that, and try to encourage them that there are other gifts that they could buy that would have the same impact and the same-
Q129 Sheryll Murray: Okay, and the UK?
Mary Rice: The UK can actually discuss the issue of tiger conservation bilaterally at the highest levels of Government in China, in a diplomatic way, and urge the Government to take a zero tolerance approach on tiger trade, perhaps by getting the same message from the leadership to the public that there will be no further trade in any part or derivative, or from any source, and that all the stockpiles of skin, including those from the registration scheme, bones, parts, bone wine and other products, should be consolidated and destroyed.
Q130 Sheryll Murray: The question was, is there a demand for tiger products in the UK? Do you know whether there is?
Tania McCrea-Steele: I was going to say it is difficult to get figures for that, going back to this issue that the Home Office do not require the police to record these crimes so we cannot measure it. A number of our organisations work as part of Operation Charm, which is the initiative between the Met Police and a number of NGOs. They have targeted TCMs in the past, so they certainly believe it to be an issue. It is a case of making sure that all that information is given a code, so it can be recorded so that we can be more specific in answering this. I do not know which law enforcers will be presenting to the Committee, but maybe that would be a good question to ask them to see if they have records that we do not have access to.
Q131 Sheryll Murray: Thank you very much. Could I also ask what evidence is there that tigers are being bred or farmed for their body parts? Do you know of any?
Tania McCrea-Steele: We work in China. We have an office in China, and they tell me that there are 6,000 tigers being farmed in captivity. We know this to be the case, because they have gone and they have seen those farms. We have seen photos, horrific photos, of tiger bodies in vats. Our concern about the farming of tigers is: one, the welfare of those tigers. The conditions are terrible. They are kept in absolutely tiny cages. The lives that they would have in the wild cannot be replicated or accommodated in those conditions. But also because, going back to that point that we made before, the legal trade in tiger parts provides a smokescreen for the illegal trade. There was an incident with online sales of tiger bone, and although I do not have the figures to hand, I know that there were examples of items that had been confiscated, and those tiger items have been made from wild tigers rather than farmed tigers.
Q132 Sheryll Murray: I know you want to come in, Mary, but before you do perhaps you would like to consider that a recent CITES decision states that tigers should not be bred for their trade in their body parts. Is there any case at all for allowing this tiger farming to go on-no matter how distasteful it is-as a way of relieving pressure on wild tigers? Do you think you could just address that for me as well?
Mary Rice: Okay. There have been seizures in Thailand in the last 12 months that indicate widespread farming of tigers, which are slaughtered for their meat and bones, and there have been cases in Vietnam and also in China. In terms of farming, EIA is not expert in this particular area. We look at it in terms of legality. Farmed tiger is going to be more expensive than a wild poached one, so ultimately the pressure will still be there for wild tigers.
Q133 Zac Goldsmith: Why would that be? Sorry, that does not make any sense at all. Why would a farmed tiger be more expensive than a wild one?
Mary Rice: The cost of raising the tiger and keeping it, compared to a poacher going out and shooting one.
Q134 Zac Goldsmith: Really? They are very easy to breed, aren’t they?
Tania McCrea-Steele: It is the cost of farming it. Like in the UK, I guess, if you were farming deer that would probably cost you more money than if you went out and stalked a deer that was out there in the wild.
Q135 Zac Goldsmith: Yes, but there are a lot of deer.
Stephanie Pendry: You need to look at the issue that TRAFFIC has-and this is probably the same as the others here-that because there are only 3,200 or so of these tigers left in the wild, any legal trade in tiger could encourage an increased demand. With the huge population that we have in China, even a very small increase in that demand could put additional pressure on the tigers in the wild. We just don’t have enough left to risk it, I think.
Mary Rice: It also provides a means of laundering.
Q136 Zac Goldsmith: I simply do not believe that. I think you said that some of it sells for tens of thousands of dollars, and you could pay for a farm three or four times over with selling two or three tigers.
