CAMPAIGNS: Illegal Wildlife Trade Campaign - Lobbying

Client: WWF UK/Traffic PR team: In-house Timescale: January 2002-November 2003 Budget: £250,000

The UK is one of the world's main hubs for the illegal trade in wildlife, with HM Customs making thousands of seizures each year. The WWF and wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic have been campaigning for stronger penalties for wildlife crime in the UK and greater resources for law enforcement.


To make illegal wildlife trade an arrestable offence and raise the maximum penalty from two to five years.

To introduce sentencing guidelines to magistrates and judges that ensure the punishment fits the severity of the crime.

Strategy and Plan

A lobbying and media campaign focused on raising awareness of the issues in Parliament, in addition to generating support from public and professional bodies such as the police, customs and magistrates.

The campaign kicked off by seeking the support and assistance of a cross-party group of parliamentarians, which included Labour MP John Mann, chair of the All-Party Group on Endangered Species. Mann tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) on the issue, which secured the support of 344 MPs.

The WWF held parliamentary receptions and facilitated fact-finding missions, such as that of Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe, who visited Heathrow Airport's Animal Reception Centre.

The cause was championed in the House of Lords by Lord Hoyle. Parliamentary questions were tabled throughout the campaign.

WWF and Traffic also sought to raise public support through a petition that ran over nine months, and invited people to write to MPs and ministers in relevant departments - the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Celebrity support was obtained from Crimewatch's Nick Ross, who launched a report and gave interviews.

The Criminal Justice Bill provided an opportunity to bring in the required change to the law. Eventually the Government tabled its own amendment to the Bill at Committee Stage in the House of Lords in June 2003. WWF and Traffic then commissioned reports, highlighting both the problem and the solution, which were released throughout the year to national and regional press, as well as specialist publications for police, magistrates, environmental health trade fairs and chat shows.

Measurement and Evaluation

National coverage included the Financial Times, The Independent and The Sun, along with BBC Breakfast News, Radio Five Live and GMTV. It was bolstered by wide regional coverage that included ITV's London Tonight and Scotland on Sunday. Specialist publications also reported the campaign, including Environmental Health News.

In addition, TV chat shows picked up the story, including The Richard & Judy Show and The Gloria Hunniford Show, as well as The Holiday Programme.


WWF and Traffic managed to change the law in the shape of alterations to the Criminal Justice Act 2003, making wildlife crime an arrestable offence. Sentencing guidelines for magistrates have been introduced.

The Metropolitan Police has also recruited two new wildlife officers to tackle the growing problem of wildlife crime in London.

The media coverage helped motivate public and political opinion, with the petition gaining more than 122,000 signatures and 4,500 electronic lobbying letters sent to MPs by the public.

The Guardian environment correspondent Paul Brown said: 'The campaign was pushing on an open door because the Government likes to be seen to be "green". But the secret is to produce credible reports that are easy (for journalists) to understand, which they did.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in