The early poaching laws appeared during the preindustrial era in England

The early poaching laws appeared during the preindustrial era in England. The policies that were put in place were to serve as a protector for the King’s game, ensuring that no one besides the elite of the society hunted the deer (Eliason, p.4-5, 2012). Poaching in eighteenth century England could have been different than poaching today. The poor were not allowed to hunt the deer, but perhaps they needed food which led to poaching. Eliason declares, “it is apparent that elites were able to use their power and influence to construct a social reality that served their own vested interests” (p.5, 2012). This reality that Eliason is speaking of, is one where only the wealthy were able to hunt, and the poor men were not allowed weapons for fear of a rebellion. England imposed harsh law in the preindustrial era but that still did not stop poachers from poaching (Eliason, p.6, 2012). Eliason declares that the gamekeepers, who were employed to protect the king’s game, would often accept bribes to keep quiet about the poaching activities from poachers (p.6, 2012). Poaching was rampant even in the preindustrial era.
During the Industrial era, many of the poor from Britain immigrated to America, and found an abundance of ‘game’. Eliason explains that those who immigrated to America were opposed to laws restricting hunting, he further explains that hunting represented a freedom which the immigrants had been denied in England (p.6, 2012). However, Eliason declares that, “with unrestricted hunting much wildlife was wasted and many species were being systematically eliminated from the face of the earth” (p.6, 2012). Hunting laws are important for wildlife because they protect wildlife from being overhunted. But laws can only do so much to protect wildlife. Eliason asserts that each state is responsible for their laws when it comes to poaching; this causes a problem for law enforcement because poachers will cross state lines in order to sell of pieces of their kill (p.9, 2012). So throughout history, laws never put an end to poaching, it could be argued that laws exacerbated the problem.
Why have laws not been able to stop poaching? Moreover, why do people poach animals? Especially endangered species. BBC journalist Kara Segedin wrote an article that investigates the real reasons why people poach. She interviewed James Walsh, an African film maker, and Walsh says, “They see all this wildlife on the other side of the fence and they see it as an opportunity to have food for themselves or have food to sell to neighboring communities…It’s not like a rhino horn where there’s a massive payoff” (Segedin, 2016). Those who live in poor communities in Africa poach animals so they, themselves can eat or sell the animal to another community so they have money. For them, it’s not about money but about survival. They don’t get large profits because they don’t kill for one piece, unlike other poachers who poach for one piece to sell for a large sum of money.
There are many types of poachers, some poach for sustenance as I have previously shown, while others poach for different reasons. A website lists all the different types of poachers. Subsistence farmers live in communities that coincide with wild animals, they end up killing animals when they deem they are under threat (, 2018). Along with subsistence farmers are commercial poachers, who kill animals and sell their meat; criminal syndicates distribute animal products to international buyers. These syndicates are often the sellers of ivory tusks or rhino horns (, 2018). Rebel groups and Militias are frequent poachers as well. Poaching facts assert that these groups often poach and do so to supplement additional income; others are wildlife traffickers who participate in the sale of exotic, wild, or endangered species (, 2018). What the website has shown is there multiple groups who poach animals for the same reason, money. These groups often don’t care about what the impact is on others or the environment.
Poaching can take on many forms, and can be from many different areas. Someone from the United States can travel to Africa to poach an elephant and acquire their tusk or poach in their home country. Stephan Eliason conducted a study on trophy poaching and states, “trophy poaching occurs through-out the United States, but is especially problematic in the western United States given the variety and abundance of wildlife found there” (p.1, 2012). Eliason declares that, “trophy wildlife may be illegally acquired as a means of demonstrating hunting prowess” (p.1, 2012). In the hunting community, many people like to brag about what animal they killed and how big it was. This shows other hunters that a certain individual is legitimate and can take down a big bear or an elephant. Eliason applies the routine activities theory to poachers in his study. He states, “Routine activities theory suggests that crime occurs when three factors converge” (Eliason, p.2, 2012). These factors are motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of capable guardians. One can argue that wild animals don’t have a capable guardian.
