CfP POLLEN20 – Reframing legality and power in the contested terrain of European wildlife trade

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN 20)
Contested Natures: Power, Possibility, Prefiguration
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organisers

Hannah Dickinson, BIOSEC Project,  Politics & IR, The University of Sheffield, UK ( and George Iordachescu, BIOSEC Project,  Politics & IR, The University of Sheffield, UK (

If you would like to join us in Brighton, please submit an abstract of 300-500 words to Hannah Dickinson ( and George Iordachescu ( by 15th November.

We will respond to submissions by November 20.

Session description

Europe’s role in the global wildlife trade has predominantly been framed in terms of functioning as a transit point between source and consumer markets (e.g. Africa and Asia) (European Commision, 2016). Against this background, events such as the 2018 Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London or the CITES CoP18 in Geneva have shown that global narratives paint a picture of the wildlife trade that focuses on few, high-profile charismatic species and high-profit products like rhino horn or ivory, which are marketed particularly for the Asian ‘super consumer’ (Margulies et al, 2019). However, such a framing of the (illegal) wildlife trade not only fails to draw attention to less charismatic species but also disregards the active role of European businesses, policy-makers and citizens in driving and sustaining the global supply and demand for both legal and illegal wildlife products.

Recent green criminology contributions have shown that at least one-third of wildlife trafficking perpetrators in Europe are also involved in legal operations as zoo administrators, breeders or fashion trading companies (Van Uhm, 2016) amongst other roles. This involvement of legal companies in illicit practices which harm the environment and wildlife is often referred to as ‘green-collar crime’ or ‘dirty-collar crime’ (Ruggiero & South, 2010). Moreover, despite being protected and covered by numerous policies and regulatory mechanisms, certain species such as sturgeons (as caviar), songbirds or large carnivores are facing pressures in Europe from illegal killing, increase in demand and ineffective legal coordination within the continent (Schlingemann et al, 2017). Besides the lack of effective implementation and enforcement, current legislation addresses illegal wildlife trade as environmental crime (European Commision, 2008). This umbrella term effectively obscures the power dynamics that underlie and sustain wildlife crime in Europe.

In this paper session, we aim to shed light on the overlooked European dimensions of the (illegal) wildlife trade. We seek to understand how European (illegal) wildlife trade influences and is simultaneously shaped by, changing notions of (il)legality, corporate interests, regulations and underlying power dimensions. In this regard, we invite contributions from a broad range of theoretical and methodological approaches that answer some but are not limited to the following questions:

  • What are the drivers of (illegal) wildlife trade in Europe/ in European species?
  • What are the forces that have changed the terrain of the European wildlife trade (e.g. market forces, regulatory frameworks, grassroots activism, categories of consumption, cultural practices)?
  • What is the relationship between the legal and illegal dimensions of the European wildlife trade?
  • How have the interests of big business influenced the regulation of the European wildlife trade (and vice versa)?
  • What does the manner in which the European wildlife trade is organised and sustained reveal about underlying power dynamics of the capitalist economy?
  • How does the geography and politics of the European continent produce contestations over (illegal) wildlife trade, as well as possibilities for illegal wildlife trade to take place?


European Commission. Directive 2008/99/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on the protection of the environment through criminal law.

European Commission. COM(2016) 87. EU Action Plan Against Wildlife Trafficking.

Margulies, J. et al. 2019. ‘The imaginary ‘Asian Super Consumer’: A critique of demand reduction campaigns for the illegal wildlife trade’, Geoforum in press

Ruggiero, V. and South, N. 2010. ‘Green Criminology and Dirty Collar Crime’, Critical Criminology 18(4), 251–62.

Schlingemann et al. 2017. Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime in the Danube-Carpathian Region. A UN Environment – Eurac research – WWF Report.

Van Uhm, D. 2016. Illegal Wildlife Trade to the EU and Harms to the World. In Environmental Crime in Transnational Contexts: Global Issues in Green Enforcement and Criminology, Pp. 43-66, by Toine Spapens et al.(eds). London: Routledge.

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