Tania McCrea-Steele: I am mindful that Grace Ge Gabriel, who is our Regional Director for Asia, will be presenting to the Committee and she has a lot of expertise in this specific area. She will be able to give a more comprehensive answer to you about what is happening on the ground in China with tiger farms.
Simon Pope: On London, I have spoken recently to enforcement officers here about the extent to which there are still tiger products on sale in London. Obviously, the problem that occurs is that when you have a legal trade in a country like China, whether it is in bear bile or tiger bone, it is sometimes very difficult for those traders, if the first language is not English, to know that the trade is illegal here. The fact that there is a legal trade in China means that it is more likely in a way that there would be illegal items on sale here as well.
Q137 Peter Aldous: CITES was established 35 years ago in 1975. I would suggest there have been quite a lot of changes since then, in terms of conservation theory and practice. Is it still fit for purpose? Does it do what it is meant to do?
Stephanie Pendry: In the main, yes, it is. It is fit for purpose. One of the issues about CITES is that, although it does have power in the sense that it can impose trade suspensions, it is not using those powers to the extent that it could do to try to bring other CITES parties in line. I think that is one thing that if it could use its teeth a little bit more, that would be great. Also in an ideal world CITES would base all its decisions on the science, but obviously that doesn’t happen, politics comes into play and the profits that are made. Particularly when you look at species for timber and fisheries, many of those species should have been listed on CITES and biologically qualify for listing on CITES. They have not been listed because countries are voting against listing them, because they are just far too valuable and the trade that they are involved in is far too valuable. We have seen that happen time and again in the past, blue fin tuna being a prime example at the last COP.
Tania McCrea-Steele: In terms of IFAW’s position, CITES was created as a conservation tool, and when it is used as a conservation tool it is a very good-if not one of the best-international conventions to assist us with the protection of wild animals. Our concern sometimes is it can be viewed as a mechanism to facilitate trade. When that is the case, then we are concerned; we would urge the Government to adopt a precautionary principle, which it is doing with its position on ivory and its recent actions on rhino horn. Yes, basically it depends how people perceive it and how they try to use it, but it is a very, very good tool. In and of itself it is not enough to save animals. It needs to be complemented by consumer awareness and dealing with consumer demand, as the others on the panel have raised. I would argue in some cases there is a need for national legislation because CITES governs trans-border crime, but that can make it a challenge to prosecute people within the UK who may be selling some of these products.
Q138 Peter Aldous: Obviously, we talk of it being a political battle of costs. Are there any particular countries that are failing to live up to their obligations and dragging their feet?
Stephanie Pendry: I believe it would be quite hard to identify countries that are doing this well. I think it is a very complex-
Q139 Peter Aldous: Most people are not doing it?
Stephanie Pendry: It is very difficult. I think it is a very complex treaty to enforce. A lot of countries struggle with it from a resource point of view. There are not many countries that we could say are doing it brilliantly. The majority are struggling with CITES.
Q140 Peter Aldous: How could that be addressed?
Tania McCrea-Steele: This is the point I raised earlier, about using Interpol as an opportunity to engage with those countries to help them improve their enforcement. Operation Worthy was the largest operation of its kind, and there need to be more operations like that because there are lots of officers out there, where wildlife crime is part of their remit, but they do not have the expertise, the support, the training or the knowledge to go out there and implement it. Operations like that focus their minds and get them actually out on the ground because it is happening over a targeted period with international support, with people looking over their shoulders to urge them to do it but also to assist where the enforcement officers might have shortcomings. That is a tangible model that could be rolled out and increased.
Mary Rice: The terms of engagement have changed significantly as well. The species that are dealt with through CITES, their value has increased. Perhaps legislation resources have not kept up with that. CITES is only as powerful as the parties who support it can make it. If there is no support or investment, and an application of the appropriate resources, then it cannot work. But it is the only tool we have currently, so we have to make it as good as we can.
Q141 Peter Aldous: Are you happy that the British Government are doing all they can to make best use of it?