Humans, for the most part, leave animals to fend for themselves; but when a hunter hunts an endangered species it is our job as humans to protect that species. Eliason interviewed wardens about the type of people who poach animals for trophy, they all said something along the same lines, that people poach animals for wealth and status, that it’s about the money (p.5, 2012). The United States is a very wealth oriented country, the more wealth an individuals has the more powerful that individual is. Eliason determines that a lot of poaching occurs on private land instead of public land. He states, “private land presents vast opportunities for trophy poaching due to abundant wildlife resources found on these properties. Wild animals are attracted to those areas primarily for food and refuge” (Eliason, p.8, 2012). Private land is land owned by a person instead of the government. Therefore, any wildlife found on private land should be protected by the land owner. The land may have berries or plants that an animal needs to survive so will enter the land for that food. Eliason determines that for a poacher to hunt on private land, the poacher needs permission to enter the land and poach the animal from the land owner (p.8, 2012). Many landowners do not allow hunting on their land to try and grow the animal population.
The individuals who are guardians of the animals tend to be game wardens. Although wardens try their best to prevent poaching, there is only so much a warden can do. Eliason cites Musgrave et al. 1993 article, “Lack of wildlife law enforcement officers is a problem nationwide” (p.9, 2012). Without enough wildlife law enforcement officers, it’s not easy to protect wildlife in one country, let alone the world. Eliason concludes with, “Trophy wildlife is in demand because it is rare and is associated with status in the hunting culture” (p.12, 2012). The rarer these creatures become, the more likely they are to be hunted. Eliason proclaims, “as the theory predicts, trophy poaching occurs when an opportunity is produced by three factors that converge: motivated offenders, suitable targets, and the lack of capable guardians” (p.12, 2012). When it comes to poaching wildlife, the motivated offenders are the poachers, the targets are the wildlife endangered or not, and the lack of capable guardians are the lack of wardens. With a lack of wardens and inadequate poaching laws, it’s no wonder how there are so many endangered creatures.
Poaching Policies
Many conservationist groups and nations have tried to end poaching through policies but have been unsuccessful. An article by Kent Messer examines different approaches to end poaching but focuses mainly on shoot-on-sight policies and how these policies affect poacher’s behaviours. Messer’s paper suggests three anti-poaching techniques, “1) reduce the price received by the poacher, 2) raise nonpoaching wages for potential poachers, 3) increase the economic costs to poachers through tougher anti-poaching efforts” (p.2, 2010). Messer doesn’t go into detail about these policies but claims that they won’t work if the black-market price for animal parts rises (p.2, 2010). Messer explains further that it is important to examine countries where shoot-on-sight policies have been applied to assess how successful those countries are in stopping the poaching of animals. Messer asserts that these policies work, based on looking at the population trends of animals after these policies have been implemented (p.3, 2010). Messer states, “Nepal was one of the countries that had implemented shoot-on-sight policies. After the policy was introduced, Nepal’s rhino population rebounded from 96 in 1968 to 600 in 2002” (p.3, 2012). While shooting someone is wrong, it is interesting that these policies are the ones that had a positive impact on the rhino population. These shoot-on-sight policies often lead to the death of poachers. Therefore, while they work I believe these policies are wrong.
Many argue that allowing hunters to cull animal populations will decrease poachers. Authors Guillaume Chaperon and Adrian Treves argues in their paper that culling animal populations would only increase illegal hunting of animals. They state, “The claim that legalizing culling or hunting will reduce poaching has become a fundamental issue for the conservation and management of large carnivores in human-dominated landscapes” (Chaperon and Treves, p.2, 2016). Culling animal populations is a way to keep them down, but it may lead to more poachers and as a result, put a species in danger. Chaperon and Treves maintain that, “Our results are consistent with empirical studies that link intentions to poach with culling policy. For example, studies in Wisconsin that measured intention to poach wolves found those intentions rose in parallel with liberalized culling” (p.5, 2016). Policies that allow the culling of an animal group to keep populations down resulted in an increase of poaching those animal groups. Chaperon and Treves discuss that getting rid of these policies led to poachers becoming frustrated which also lead to poaching animals (p.5, 2016). As a result, culling policies end up giving poaching opportunities to poachers.
