Livestock theft crimes are deeply rooted in history. Livestock theft is not limited to a specific continent, country or region. For a long time, this phenomenon, which has no geographic reference, manifests itself in various scales and dimensions. Despite the fact that cattle theft in the twenty-first century may seem an anachronism, the fact that the problem creates a threatening effect for the economies of some countries suggests that the relevance of the issue is far from exhausted (Economist 2020; Gumba and Traore 2020). Agriculture is one of the cornerstones of many countries’ economies. Therefore, it is in the interests of states to create all the necessary conditions to prevent and ensure the investigation of crimes committed in rural agricultural communities, taking into account their destructive impact on the economy and, consequently, food security of a country (Clack 2013). The role of animal husbandry in agriculture has always been exceptional. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), livestock accounts for 40% of the world’s agricultural value and provides livelihoods as well as food and nutritional security for nearly 1.3 billion people (World Bank 2020). At the same time, for some countries and regions of the planet, the role of livestock in the agricultural sector can be vital. Therefore, the fight against crime in this industry requires special attention. The criminal law systems of different countries differ in the legal definition of livestock theft; examples are stock theft (South Africa), cattle raiding (European countries and the USA), cattle rustling (East and North Africa), lifting (India), and cattle duffing (Australia) (Clack 2018a).
In most states, criminal legislation provisions on crimes threatening or endangering life, health, and property reflect a state’s response to the most common socially dangerous acts. At the same time, despite some similar approaches to the legal regulation of responsibility for these crimes, the criminal legislation of any state has certain features, the study of which allows one to learn a different foreign experience, identify its positive qualities, and improve the domestic legal system.
In the Russian Federation (RF), at the present stage, theft is considered the most common type of crime (Goncharova 2020). In this regard, RF’s contemporary criminal law mainly focuses on theft. It attracts the attention of all internal affairs departments and criminal law theorists (Karpova 2011; Dovgan and Morozov 2020). For effective crime prevention measures, knowledge of an offender’s personality characteristics is an indispensable condition.
The study of an offenderFootnote 1 is of great importance for the effectiveness of the disclosure and investigation of any crime. Meanwhile, a criminal’s personality structure can be understood only on the basis of complex and comprehensive research. The structure of a criminal’s personality is a system of social characteristics and the relationship between different types of these social characteristics. The system of social characteristics includes demographic and socio-psychological individual features (Antonyan et al. 2017; Yochelson and Samenow 1993). Stock thieves often take measures to disguise criminal activity and oppose the detection work. These types of property crimes are usually associated with lengthy preparation for criminal trespass and constructive group criminal activity, and they often are well-organized. Therefore, in the course of the pre-trial investigation, difficulties arise not only with establishing the circumstances of the crime committed, but also with obtaining information about the person that committed the crime. The actions of livestock thieves cause increased public resonance, undermine people’s faith in the ability of law enforcement bodies to fight this type of crime and to protect their livestock from criminal encroachments. Taking into account the right protected by law to the inviolability of private property, the main role in the fight against cattle theft is assigned to law enforcement agencies and operational, investigative, and, accordingly, preventive activities. Herewith, of importance are constitutional acts as a guarantor of the principle of inviolability of private property. Unfortunately, the internal affairs bodies do not always take adequate measures to fight livestock theft (hereinafter terms “livestock theft”, “theft of livestock”, “animal theft” mean the same and are used interchangeably). Such factors as the originality of group criminal activity, its dynamism, and variability are not always taken into account. This is not only due to the lack of a professional core, but sometimes to the weak methodological support, and the absence of effective scientifically-based recommendations.
The economic situation in the Republic of Tuva (Russian republic) is associated with the agro-industrial complex, mainly with grazing. This form, firstly, is due to the natural and climatic conditions and the landscape of the area under consideration, one of the features of which is the low temperature drops in winter, which make it impossible to keep animals in open pens. Secondly, there are not enough hayfields to procure forage for animals on the territory of the Republic of Tuva. All these circumstances in contemporary Tuva caused in the distant past the people’s need to raise animals by using distant pastures, which in turn became a premise of such a phenomenon as “livestock theft” (Mongush 2019a). The urgency of the problem of open access livestock grazing provoking the commission of crimes was noted in 2018 by the current Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Republic of Tyva. According to him, half of all cattle thefts were committed precisely due to open access grazing. During the Regional Conference on combating crime in Tuva Republic, the Minister noted that in the history of Tuva Republic, an increase in cattle thefts occurred during the Second World War years, which was associated with socio-economic reasons. During 1921–1924, cattle theft was a very rare phenomenon. In the post-war period, the peak of thefts was in 1999, when more than 120 thefts were registered. It was during these years that the highest inflation and the fall in the standard of living occurred. However, since that period, the problem of cattle theft in Tuva Republic has not disappeared. At the same time, technological advances and information and communications technologies (ICTs) have expanded the toolbox of crime, providing criminals with new opportunities (Official portal of the Republic of Tuva 2018).