Tania McCrea-Steele: What, in terms of enforcement? We have all said that more could be done. There is the structure in place, but I do not know if now is the time to go into it or to talk about it when we go on to talk about enforcement. There are a list of steps that you can take to make sure that there are wildlife crime officers in each of the constabularies-not all constabularies have them; to ensure that there is a Crown Prosecution Service expert who can be reached by the wildlife crime officers in each constabulary; to ensuring that there are sentencing guidelines for the judiciary; to implementing COTES. COTES is the UK version of CITES, so it goes CITES down to a European level and then COTES within the UK. There has been a review, and I understand that that is moving along but it needs to move along quickly and needs to be implemented. Part of that review is pushing for stronger, newer powers for the police; for example, carrying out test purchases. They sometimes need to do that in order to show that somebody was going to engage in illegal trade, that type of thing. There are lots of tangible steps that the Government can do here, and to look at this antiques derogation and make a recommendation that it should be experts who verify whether an item is antique or not because, again, that provides a smokescreen for people to smuggle in new items. We have seen that happen here.
There was an Inside Out investigation, where they went out and bought a piece of ivory from Portobello Road and then they went and tested it. They claimed it was antique but it wasn’t, and it is so easy to do that. The Met Wildlife Crime Police Unit, if you go down there they can show you examples of ivory that has been soaked in tea to try to stain it to make it look old. They have the new piece of ivory and the old piece of ivory, the same carving, but pre- and post-stain. There are lots of measures that can be done within the UK to improve our enforcement and, most importantly, maintain and continue the funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit. I think that was one of the main outcomes from the 2004 EAC review of the state of play. It is excellent that we have that in place.
Our concern-and I think you have heard this from the RSPCA and the RSPB-is that the funding is always under review. It is going to come under review in March or April 2013, or it will run out then in 2013. One of the challenges with the unit is they are always thinking about funding, and so part of their attention is always on funding and not on enforcement. If they had a secure future, then the unit would be all the stronger for it.
Q142 Zac Goldsmith: I want to talk about the UK legal framework protecting wildlife. To echo Peter Aldous’s question, do you think it is fit for purpose here?
Tania McCrea-Steele: Yes, in terms of I believe we are talking about tigers, rhinos and elephants, so we are talking about CITES.
Stephanie Pendry: Talking about the trade, not national legislation, Wildlife and Countryside Act and so on.
Q143 Zac Goldsmith: Does the British legal framework need any kind of amendment? Is there anything missing from it in your view?
Stephanie Pendry: If the COTES regulations become updated, as is planned, I think everything is in place. The problem is not about the legislation that is in place; the problem is about implementing the penalties that are within it.
Q144 Zac Goldsmith: Take an example. The British Government has said that it wants to end shark finning, as it recognises that this is rapidly depleting the world’s oceans of many different varieties of sharks. That is the aspiration of the Government but, as I understand it, it is not illegal to serve shark fin soup in this country. Would you not advocate extending legislation to cover things like shark finning?
Stephanie Pendry: Then that should be done through CITES.
Q145 Zac Goldsmith: You think it should be done?
Tania McCrea-Steele: You can give sharks greater protection under CITES. If they were on Appendix I, they would have the most protection, which means that trade in them would be illegal so shark fin soup would be illegal. That could be something that the Government could consider.
Q146 Zac Goldsmith: Is that something that you are pressing for?
Tania McCrea-Steele: It is something that I would need to get more information on before-
Mary Rice: There are people pushing for the listing of sharks and various other marine species. CITES is just one way of doing it. The UK Government could take a unilateral decision to, say, ban the serving of shark fin soup or whatever. It does not need to wait for CITES to do it.
Q147 Sheryll Murray: On that point, I know that there are moves with the review of the COP to actually outlaw shark fins, but it is a problem. Predominantly now I think they are being landed in places like Taiwan. How can we perhaps use UK legislation to stop those dried shark fins from coming into this country in the beginning? Do you think that is one thing that we should be doing?
