What is ecocide?
Ecocide is defined in a new draft law as the “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts” according to the Guardian. This definition has the potential to be adopted by the International Criminal Court in the future and was drafted by a panel of lawmakers over six months.
Politicians are not the only group pushing for ecocide to be considered a crime. In November 2019, Pope Francis at a meeting of the International Association of Penal Law, proposed that “sins against ecology” be taught by the Catholic Church. He suggested that internationally “ecocide” should be a fifth category of crimes against peace.
“We need to make sure that there’s an enforcement piece of legislation so if people who are aware of the laws and are still acting against them are prosecuted and the laws are enforced,”– Irish Green Party Teachta Dála (TD), Marc Ó Cathasaigh to WLR FM.
Why are the laws not enforced in Ireland?
Currently, the habitats of protected animals such as foxes and badgers are protected under law. The hedge destroyed by the farmer can be argued to fall under this protection due to the hedge proving a habitat for potentially endangered animals such as badgers and foxes. However, these laws are often not enforced due to a shortage of conservation rangers being employed under the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
Minister of State for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, has stated that twenty people have been hired and a ‘wildlife crime unit’ will be established by the end of the year. TD Cathasaigh welcomed the move but warned that those hired must be “qualified people” that are paid “at a rate that it will make sense for them to continue” as to ensure the jobs are “sustainable”, according to the Irish Times.