A major initiative linking religions and conservation groups in opposing the illegal wildlife trade, which is annihilating the world’s rare and endangered species, has been launched. Leaders of 34 religious traditions presented the Alliance of Religions and Conservation founder Prince Philip with statements of their support. (This news comes as Jerusalem starts its First Annual faith-based Green Pilgrimage).
Illegal wildlife trade is the fifth largest illicit transnational activity worldwide after counterfeiting and the illegal trades in drugs, people and oil. The religious leaders called on their followers to do all they can to end the illegal trade and to ensure that they don’t support the industry in any way. Although the intiative is focused in key countries in Asia and Africa which are affected by the trade, the Middle East is one region where wildlife had been smuggled in – with cheetahs being kept as pets in Dubai and animals held at airports where they were being trafficked in.
The statements of support came from various religious leaders across the world incuding the Muslim communities in Bangladesh, the Muslim women’s communities of Uganda and the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.
“We ask all the faithful to protect those species in our own lands that are most threatened, such as the elephant, tiger, primates, pangolins and many others, and to assist in the prevention of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in order that on the Dreadful Day of Judgement, when the community of creatures stand before Allah, we will not be condemned by their words. The richness of this world is a gift and a blessing from Allah. May we in turn be a blessing to all that Allah has made and given to our care.”
– from the statement made by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (Muslims)
At time when the Muslim world and the Middle East in particular are regularly criticised for their poor animal rights record (read this story on animal abuse in Jordan), it’s good to see religious leaders taking a clear stance and encouraging their followers to do the same.
ARC is a secular international organisation founded by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1995 to help faith groups develop conservation programmes based on their own beliefs, teachings and practices. It also helps the religions link up with key environmental organisations, creating powerful alliances between faith communities and conservation groups. It now works with 11 major faiths through the key traditions within each faith.
Crucially, the wildlife partnership focuses on undermining consumer demand in China and other Asian countries for medical ingredients or luxury items made from rare and endangered species.
ARC Secretary-General Martin Palmer said: “All faiths believe that our place in nature is to protect as much as it is to use the gifts that have been given us. This is why 34 major religious traditions from around the world, each driven by their own spiritual understanding of our responsibility to the rest of nature, have joined together to combat this most pressing of assaults on the diversity of nature – the illegal wildlife trade.
“This ranges from the Daoists of China working to change the mindset of those who buy traditional Chinese medicine using ingredients from threatened species, to the Muslims of Indonesia calling on the faithful to safeguard over-exploited animals such as pangolins, primates and tigers, to faith leaders in Africa speaking out against poaching. For all of them this is a moral and spiritual issue.
“This marks a new and potentially highly significant development in the struggle to preserve the great species of our planet, or, as many of the faith would put it, those creatures that most need the protection of God.”
For more on animal rights and wildlife trafficking see:
Image of a street juggler entertaining people on the occasion of Eid in Pakistan via Naiyyer / Shutterstock.com