Issues in Green Criminology: Confronting Harms Against Environments, Humanity and Other Animals

By politicalmediareview
March 8th, 2009

Peirs Beirne and Nigel South (Ed.)
Willan Publishing (2007)
Reviewed by Kevin Walby
Reprinted with Permission from the Canadian Sociological Association



This edited collection draws together works from scholars involved in ‘green criminology’. Green criminology studies how governments, corporations, military complexes and human consumption harm the environment and non-human animals. Damage to air and water quality, animal testing, uranium proliferation and slaughterhouses are examples of the kinds of issues green criminologists examine.

The first part of Issues in Green Criminology deals with theoretical debates. Ted Benton points out that green criminology requires a shift away from humanist notions of life and justice. Benton’s claim is that the environment and non-human animals have value in and of themselves. Calling for a non-anthropocentric version of justice, Benton contends taking ‘green’ seriously means pursuing anti-capitalism as a way of life. Rob White breaks down the differences between environmental justice and ecological justice. The environmental justice approach constructs harm in relation to human-centered ideas of good and bad, whereas the ecological justice approach situates humans as only one component in complex ecosystems. Piers Beirne argues that the animal rights and environmental movements share common ground with green criminology. Beirne also argues our language for discussing issues regarding animals and justice reflects an underlying speciesism that privileges humans.

The rest of Issues in Green Criminology tackles substantive topics. Geertui Cazaux links the tagging and collaring techniques used to monitor animal communities to undue suffering. Tom Regan makes a compelling case for the abolition of vivisection. Regan defines vivisection as ‘harmful, non-therapeutic experimentation using non-human animals’ (pg. 114). The piece by Sandra Wachholz discusses how the effects of global climate change (e.g. heat waves, hurricanes, drought and floods) tend to impact women more negatively. Reece Walter’s discusses how USA- and UK-based corporations have been dumping radioactive and toxic waste at sea and on land for decades.

Hazal Croall raises questions about food crimes, including use of mechanically recovered meat in food stuffs intended for human consumption. Michael Lynch and Paul Stretesky document the relationship between green criminology, eco-critical criminology (which is more policy oriented) and the environmental justice movement in the USA. Issues in Green Criminology makes a compelling argument as to why harms against the environment and non-human animals should be taken seriously as topics of study across disciplinary boundaries. The book is printed on 100 per cent recycled paper.

One problem with Issues in Green Criminology is that it does not fully address ongoing forms of struggle against eco-crimes and the criminalization of those struggles. Though Roger Yates’ piece on debates about animal rights describes changing green movement and counter-movement discourses, there is not much mention of what is called ‘the Green Scare’. Targeting groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), the Green Scare refers to how animal rights and environmental activists in the USA, UK and Canada have been treated as enemies of national security. There are many intersections between green politics and the criminalization of dissent not addressed in this book. Issues in Green Criminology leaves readers with a sense that party politics and a rights-based discourse is the only way of reducing harm to the environment and non-human animals.

Overall, Issues in Green Criminology is an informative read that should appeal to sociologists, criminologists, and philosophers interested in ethics, law, animal-human relations and green social movements.



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