The fight against illegal animal trade must be tackled urgently – Letter to Europol

“The illegal trade in animals is a booming industry that leads to consumer fraud and animal abuse. In doing so, it threatens European citizens and public health. An important step in fighting this dangerous practice would be for Europol to work with Eurojust and EU Member States to fight this form of organised crime,” said Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP) MEP and Vice-Chair of the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals Manuela Ripa in a letter to Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol. The letter was co-signed by MEPs Martin Hojsík and Petras Auštrevičius.                                                                 

According to Europol, almost half of organised crime in the EU is involved in illegal pet trade activities. As the illegal pet trade involves low risks and high profits, it serves either to diversify the sources of income for organised crime or directly as the main source of income. The illegal dog market is estimated to be worth up to four billion euros. Research shows that governments miss out on high tax revenues due to the illegal trade. In addition, the illegal pet trade poses a serious threat to public health. Veterinary experts are concerned with the spread of parasites and vector-borne diseases that affect both human and animal health. In addition, zoonotic agents can be introduced through this route and cause unpredictable health risks.

“It is crucial,” as MEPs point out, “that Europol recognises illegal animal trafficking as an area of crime that goes beyond the definition of environmental crime and encompasses several dimensions of illegal activity – from tax evasion to animal abuse.” Furthermore, they recognise Europol’s actions to fight illegal trade in endangered species and underline the need for a greater focus on illegal trade in domesticated pets by adopting a more determined and tailored approach to fighting these activities.