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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Meg Munn MP supports call for stronger laws against illegal wildlife trade

Thursday, August 8, 2002

Meg Munn, Labour and Co-operative MP for Sheffield Heeley, with other MPs, has added her support to a campaign to increase the penalties for illegally trading in wildlife right here in the UK.

Reports released by WWF (the World Wildlife Fund) and TRAFFIC during their campaign have shown that some endangered species are being driven towards extinction by the flourishing illegal wildlife trade. In addition, organised criminal gangs including the Russian Mafia and international drugs cartels are trading in highly profitable wildlife products by using existing smuggling routes.

Meg Munn said: "We think of ourselves as a nation of animal-lovers but this campaign has exposed double standards in our laws. A person can be arrested for selling a common frog, which is a protected UK species, but can’t be arrested for selling a tiger or rhino - some of the world’s rarest species. They can be charged and taken to court, but because selling tigers is not an "arrestable offence" the police cannot take a suspect into the police station for questioning and find out where the animal came from or how it was obtained. The law needs to be strengthened, giving it stiffer penalties and making offences arrestable to help Police stop this scandalous trade.

I was shocked at how much profit these criminals can make. A pair of Lear’s macaws, which are giant blue parrots, are worth over £50,000, that is more than an ‘S class’ Mercedes and, ounce for ounce, shahtoosh - fine wool from an endangered Tibetan antelope - is worth more than gold."

Welcoming Meg’s support, David Cowdrey, WWF Campaign Director, Wildlife Trade said "Political support for the campaign is vital if we are to secure the change in law that the world’s wildlife so desperately needs. The UK is a major market for illegal wildlife and we need laws and regulations that act as a deterrent to these criminals. We are currently seen as a soft touch, which has resulted in the UK becoming a global centre for this abhorrent trade. We are greatly encouraged by the level of political support for the campaign."

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Editor’s notes

1. Photograph shows Meg Munn MP with a dead, stuffed tiger cub posed on a branch. The Metropolitan Police seized the tiger cub in London in a raid on a taxidermist shop. Experts say it was probably only 2 weeks old when it died and that in all likelihood the taxidermist opened the cub’s eyes for the first time. It had a price tag of several thousand pounds. It was too young to be able to determine what species of tiger it would have grown up to be.

2. WWF is now known simply by its initials and the panda logo, in line with the whole international network. WWF, the global environment network, takes action to conserve endangered species, protect endangered spaces and address global threats, by seeking long-term solutions.

3. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. It works in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and flora (CITES). TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN - The World Conservation Union.

4. WWF’s Wildlife Trade Campaign, in partnership with TRAFFIC, is calling for the maximum sentence for illegal wildlife trade within the UK to be increased from two to five years, thereby making it an arrestable offence, which will act as a real deterrent to wildlife criminals. The campaign is lobbying the Home Office to ask for much needed guidelines to be issued to Magistrates and Judges on appropriate penalties for wildlife crime in the UK and to ensure the punishment fits the crime.

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