Simon Pope: You can do it again through CITES. When I worked at IFAW, we got an Appendix II listing for basking sharks. The populations were being hammered quite considerably by shark finners. They are very large animals, and you can understand the fin is worth an awful lot of money. They were not at home in UK waters, but you could find them in UK waters. By putting them on Appendix II they had to have a management plan attached to them being fished for shark fin and that basically stopped the illegal trade in it.
Q148 Zac Goldsmith: Can I just come back to UK lessons?
Simon Pope: It was the UK Government that actually took that listing.
Q149 Zac Goldsmith: But I think foreign vessels in British waters could-
Sheryll Murray: Yes.
Zac Goldsmith: Is that right? You are the expert. That is the same as shark finning. I don’t think UK vessels are allowed to engage in any kind of shark finning in British waters, but it doesn’t-
Tania McCrea-Steele: The UK Government could push for an up-listing of shark species at CITES. If you lobbied for that and other countries got on board, and it was put on one of the appendices, then they would be provided a greater level or absolute protection, depending on which appendices they are put on. It is the mechanism for doing that. I am not an expert on sharks. I have a German colleague who knows a lot about it, so I could find out more about it for you in terms of what the process would be. I know that he is saying that it would be good to push for uplifting of certain shark species.
Q150 Zac Goldsmith: In the absence of that, in the absence of being able to win the argument at the level of CITES, is it legally possible for Britain to decide not to allow restaurants to serve shark fin soup, for example? Are we legally able to do that, or is that a trade tariff of some sort?
Stephanie Pendry: Under the current legislation that is in place, you mean, or it would mean creating new legislation?
Q151 Zac Goldsmith: Yes, it would require new legislation, but would that put us in conflict with EU legislation or the WTO; anything like that?
Tania McCrea-Steele: It didn’t come up as an issue in terms of our work on seals. We were lobbying for a ban on seal products and my understanding from our European office, based in Brussels, was that we were able to do that because seals do not fall within the remit of CITES. We had freedom to come up with an independent trade ban, which is now in place. There is a WTO-World Trade Organisation-challenge, but we are confident that we will be able to address those points.
Q152 Zac Goldsmith: It is being challenged?
Tania McCrea-Steele: It is being challenged, yes.
Q153 Zac Goldsmith: Who by?
Tania McCrea-Steele: The Canadian Government have, yes, pushed for the challenge, but we are confident that all those points can be addressed. We were thinking about that at the point of lobbying for the ban. We welcome the fact that it has been banned at a European level, but that is why I am saying that seals could be treated separately, because it does not come under the auspices of CITES.
Stephanie Pendry: Whatever is decided at this point or any other, and sometimes the focus is lost a little bit-certainly at CITES COPs-is the practical element of listings and annotations to those listings. It is very useful to always be able to consult with enforcement about how practical these things that are being put into law are, because for shark finning, if you list three species of shark and you come across 10 tonnes of fins, how do you know what shark species that is? If there is no test that we can apply, then listing it will have no impact because we can’t determine what shark species they are.
Q154 Zac Goldsmith: I suppose unless-and it applies to all the other offences that we are talking about as well-the punishment was so high that it would not be worth those engaging in it risking it. If by selling illegal shark fin, perhaps by dressing it up as a different type of shark, if the risk of doing that is a substantial period of time in jail, then you would have thought that the upside was so small that it would not be worth taking the risk. Logically the same applies to a lot of these issues we are talking about. You are saying that CITES is one option, but we could also look at the seal option as well. Can I just branch out for a second, I am not going to take up too much time but are there any-
Chair: We have four minutes left.
Zac Goldsmith: I have one question that is back to the script, which is an important question. I wanted to know whether or not-as some of our previous panellists have suggested-you believe there would be advantages in drawing together all wildlife crime legislation in a single Wildlife Crime Act in this country?
Tania McCrea-Steele: IFAW is a member of the Wildlife and Countryside Link, and I know it is part of their submission. We said yes, in principle, but we would have to look at the nuances, and we would have to make sure that there wasn’t a weakening of any of the current penalties or protections in place. I guess the issue is if you start to review all the legislation, then you have people who would seek to weaken it, and we want to make sure that no animals lose the protection that they currently have in that process.
