In July 2020, I had the opportunity to participate in a three-day workshop hosted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) focused on capacity building in the area of agro-crime and agro-terrorism. The workshop was part of a larger three-year initiative entitled “Building Global Resilience Against Agro-Terrorism and Agro-Crime.” This project is a collaboration between Global Affairs Canada, OIE, INTERPOL, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In April 2021, OIE and INTERPOL released their report from this workshop. I encourage you to check it out at: https://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/MM/OIE__Agro-Crime_Workshop_Report.pdf
Although both agro-crime and agro-terrorism have broader definitions, the workshop focused on offenses against animals. Workshop participants included about 40 animal health, public health, and law enforcement experts from around the world. There is no doubt that livestock, wildlife, and companion animals are vulnerable to a variety of biothreats including agro-crime and agro-terrorism.
It may be useful to clarify the distinction between agro-terrorism and agro-crime in this context. Agro-terrorism is the targeting of animals inspired by ideological, religious, or political beliefs. An example would be the 2011 arrest and conviction of a South African man for threatening to spread foot and mouth disease (FMD) in the United States and Great Britain unless he was paid $4,000,000. The ideology behind this threat was the belief that both countries had been too passive when white farmers lost their land in Zimbabwe.
Agro-crime, on the other hand, is the targeting of animals that leads to death, illness, or mistreatment of those animals, potentially harming the health and livelihood of their owners for financial gain. The smuggling and sale of pork products into the United States from a country experiencing an African Swine Fever outbreak would be an example. The distinction here is that the motivation is monetary gain, not ideology.
The stated aim of the workshop was to “develop a roadmap that outlines and guides collaboration and cooperation between law enforcement and veterinary sectors to tackle agro-crime affecting animal health and welfare.” The workshop did, in fact, work step-by-step towards that stated aim: initially developing a common understanding of the issues, then exploring the value and challenges of developing greater collaboration between law enforcement and veterinary practitioners, and finally conceptualizing the pathway forward.