There is a trade agreement titled Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that dictates what species can and cannot be killed for trade. However, when it comes to African Elephants, “the illegal ivory market is still flourishing” (Sabrina Persaud, p.3, 2017). Unfortunately, no matter how promising CITES was when it was first enacted, like many policies, it fails in protecting endangered species from poachers. Persaud asserts that there is a “high demand” for ivory in Southeast Asia (p.3, 2017), which contributes to the low populations of African Elephants. In Persaud’s article she cites Dr. Jane Goodall who likens elephants to humans stating that elephants feel emotions and are social creatures much like humans and that elephants deserve to be able to be free and bathe when they want (p.2, 2017). Elephants are massive creatures and need space to run and move, they also need their tusks. Unfortunately, people are killing elephants for the tusks because the tusks are ivory.
CITES is an important trade agreement for endangered species, it is the longest standing agreement. It was first enacted in the United States in 1973 ( and is a legally binding document. The Trade in Wildlife is a book edited by Sara Oldfield which looks at case studies and examines CITES’ role in protecting endangered species. Oldfield states, “The effectiveness of CITES listing depends on the ability to control illegal trade and to give local people economic and social incentives for maintaining wildlife” (p.64, 2003). So CITES is only effective if the community takes action and protects wildlife. Oldfield admits that, “approaches that focus on repressive and punitive policies to control poaching and to protect listed species are incomplete. The listing itself does not eliminate the demand and even optimal enforcement levels are unable to eliminate black markets” (p.64, 2003). The list of species endangered in CITES in incomplete, and unfortunately, doesn’t stop the demand of these animals, if they did they wouldn’t be able to reach black markets where a lot of animals are sold.
Criminal law is sometimes a deterrent to people when thinking about committing a crime. So, does criminal law play a role in CITES? Oldfield states, “The legal response to CITES violations includes administrative, civil, and criminal remedies. Criminal penalties for illegal wildlife trade may, however, offer the most potent legal deterrent effect on potential violators” (p.67, 2003). CITES violations can be criminally prosecuted and this prosecution is rarely effective when it comes to deterring poachers. This is because, “Criminal prosecution of wildlife-crime is still used sparingly” (Oldfield, p.67, 2003). There is potential for wild-life crime to be criminally prosecuted more, which could lead to less people poaching. However, there are some pitfalls in CITES’ legislation. Oldfield describes, “although criminal sanctions for CITES offences are outlined in the national legislation of a few countries, the more severe criminal sanctions are rarely used, and the majority of CITES violations are addressed through regulatory or civil remedies” (p.67, 2003). CITES has some severe regulations among several nations, however, these severe regulations are rarely used when it comes to a violation. Unfortunately for the environment, CITES uses civil remedies the most, and these remedies don’t offer much deterrence when it comes to poachers. One could question how CITES is supposed to protect endangered species when, for the majority of the time, they only use civil remedies; which do not deter others.
