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Praedial larceny (animal theft)

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Praedial larceny is the most extensive of all crimes committed in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is conservatively estimated that farmers and fisherfolk lose about 10 million dollars annually.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as a result of a study done in the region, concluded that 98 per cent of farmers and 82 per cent of fisherfolk experienced loss of produce from theft. It found that due to frustration with inaction by authorities in the region, only 45 per cent of incidences are reported to the police. The report also noted that it is the only crime in the subregion that is consistently trending upwards.

It is critical that we move praedial larceny from the shadows and treat it with the seriousness it deserves. To address this issue, I am proposing that we need to punish severely all those who are benefiting from the theft of animals by introducing the following measures: legislative reform, traceability, due diligence, enforcement of the Act and public education.

The Thief

A person convicted of stealing an animal should be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $5,000 or five years in prison.

The Butcher

Ninety per cent of our butchers know when they are purchasing stolen animals. Therefore, three critical measures should be taken to deter them from buying these animals: traceability, due diligence and severe penalties.

Any person involving in buying (inclusive of your own) animals to resell to the public in any form must by law be licensed and required to record the following information in a duplicate receipt book – (a) date and time of transaction (b) identification number of the seller (c) gender and colour of animal (d) approximate weight of animal and price paid for the animal (e) signatures of buyer and seller.

All business in the sale of animals must be done between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. and all slaughtering of animals must be done between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Restaurants/Cook shops, Supermarkets etc

It’s an open secret that a lot of meat that is sold (in buckets) is stolen meat. It is imperative that all sellers of food (meat) to the public should keep a record book to record the following information – (a) name of seller (b) identification number of seller (c) registration number of health certificate (d) type of meat purchased (e) amount of meat purchased and price paid (f) signatures of seller and buyer.

Enforcement of the Act (Enforcement team)

Public Health Inspector

No animal whose carcass is to be sold in any form to the public should be slaughtered before the animal is inspected, and a picture of the animal taken by the inspector on a government issue smart phone. All relevant information from the butcher must be copied in triplicate and used as part of his health certificate. The public health inspector will be part of a team that will routinely inspect any facility involve in the selling of food/meat to the public.

Any person who contravenes this act should be liable to a fine of $20,000 thousand dollars or five years in prison.

Courts

Two days per month should be set aside to deal exclusively with issues related to praedial larceny in each Magistrate’s Court.

General Public

Any member of the general public purchasing an animal must by law be required to record the same information like the butcher and take a picture of the animal he is buying; failure to do so means he will be liable to be treated as a thief.

Any vehicle used in the transportation of stolen animals/meat should be confiscated until the outcome of the case or any property obtained through theft should be subjected to the same conditions found in the Proceeds of Crime Act. Members of the public can request any seller of animal products to produce the public health certificate as a condition to do business.

The above measures will in my view safeguard the farmers and the general public, as each buyer will ensure that due diligence and traceability is observed in the purchasing of animals and animal carcasses, wholly or partially.

The media could help by facilitating public discussion on this scourge affecting the farming communities.

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