• Gianluca Reale

Zoomafie, in Sicily the clans more and more present in horse races and dog fights

The long shadow of organized crime on illegal horse races, dog fights, illegal slaughter, killing animals, wildlife trafficking, poaching. These are the most frequent crimes against animals in Sicily, analyzed in the Zoomafia Report 2020, in its twenty-first edition, written by Ciro Troiano, criminologist and head of the Zoomafia Observatory by Lav (Anti Vivisection League).

According to the Report, which refers to 2019 data, every 12 hours in Sicily a criminal case was opened for crimes against animals, with one suspect about every 7 hours. Compared to 2018, there was a 16% decrease in the number of complaints, while the number of suspects increased by 167%. «Fewer open criminal cases - Troiano explains - do not necessarily correspond to fewer real cases of animal abuse». According to the Report, last year in Sicily there were about 760 cases (about 8% of national cases) and about 1200 suspects (20.54% of national cases), or 23.73 suspects per 100,000 inhabitants. «The high number of suspects with respect to the proceedings - Troiano says - is explained by the existence of a case for illegal horse racing and mistreatment of animals, with as many as 336 suspects, which has greatly increased the average number of suspects. The reference is in Catania, where in 2019 there were 77 cases with 786 suspects: compared to the previous year, the cases decreased by 14% from 90 to 77, while the number of suspects increased by +509% from 129 to 786 due to a criminal case for illegal horse racing and animal abuse with 336 suspects.

The data analyzed by the Report come from 12 Sicilian Prosecutors' Offices and those in the Juvenile Courts. The territories where there is an increase in crimes against animals, are those of Caltanissetta (46 cases, 24 suspects, +31% and +71% compared to 2018), Gela (+85% cases, + 125% suspects), Syracuse, where a major trafficking of puppies was discovered (suspects +98%, cases -17%).

«Sicily is one of the regions where zoocriminality is more active. All the crimes under investigation are recorded, from abandonment to mistreatment to those where there is a strong presence of organized crime» Troiano says. For example in the organization of clandestine horse races. The «investigations of recent years have confirmed the interest of some mafia associations for illegal horse races», in particular the Giostra clan of Messina, the Spartà clan and the "Mazzaroti" of the province of Messina; the Santapaola and the Piacenti - Ceusi of Catania. Also the official horse racing not exempt from the mafia infiltration: this is demonstrated by the investigation of the Carabinieri "Corsa Nostra" (Race Nostra) on the races of the Hippodrome of Palermo.

«For the fights - Troiano continues - judicial results have confirmed the involvement of members of clans of Messina. The infiltration of organized crime is also recorded in the fishing and fish trade sector, as the investigations on the Rinzivillo clan have shown. The traffics linked to the exploitation of animals, as we have been saying for years, represent an important source of income for the various criminal groups. And at very low risk".

Obviously, the Report also considers the "pasture mafia", clandestine slaughtering, illegal breeding, trafficking of anabolic substances or unauthorized drugs, the sale of meat from animals suffering from diseases, the clandestine meat trade. «Illegal slaughtering and abigation - Troiano oncludes - represent a serious problem of health and food security, as well as the illegal killing of wildlife, such as wild boar and other animals used for food. All activities that escape health controls».