Many poachers poach animals for the rarity of their pelts or tusks and sell them on the black market. George Wittemyer, Joseph Northrup, Julien Blanc, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Patrick Omondi, and Kenneth Burnham wrote an article together discussing poachers killing elephants for their tusks. In the article they state, “Illegal killing rates were strongly correlated with black market ivory prices in the Samburu ecosystem” (Wittemyer et al., p.2, 2014). Wittemyer conducted a study on the mortality rates of elephants and found that a major cause of elephant deaths were poachers who wanted to sell the elephant tusks on the black market. Wittemyer et al. assert that, “As a result of this illegal killing, the population currently suffers from few prime-aged males, strongly skewed sex ratios, and social disruption in the form of some collapsed families and increased members of orphans” (p.2, 2014). Killing elephants for their tusks disrupts the elephant populations, it leads to too many females and not enough males. Which, as a result, points to killing females to stabilize the population. But this can lead to a lack of genetic diversity which steers the population to have deformities. Wittemyer et al. assert that, “the Chinese household consumption expenditure variable suggests reduction of demand for illegal ivory in China should be a priority” (p.4, 2014). China is a big consumer in the illegal trade of ivory and reducing the demand for this ‘commodity’ should be a priority to increase elephant population rates. The demand for rare items is high among the wealthy, and as a result, affects the policies around poaching.
Some people want goods that are rare, these items often symbolize how wealthy or upper class someone is. Frederick Chen wrote an article that converses about the different types of people who choose to obtain these items. Chen explains two types,
“For certain products, some people’s valuation of them increases the more popular these goods are; this is known as the bandwagon effect. On the other hand, there are goods for which people’s liking depends inversely on how many other people own them –i.e., for these goods, the rarer they are, the more people value them; economists call this the snob effect” (p.2, 2016).
The bandwagon effect is the most common when it comes to people buying an item from an animal. An example of this would be buying a fur jacket because it’s the latest trend; anyone who watches a fashion show would see that designers are utilizing furs for jackets once again and would be inclined to purchase one to keep up with this trend. The snob effect isn’t as common as the bandwagon effect; because this would be purchasing a rhino horn because it is such a rare commodity that it would show others that the owner has the wealth to purchase such a rare item. Chen argues that the snob effect is a major part of killing wildlife; to attain a rare item from the creature. He later states that the snob effect weakens anti-poaching policies (p.2, 2016) because many want to show off their wealth to others, to do that, they will find a way to acquire such a rare item.
Chen declares that there are two approaches that can be taken when trying to end the poaching of animals. He emphasizes that, “implementing policies that affect the supply side of the market for wildlife goods, or taking actions that impact the demand side of the market” (Chen, p.4, 2016). Implementing policies that affect the supply side of the market would include restricting the number of animals one is allowed to kill in an area (Chen, p.4, 2016), this could also mean that people are not allowed to kill endangered species until their population rates grow back to what they once were. Chen indicates that the more willing people are willing to pay for a rare animal item the greater chance of extinction which results, in people wanting that item even more, also known as “feedback loop” (p.4, 2016). To combat this, the desire to obtain rare species parts must stop to grow populations back to what they once were.
In conclusion, poaching has been around since the pre-industrial era and will continue to be around. There are numerous reasons why people poach animals, those in Africa poach animals to survive. Others, those from developed countries, poach animals for prestige and status or to sell the kill to the black market. There are numerous policies to curb poaching but none of these are strong enough. CITES, an international treaty aimed at protecting endangered animals, is ineffective because they use civil remedies for most of the time. Poachers and hunters are killing animals for the fun of it, which is causing detrimental damage to the environment. Animals are getting killed for no reason at all, except to use the fur for a rug, mount the animal heads to the walls, or show off the ivory of an elephant in a house. These are not valid reasons to kill a living creature; there is an idea that people are at the top of the food chain. We have a duty to protect all living things including wild animals and forests. If we don’t put an end to poaching, soon the earth will lose key creatures in the food chain. Each creature plays an important role and taking one of these organisms away will only harm future generations. Overhunting is one of the biggest reasons for endangered species and extinction of a species, but together we can put stop poachers. Canada is a vast nation with many different creatures, many of which have become endangered. Therefore, as a nation, we need stronger language in SARA, stronger policies, and we need to get rid of the permit system. Poachers harm the world by hunting endangered species for greedy purposes, we must protect them from poachers.