Techniques of neutralization are very good theoretical methods by which deviants who had committed illegal acts try to justify their actions. This idea was first claimed by Matza and Skyer in 1957 who were working on juvenile delinquency. According to the author, these techniques can also be applied to wildlife crimes. That is why the article focuses on the motivations amongst farmers to illegally cull badgers in order to understand more the rural society and the rural wildlife crime.
Wildlife crime is a very broad term and there is not a clear definition of it. It can take many forms and it is difficult to know what is regarded as a crime. The article starts by conceptualizing this term. Because of the relative newness of nature as an object of criminological study (Beirne, 1999), it is hard to define wildlife crime. Although it could also be forms of “environmental degradation” (Enticott, 2011) studies and researches, like this one, tend to focus on offenses against non-domesticated wild animals. However, it is still not clear what counts as criminality. As it was mentioned before, wildlife crime is a broad term. Statutorily it ranges from organized crimes such as the trade in endangered animals to people shooting at birds. Even though statue makes few forms of wildlife crime illegal they are hardly enforced because of many reasons. For example, Wellsmith (2011) states that one of the most common complaints heard regarding the problems facing enforcement is that policymakers and judiciary do not take wildlife crime seriously enough.
Despite that there is no plain definition of wildlife crime there are still theories of its causes. One of the most popular theory that wildlife criminologists use is the neutralization techniques that are: denial of responsibility, denial of injury, denial of the victim, condemnation of the condemners and appeal to higher loyalties. With these techniques, criminals justify their actions and the author argues that they can also be applied to farmers who had illegally killed badgers. That is why he has done a qualitative research which included 61 in-depth interviews with farmers in England and Wales during 2006 and 2007. In order to avoid bias farmers had to meet different criteria like farm-type and geographical location.
The author is trying to prove that the farmers who have illegally killed badgers use the techniques of neutralization to justify their criminal acts and it can also be seen that he is against badger culling. First of all the government has been issuing licenses to farmers which allows them to cull badgers so farmers who kill under this license are not deemed a criminal. The analysis starts with the defense of necessity technique. Although it was not originally included by Sykes and Matza, probably it is the best defense farmers can come up with. The author states that ‘a common theme in the defense of necessity is that it was either the business or the badger’. However, there are proofs culling does not work. From 1998 to 2005 The UK Randomised Badger Culling Trial was conducted which showed that badger culling can not make significant contribution to tackle cattle TB (Delahay et al. 2008: 131). The next techniques which are mentioned are the denial of a victim and the denial of injury. Enticott (2011) claims that the farmers painted a picture of an increasingly ill and sick badger population and they say that by killing these rogue badgers they are just “putting them out of their misery”. Nevertheless, in the article, it does not say if rogue badgers exist according to Grant (2009) it is uncertain that they are real. In the juvenile delinquency, offenders suggest that the victim deserved whatever action the offender committed and there was no harm/injury caused (Matza & Skyes, 1957) but in the cases of farmers it is different because they are not suggesting that the badgers deserved their fate. In the next part of the analysis, it focuses on the denial of the necessity for the law and the claims of entitlement. By these two neutralization techniques, farmers claim that their rural expertise should determine what should be done to control bTB. Batters (2015) states that badgers play a major role in spreading the disease, up to 50 percent of cattle herd breakdowns are caused by them. Even though there are biosecurity measures they do not guarantee one hundred percent safety to the cattle and also the absence of legal vaccines against bTB (Conlan et al.,2015) has left the farmers relatively unprotected. Thus it might explain why they feel like they are ‘pushed around’. Appeal to higher loyalties which in this case is the farmer community is also mentioned in the analysis. This neutralization technique is well supported by two farmers’ comments that say they have done the culling to help others which basically means ‘appeal to higher loyalties’. On the other hand, as it is mentioned in the article farmers whose animals are slaughtered suffer from psychological effects as well. Their livelihood depends on many external factors. For example, if there is a livestock disease or climate change it will have a huge impact on farmers’ income (Farkas, 2014). These pressures can cause stress that will eventually lead to depression which also might explain why they condemn the condemners.
In the discussion part of the article, the author concludes that the neutralization techniques can successfully be applied to wildlife crimes but it is not the same as juvenile delinquency. It is true, it can be used when explaining wildlife crime but these techniques can be applied to everyone who deviates from social norms. When someone cheats in a game he uses the same methods to justify his actions. Most of the time only the neutralization techniques are the same, the values that people drift from are different. As the author, Enticott (2011) states that it was difficult to associate badger culling with a sense of excitement. He also mentions other difficulties like there is a small difference between particular techniques. Furthermore, there is the defensive localism which means a preference for one’s own area or region (Winter, 2001). Rural communities have their own way of living, they think about rural spaces as sites of freedom and because of the external regulations (Neal and Walters, 2007), they are dissatisfied with the government. It also might explain why farmers think it is a good idea to legitimise badger culling. Enticott (2011) suggest that the best solution for this problem is to consider farmers’ opinion in the policy-making and establish a partnership between farmers and the government.
In conclusion, even though wildlife crime is a broad term and only a few of these type of offenses are recognized and enforced the offenders use the same neutralization techniques as other criminals. In the case of this study, it was the farmers who applied them to illegal badger culling but this research showed some limitations. It may have been their rural identities or their lack of trust in the government or just simply their attempt to rationalize behavior that made them use the techniques of neutralization. Either way, the badger question will probably stay on the government’s agenda. In the recent years, they have been issuing licenses to farmers to cull badgers. Almost 20000 badgers had been killed in 2017 the government claims it is effective but the opponents say there is no evidence that culling works (BBC, 2017).