Supply Side Of The Trade In Endangered Species

Trade has three elements – supply, demand and the mechanism of trade. In order to address the trade in endangered species, all 3 elements need to be tackled. We must also address how they are interlinked, for example:

  1. The desire to supply drives demand, so even if a demand reduction campaign works to drive down consumer desire for a particular endangered species, the demand can be re-manufactured by the supply-side determination to sell.
  2. When there is believed to be no alternative to the sustainable use model as a way to tackle poverty in rural communities bordering key wildlife populations, then trade is prioritised and demand must be manufactured irrespective of any pre-existing consumer desire.
  3. The dominance of supply-side economics in decision making about trade. Whilst conservation agencies and university departments acknowledge the complexity on paper, too often conclusions about trade are done solely on supply side factors. Just one example is the IUCN Policy Statement on Sustainable Use of Wild Living Resources , section 8d states:

“Levels and fluctuations of demand for wild living resources are
affected by a complex array of social,
demographic, and economic
factors, and are likely to increase in coming years. Thus attention to
demand and supply is necessary to promote sustainability of uses.”

However, in reality the demand and potential for demand growth is ignored in decision making. Under CITES the mechanism of non-detriment findings is supposed to ensure any ‘take-off’ from wild populations is ecologically sustainable. Yet demand side considerations are typically ignored, as if the potential for illegal harvesting did not exist.

These examples and many more, which have not been addressed by the wildlife trade and conservation sectors in decades, need to be interrogated to decisively tackle the trade in endangered species. Both pragmatic and more ideological approaches need to be discussed, these include but are not limited to:

  1. The capitalist model of production, where everything is commoditised and the ‘if it pays, it stays’ approach and unlimited economic growth has been given president over everything, we must explore ways to undo commodification
  2. Supply chain transparency in the trade of endangered species needs to occur in many industry sectors, from personal luxury goods and  high-end furniture to fine dining, alternative medicines and the exotic pet industry. The lack of supply chain transparency and industry contributions mean companies have been benefiting from huge profits while free-riding and making only token contributions to the cost of trade monitoring and regulation.

Undoing Commodification

The commodification (sometimes also called financialization) of nature is a necessary byproduct of a capitalist mode of production. It can’t be undone without undermining a basic tenet of capitalism – unlimited economic growth. Given that the unfettered growth of capitalism is no longer feasible with the decline in available net energy and the ecological limits to further growth, it is time to rethink commodification in the context of conservation.

In particular that means changing the way we relate to nature – giving animals and ecosystems rights that are equivalent to human and property rights recognised in law. These movements are underway in many countries and Nature Needs More is fully supportive of these developments. Ultimately such rights need to be enshrined in both national constitutions and international law.

In addition this also means giving local communities access rights to protected areas, on terms that are compatible with traditional use of resources without undermining the purpose of the protected areas. This is often a difficult balance to achieve, particularly in light of rapid population growth in some range countries. We support the development and negotiation of such models for access.

Basic Income Linked to Conservation

We advocate for making a Basic Income the default option for supporting poor communities in areas with high ecological value. If people don’t have to worry about food security and access to cash to pay school fees and medicine, illegal poaching, hunting and harvesting will be greatly reduced.