Rupa Huq MP: Fighting the illegal wildlife trade means fighting global corruption and organised crime on a global scale
Writing for PoliticsHome co-chair of the APPG on Anti-Corruption, Rupa Huq MP, calls upon the Government to take stronger steps on establishing registers of beneficial ownership in our Overseas Territories to combat the dangerous illegal wildlife trade.
The illegal wildlife trade is often thought of as a relatively small scale trade; something that we see in wildlife documentaries rather than the international criminal enterprise it is. It represents the fourth largest illicit industry in the world, behind only drugs, human trafficking and arms, but is never discussed in quite the same way.
Late last year, the government snuck out the long awaited Anti-Corruption Strategy, promised in 2016. The government’s anti-corruption strategy is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. I was disappointed in the delay between anti-corruption czars being appointed, and as co-chair of the APPG on Anti-Corruption, I feel it is my duty to hold the government’s feet to the fire on this crime. Some steps that have been taken are encouraging, but I am concerned that more could be done.
Every MP will know how quickly animal rights emails fill up our mailboxes. From bees to dogs to fox hunting, we are all constantly contacted by passionate campaigners and constituents. The illegal wildlife trade is crime on an industrial scale; and some of the gangs who are profiting from their part in it are not simply smuggling tiger skins, rhino horn or ivory. They are smuggling drugs or arms and are undermining the stability of developing countries. Instability anywhere in the world is a threat to our national security.
The recent spate of brilliant nature documentaries brought home how these majestic animals are under threat from changes to their habitat and from poaching. Every conservation group identifies corruption as a key issue in fighting the illegal wildlife trade, every academic paper cites it as a key challenge.
Countries that are home to endangered species are unfortunately often ranked highly on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions index. Central Asia, home to the snow leopard of which one is killed every day and where there are just 6,500 left in the wild and Sub-Saharan Africa, where elephants are being slaughtered on an industrial scale and lions are under threat, score particularly poorly.
Myself and colleagues and friends from across the House have called for the Government to take stronger steps on establishing registers of beneficial ownership in our Overseas Territories. Britain led the world in establishing an open register, but too many of the world’s secrecy jurisdictions are ultimately under the protection of the British flag. Fighting the illegal wildlife trade means fighting global corruption and organised crime on a global scale. Criminals don’t discriminate when they are trying to make money, whether from drugs or from rhino horn. Open registers would contribute hugely to the fight for global transparency and ensure the greatest chance of winning the global battle against corruption.
Rupa Huq MP is the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton and co-chair of the APPG on Anti-Corruption