Video: Animal Traffic

How does a wild animal in the forest become a caged companion in a living room? To become a companion commodity, a wild animal is severed from its family, its social networks, and its ecology. At this very moment, millions of live, wild-caught animals are circulating worldwide in what is a booming, multi-billion dollar economy: the global exotic pet trade. More than half of these animals will die in transit or in the first few months at their new home. This video tracks the processes of capturing, transporting and buying and selling exotic pets. It shows the high cost of “pet love” in a bioeconomy that turns complex socio-ecological networks of animal life into discrete individual animal bodies that can circulate globally.


Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre, animation director and storyboard
Jocelyne Clarke, producer and sound editing
Déjah Dixon-Green, narration
Janet Lumb & Aras Bukauskas, music
Brigitte Archambault, drawings and watercolours
Ehsan Gharib, animation & compositing
Bruno Bélanger (PRIM Center), recording & mix
Rosemary Collard, scriptwriter

Special thanks: Juliane Collard, Rebecca Collard, Jessica Dempsey, Meghan Gagliardi, Rob Laidlaw & Joanna Reid


  • Who is responsible for the violence of the exotic pet trade? Why do you think this violence is so often overlooked?
  • What lives, if any, should be able to be bought and sold? Who should decide this, and according to what criteria?
  • Are animals’ interests represented in our political and economic arenas? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Are pets like cats and dogs also commodities? How are they similar to and different from exotic pets?


Source material:

Collard, R-C. Forthcoming. Animal Traffic. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Academic resources:

Ashley, Shawn et al. 2014. Morbidity and Mortality of Invertebrates, Amphibians, Reptiles, and Mammals at a Major Exotic Companion Animal Wholesaler. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 17 (4): 308–321.

Baker, Sandra et al. 2013. Rough Trade: Animal Welfare in the Global Wildlife Trade. BioScience 63 (12): 928–938.

Bush, Emma, Sandra Baker and David MacDonald. 2014. Global Trade in Exotic Pets 2006–2012. Conservation Biology 28 (3): 663–676.

Collard, Rosemary-Claire. 2014. Putting animals back together, taking commodities apart. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 104 (1): 151–165.

Smith, Katherine et al. 2009. Reducing the Risks of the Wildlife Trade. Science 324: 594–595.

Sollund, Ragnhild. 2011. Expressions of Speciesism: The Effects of Keeping Companion Animals on Animal Abuse, Animal Trafficking and Species Decline. Crime, Law and Social Change 55 (5): 437–451.

Other resources:

Slater, Lauren. 2014. Wild Obsession: The perilous attraction of owning exotic pets. National Geographic, April 2014

Vice. 2014. An Inside Look at the Exotic Animal Trade (video)