Criminology in Practice

Sollund on Green Criminology and Research into Wildlife Trade

In this article Ragnhild Sollund, co-editor of Fighting Environmental Crime in Europe and Beyond, discusses green criminology and research into wildlife trade and where it should end.

The field one chooses to delve into as a researcher is by no means accidental. I believe that deep down inside most researchers will acknowledge that their fields of competence and interest are largely contingent upon where and what they come from, and what they want the world to look like. To reveal wrongs, injustices and harms and to do this in order to come up with suggestions about what might be done to remedy the situation is in my view the role and responsibility of criminologists. My path as a criminologist, which ultimately led me to me current research field, green criminology, and more specifically wildlife trade, was therefore not straightforward.

Following traditional standards in criminology and other social sciences, and thinking it could be no different; I started out anthropocentrically. I researched the suffering of humans, more specifically researching the lives of refugees, with a particular interest in their situation as exposed to discrimination, social exclusion and breaches of human rights. My interest in this field was rooted in my experiences as an Amnesty international activist, again ignited by travels in Latin America which included work in a refugee camp in Honduras.

Being free to choose one’s research agenda is a luxury not all academics possess, but academic freedom may be seen as a necessary requirement to do basic research which may later prove important. The PhD is perhaps one such occasion, and it was during the closure of my PhD that I first came across green criminology. It was a path breaking eye opener provided to me by Piers Beirne and Nigel South (2007). As a part of the then Dr.polit. degree at the University of Oslo, one must present two public lectures, one with a topic chosen by the evaluation committee, the other of free choice. I chose to write about speciesism (later published in English, Sollund 2008) and animal abuse. I enthusiastically embraced this interdisciplinary research field which Piers Beirne (1999) and Robert Agnew (1998) had positioned within criminology. Green criminology is concerned with those who unevenly are suffering from environmental crimes and harms. It provided me with an avenue for researching injustice and harms that were hitherto little explored in the field where I got the opportunity to do research concerning those victims who are seldom accorded victim status: the nonhuman animals.

As a professor I was later free to pursue my interests in green criminology. Studies in the field encompass some of the most burning issues to deal with today (e.g. White 2013); when we face anthropogenic destruction, threats to ecosystems, global warming, the risk of drowning in plastic and toxic waste, and last but not least, concerning species extinction.

In green criminology it is acknowledged that one must look beyond the harms inflicted upon humans and include nonhumans as victims. In relation to my own field this implies that I question solutions which can improve the situation for humans, but which would imply further victimization of non-human animals. I reject therefore to perceive ‘wildlife’ – or free born animals – as resources that can be exploited for human benefit. In a case study report about wildlife trafficking in Norway, UK, Colombia and Brazil (Sollund and Maher 2015), we therefore went far in establishing that animals who are trafficking victims, whether legally or illegally, are victimized either way. The report was later used as part of the foundation for the staff working document for the EU action plan against wildlife trafficking (EU 2016), and this gives reason to think that our perspectives may also have impact on the more fundamental ways in which wildlife trade are perceived and addressed: at least it may provoke some thought in arenas where important decisions are made.

Although there is overall acceptance for the anthropocentric logic of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and hence for continued exploitation through wildlife trade, I find it important to convey the opposite; that animals should not be traded and treated as sometimes legal, other times illegal ‘goods’.

In my research I have not forgotten my criminological baggage based in critical criminology. This implies not to accept taken-for-granted ‘truths’ about how social institutions and social relations work and how they should work (Sollund 2012).

Over the past two decades green criminology has expanded to become a rich and diverse field which is taught at universities around the world. This means that new generations of criminologists will graduate with another understanding, not only of criminology and the role of criminologists, but also of the world and the responsibilities we have for it and its inhabitants’ wellbeing. This may give criminology a wider meaning and importance than it has previously had when focusing on what has traditionally been perceived as ‘crimes’, through which it may contribute to produce a much needed green revolution (Lynch and Stretesky 2014). The aim of green criminology must be to work for a world where green criminology is no longer called for, where harms, crimes and injustices of environmental destruction and animal abuse do no longer prevail.


  • Agnew, R. (1998). The causes of animal abuse: A social-psychological analysis. Theoretical Criminology, 2(2), 177-209.
  • Beirne, P. (1999). For a nonspeciesist criminology: Animal abuse as an object of study. Criminology, 37(1), 117-148.
  •  Beirne, Piers, and Nigel South, eds.(2007) Issues in green criminology. Confroning harms against environments, humanity and other animals. Devon: Willan publishing
  • EU 2016) COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT Analysis and Evidence in support of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking Accompanying the document COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking
  • Lynch, M. J., & Stretesky, P. B. (2014). Exploring green criminology: Toward a green revolution in criminology. Surrey: Ashgate.
  • Sollund, R. (2008). Causes for speciesism: Difference, distance and denial. In Sollund, R, 8ed) Global Harms: Ecological Crime and Speciesism. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 109-131.
  • Sollund, R. (2012). Speciesism as doxic practice versus valuing difference and plurality. In Ellefsen, R., Sollund, R. and G. Larsen (eds) Eco-global Crimes: Contemporary Problems and Future Challenges. Farnham: Ashgate, 91-115.
  • Sollund, R., & Maher, J. (2015). The illegal wildlife trade. A case study report on the illegal wildlife trade in the United Kingdom, Norway, Colombia and Brazil. Study in the Framework of the EFFACE Research Project. Oslo and Wales: University of Oslo and University of South Wales.
  • White, R. (2013). Environmental harm. Policy Press.

Ragnhild Sollund is Professor in Criminology at the University of Oslo, Norway.