Pet industry needs to own liability for invasive species
Animals introduced as pets, bait or as food sometimes escape or are purposefully released from captivity. Sometimes, those species become ‘invasive’ – meaning they cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health.
Classifying the invasive species issue as anything less than a planetary catastrophe would be a dramatic understatement. Global economic loss from “pest species” has been estimated to near USD$ 1.5 trillion per year. And in most cases, the release of pet animals into the wild results in cruel and inhumane death.
Invasive species are also one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. To address the issue, the Convention on Biodiversity’s (CBD) Strategic Plan for 2011-2020 set a target of identifying and prioritizing invasive species and pathways, controlling or eradicating priority species and emplacing measures to prevent new introductions and establishments.
Yesterday, the pet industry association hosted a side-event where they presented their own ‘solutions’ to the invasive species problem. Much like coal, steel, oil and other damaging but lucrative industries, the pet industry association attempted a thorough greenwash.
The gist of the presentation was that business interests unfairly take the rap for irresponsible or uneducated owners. The industry has published a number of posters, websites, and other items asking people not to release pet animals into the wild.
My personal favorite?
A plastic bag covered with text, with one line asking people not to release animals into the wild. The plastic bag is not recyclable. It’s great that the industry is doing something to address the problem, but it is not nearly enough.
One issue we have in addressing the problem is that identifying individuals who actually introduce animals into non-native ecosystems is extremely difficult. Therefore, governments can not recover costs or impose any kind of liability on those individuals.
For now, invasive species mitigation falls on governments and individual taxpayers. Instead, we should consider imposing liability on the deep pockets, those businesses and associations that support the trade in species that become invasive – transport companies, wholesalers, and retailers. This will provide an incentive for business to apply the precautionary principle and prevent further invasive species introductions.
Pet industry: Nice try on the 'greenwash' but something still needs to be done