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OPINIONS

Curated & Moderated by:
Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou

What I have learned through investigating crimes against animals

Mark Randell, Head of the Organization Hidden-in-Sight International

I was honored to speak at the SNF dialogue event offering expertise in organised dog fighting and the links to serious crime. This is a subject that I was initially exposed to as an undercover police detective in the UK working on gun and drug gangs, gangs who fought dogs as a ‘hobby’ despite the horrific and barbaric nature of the activity.

After retiring from the police, I transferred my policing skills to operations targeting animal abuse and exploitation. I now train police officers around the world about why crimes against animals should be taken more seriously and when they are, people are safer. The pathways between violence towards animals and people are clear and have been known for over 200 years, yet society often trivialises animal welfare, leading to increased instances of family violence, child and abuse and murder. All of which are of course priority areas for public protection agencies and governments.

Since I made a first presentation on this issue in Athens in 2015, I have been able to speak on this subject in 5 continents using real-life cases; the terrorist in New Jersey who had his plans cut short by police officers who investigated why he had stabbed the family pet, or the 21 murders committed by a teenage trio in Ukraine who had progressed from killing animals to hurting humans.

Organised dog fighting still happens everywhere and is often hidden from sight, allowing authorities to pretend it does not take place. The investigation work I did with Vice Greece, Vice News and the BBC from 2016-2019 was just a tip of an iceberg of cruelty that affects up to a million dogs worldwide and is often centered around narcotics, illegal gambling and firearms. Some of these fights last up to 4 hours with large volumes of cash changing hands at each event. Investigating this crime effectively can open doors to other serious crime detections.

During 2021 I carried out an investigation on the strong links between animal and child sexual abuse, noting that over 70% of those that possessed images of children being abused also possessed graphic animal images.

I now work with a charity called Naturewatch Foundation who campaign on many issues including puppy mills, wildlife crime and animal testing.

Animal welfare is often seen as extremist and emotive, but all the evidence shows that when you protect animals, you protect people. Greece has, and is, making huge steps in recognising this with the toughest jail terms for abuse in Europe now available.

Most importantly, when someone (particularly a child) abuses an animal intentionally the crime should be brought to the attention of experts who can assess the threat the offender poses to society or perhaps even if they are a victim of abuse themselves. There is an opportunity to break the cycle of violence.