Simon Pope: The former head of the Wildlife Crime Unit, I put this question to him directly and he said, "Wildlife legislation in this country is like a very old car that we keep making modifications to, and sticking new bits on, until we have reached the stage where it looks a complete mess and it is so difficult to drive that only a few people can do it. Instead of making more and more modifications, we should just scrap it and get a new one". This is the situation. They are telling us that they have to deal with bits of legislation going back to the 1820s or 1830s.
Q155 Zac Goldsmith: Does everyone agree with that position on the panel?
Stephanie Pendry: I am not so much in favour, no. I think there is such a broad range of wildlife legislation in the UK, going from poaching all the way up to the CITES species, that to try to make one to fit all I think would be quite difficult. Yes, we can certainly simplify the law and bring some of the legislation up to date-like the poaching offences, definitely-but to have it all in one, all-encompassing, I think that we will end up making something so complex that it actually will deter law enforcement from taking action as opposed to encourage it.
Q156 Chair: That is really difficult to do. Just to compound things, we have the changes for the National Crime Agency proposed and coming in. Finally-and it is going to be finally because we are now very pushed for time-can I ask you how you see the National Crime Agency fitting in, how that sits with the cooperation that is already there between Interpol and between the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and how all of that should sit together?
Tania McCrea-Steele: We were encouraged to see that in all the submissions that I read everybody was advocating-including the Government, from what I could make out from the Home Office and Defra submissions-for the National Wildlife Crime Unit to remain a specialist unit that they could call upon, so it was protected and not absorbed into the National Crime Agency. I think that maybe it was-
Q157 Chair: Just to be clear, you would not wish to spread that across all police forces?
Tania McCrea-Steele: No. I think the current structure of having the National Wildlife Crime Unit as a specialist unit is excellent. The fact that it supports police forces is excellent. In addition to that, police forces need to have wildlife crime officers on the ground so that they work as a team. It would be necessary for the National Wildlife Crime Unit to share the information that they have with the National Crime Agency, when it is formed, because in the process of investigating some of these crimes they do come across high-level organised crimes. It would be important for that to be filtered into an organisation that can deal with that more holistically.
Q158 Chair: If I could ask, in terms of the operations that there have been within the UK-I am thinking about Operation RAMP-with different countries, with the Interpol operations that there have been, and the funding that Defra has had and the way in which some of the Defra funding has helped to fund some of this joint work, in terms of Defra, what has been the effect of cutbacks on the ability to actually do this work?
Tania McCrea-Steele: It is good to see that Defra have recently, I believe, put into Project Predator, which is about protecting tigers. It is an Interpol project. It is good to see that the commitment is still strong, given the current economic climate. The important thing to stress is that doing better enforcement is not about investing lots more money. It is about using the structure that is in place, yes, and just making it better. By giving the National Wildlife Crime Unit greater certainty over their future that will help. By making sure that each force has wildlife crime officers that will help. Making sure that the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors who are experts in wildlife crime are accessible to their wildlife crime officers will help. The structure is there; we just need to make sure that it is kept. Also, implementing penalties will have a big impact. It does not cost any more money for a judge to be stricter in court, but it will have a big impact.
Chair: I will give the very last word to Stephanie.
Stephanie Pendry: I would agree with what is being said here. It is great that Defra is supporting more international elements of combating wildlife crime, but I think it is very important that Defra also focuses on what is going on here in the UK. Animal Health have lost the head of their compliance, who is now leading the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which is great news, but as far as I am aware there are no plans to recruit another seconded police officer in that post. It is very important that that work is led by an enforcement professional, not a civil servant, so I think that is one thing that should be continued. Nevin Hunter made an incredible difference to the work of Animal Health, and his work should not be lost.
Chair: We have covered a lot of ground, and I would like to thank all four of you for your contributions. I hope that you will take an interest in our report when we finally come out with our recommendations. Thank you all very much indeed.