This article examines the intricacy within stylized debates that surround conservation and the regulation of wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. Illegal and unregulated trade in wildlife has been characterized by conservation groups as a great risk for wildlife worldwide and the prime threat for remaining wildlife populations in Laos. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is the centrepoint of the global discourse on wildlife trade. Popular representations of wildlife trade promoted by conservation organizations construct an image of regulation through CITES as a global necessity. The assumed morality of such interventions can provoke counter accusations about the immorality of impositions by Western conservationists. Yet both of these competing representations of wildlife trade regulation encourage externally-focused moralized debates that obscure the internal dynamics within global conservation, national policy formation and local practice. Recognition of the simplifications that characterize these three domains cautions against any idealized contrast between global hegemony and local resistance in critical studies of conservation. Instead, the focus becomes the contestation that is often hidden within such dichotomies.
Keywords: Conservation, wildlife, Lao PDR, CITES
How to Cite:
Singh, S., (2008) “Contesting moralities: the politics of wildlife trade in Laos”, Journal of Political Ecology 15(1), 1-20. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v15i1.21685