Animals And The War On Drugs
The War On Drugs is the colloquial name, coined in 1971, for a decades-long campaign against illegal drug trafficking and drug use in the United States, and beyond. This campaign has been fought through the increased criminalization of activities related to illegal drugs using both police and military involvement. Many people and organizations have classified it a failure, in part because of how it has framed human lives as dispensable.
There has long been a call to end the War On Drugs due to its disregard for human life. Now, this paper provides an additional layer of analysis that frames it as an animal rights issue due to the impact on animals that its militarized response has had.
Before analyzing the direct impact the War On Drugs has had on animals, the author notes that its important to understand some of its indirect effects. This includes the vocabulary that has been connected to it: the language surrounding the War On Drugs has been derogatory towards both humans and animals. Humans living in Latin America have been compared to various animals including dogs and jaguars. This comparison not only leads to racist stereotypes towards individuals living in Latin America, but also unfairly associates deadly and evil actions with animals. Although this may seem like a minor point, the language we use in regard to humans and animals alike is related to how we act towards these groups of individuals.
The paper notes that, in order for the drug cartels to launder their money, many of them have taken up ranching cows. Ranching, especially ranching conducted by criminal organizations, is very bad for local environments. Environmentalists have been vocal about the illegal clearing of protected forests conducted by these cartels, which harms endangered species and any animal living within a forest, not to mention that the clearing of forests contributes to climate change.
The author notes that drug trafficking has also been associated with the illegal wildlife trade. Drugs are transported alongside and sometimes even inside of these animals. Additionally, the increased border protection including fences and walls has stopped many wild animals from feeding, migrating, and conducting their mating patterns, breaking up their natural ranges.
Meanwhile, military planes have been used to spread chemicals over coca plantations in order to poison and destroy plants used to make high-value drugs. These chemicals are harmful, not only to local populations of humans, but also to the animals living in the vicinity, and many children and animals have been poisoned as a result. These deaths are seen as collateral damage in the War On Drugs.
In the author’s view, the human and animal costs of this war are recognized as predictable outcomes. The large scale at which these injuries and deaths occur leads them to the conclusion that the war on drugs is also a war on animals. This is a great example of the intersectionality of issues, and a way that advocates can build coalitions with each other to help both human and animal life.