Stigma and Commodification in Wildlife Consumption and Crime

Mon, January 27, 2020 2:00 PM - Mon, January 27, 2020 4:00 PM at 313 Berkey Hall

Jessica Bell Rizzolo, PhD Candidate in Sociology and Environmental Science and Policy, will present her dissertation entitled "Stigma and Commodification in Wildlife Consumption and Crime."

Committee Members:

Dr. Diana Stuart (chair)
Dr. Aaron McCright (advisor)
Dr. Meredith Gore
Dr. Stephen Gasteyer
Dr. Clifford Broman


The illegal wildlife trade is one of the largest global criminal enterprises and encompasses the poaching, trafficking, and consumption of live animals and animal parts for food, medicine, pets, and entertainment. Reduction in demand for wildlife products is essential for conservation of biodiversity but requires an understanding of how legal sanctions and extralegal sanctions such as social stigmatization impact demand for wildlife products. Proposed interventions to counter poaching include the legalization of products from farmed wildlife and the captive breeding of wildlife for entertainment purposes, both of which rely on the commodification of wildlife. While these interventions are intended to saturate demand and reduce poaching, they may decrease the stigma against wildlife consumption. However, analyses of the stigma effect have relied exclusively on economic modeling and have not directly measured how legalization and commodification affect wildlife consumption.  

 To address this gap, this dissertation employed three papers to examine how the commodification of wildlife in wildlife farming and wildlife tourism impact wildlife consumption. The first paper used interview data to examine how scientists calculate the harms and benefits of wildlife farming and how the impacts of wildlife farming are influenced by contextual factors such as cultural practices, type of use, species, and geographic locale. The second paper conducted an experimental vignette survey in Mainland China (N=1002) to explore empirically how legalization and wildlife farming affect demand for wildlife products from four species (tiger, bear, snake, and turtle). Wildlife consumption bans lowered acceptability, increased stigma, and amplified perceived legal deterrents to wildlife consumption. Legality yielded increased acceptability, expanded social approval, and decreased perceptions of punishment for consumption. The effects of legal wildlife farming were most substantial for mammals, whereas legal wildlife harvest was more frequently significant for non-mammals. The third paper analyzed quantitative survey data (N=12,378) from twelve countries to examine the links between wildlife tourism participation and wildlife consumption. Entertainment-based wildlife tourism that featured captive wildlife, such as wildlife selfies, elephant riding, and wildlife circus shows, significantly increased the odds of eating/drinking wildlife and purchasing wildlife products. This dissertation discusses the implications of these results for wildlife tourism policies, wildlife law, and wildlife crime prevention.