The relevance of our study is connected with the unsatisfactory state of the fight against livestock theft in RF, a transboundary context of the problem, the incompatibility of such a phenomenon as livestock theft with the concept of the rule of law, and inviolability of private property in contemporary society. The purpose of the research is to define the determinants and historical prerequisites for cattle theft in Tuva Republic and develop scientifically substantiated proposals for improving criminological counteraction to livestock theft in Tuva Republic. The study discusses a number of tasks that need to be solved:
To consider social aspect of responsibility for animal theft
To reveal the social portrait of a livestock thief in the past and at the present stage
To develop the necessary recommendations to improve the criminal law and other regulations in terms of enhancing the effectiveness of counteracting animal theft
To formulate a set of measures of a general social and special criminological nature aimed at preventing animal theft.
Based on the review of contemporary research, it is noted that the issue of livestock theft is not the prerogative of any particular region or continent. Livestock theft has been reported in both developing (Nigeria, Lesotho) and developed countries (the USA, the UK) (Clack 2018b). However, in terms of damage to the economy of a country or region, the consequences of crimes related to livestock theft can be radically different.
Animal theft is mainly relevant exactly in areas where it happens in large numbers. Livestock theft is a pressing problem in some African countries. This is evidenced by many studies on solving this problem in this region. Contemporary research on African states is devoted to such issues as the possibility of using contemporary IT technologies to prevent livestock theft (Dieng et al. 2017), livestock as a reason for serious conflicts between organized crime groups in northern Nigeria (Olaniyan et al. 2016), the problem of livestock theft, and the preventive measures taken in the state of Kaduna, Nigeria (Bashir et al. 2018). However, research on livestock theft and its countermeasures goes far beyond the African region.
Contemporary research on combating livestock theft in the world is devoted to such issues as the effectiveness of law enforcement and trust in the authorities, for examples of South Africa and the UK (Clack 2018b), the analysis of livestock theft cases from the standpoint of criminological theories (Clack 2015), impact of livestock theft on household poverty in developing countries (Khoabane and Blac, 2009; Clack 2018a), and typology of criminals in the meat supply chain (Manning et al. 2016).
Livestock theft committed in the Republic of Tuva has its own features associated with history, traditions, religious beliefs, etc. Tuvan-specific studies address such issues as:
The use of contemporary digital means to identify the determinants of theft in the field of animal husbandry (Alexandrova and Zheludkov 2019)
Analysis of the practice of investigating the facts of cattle theft (Mongush 2019a)
Forensic features of livestock (Shcheblyakov 2020)
Economic and legal characteristics of the crime rate in Tuva (Dabiev 2018)
The issue under research, from a criminal law point of view, is considered from two aspects: first, the grazing of farm animals as a condition to the commission of crimes related to livestock theft, and second, the identity of the offender and the factors involved in criminal activities related to theft of farm animals.
In contemporary studies in the Tuvan context, it is noted that the detection of cattle thefts depends on the proper material and technical equipment (an aspect that constitutes a problem for the Tuva region), the skills of the operational staff, the ability to communicate with the population and pastoralists, and recognizing livestock by their appearance. The studies note that proving the guilt of livestock thieves is complicated by such factors as: a lack of specialists in forensic science; an increase in the volume of apparatus functions in the operational and service activities of police units, including regional internal affairs bodies, a lack of sufficient work experience among a number of criminal investigation officers and high staff turnover. The most effective methods of preventing livestock thefts are considered to be carrying out raids and identifying the purchase or sale of stolen goods. However, at present in Tuva, this activity is organized in an inappropriate manner (Mongush 2019a, 2019b).
In studies devoted to forensic characteristics of livestock theft using the example of the Republic of Kazakhstan (belonging to the same sub-region and being a state where the problem applies as well), it is noted that the essential features of persons engaged in cattle theft are a relatively stable relapse, committing crimes in a group, leading a “parasitic” lifestyle, and a pronounced “male” type of crime (Khanov and Birzhanov 2016). According to contemporary research data, most livestock theft crimes, both in the border regions of Tuva and in others, are due to unsupervised livestock grazing. Animals are more often stolen from open access grazing areas, i.e. where criminals see “favorable” conditions for this - remoteness from settlements, lack or paucity of guards. It is noted that, as a rule, thefts are committed by organized criminal groups. More than half of all livestock thefts in the region were committed by local residents as part of groups (Mongush 2019b; Shcheblyakov 2020).
Review of the historical background of cattle theft in Tuva in the regional context
Livestock theft as one of the problems of agriculture is a pressing aspect of human activity, which affects the interests and feelings of many people; it is reflected in the moral, ethical, social, and economic life of society. Livestock theft is one of the most pressing topics: farm animals are stolen in different regions of Tuva every year. After the collapse of the USSR (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in 1991, in Tuva, as in the entire post-Soviet space, the number of crimes, including livestock theft, increased. One of the reasons was that theft turned out to be the easiest, and sometimes, it was the only way to feed oneself and one’s family (Kisel 2018).
Farm animals, being the main source of income for Tuvans from ancient times, became the subject of criminal encroachment. Since 1999, when crime peaked, livestock thefts have almost quadrupled. According to the Information Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tuva, in 2019, 476 crimes related to theft of farm animals were registered. Five hundred forty-nine head of cattle, 517 horses, and 582 head of small livestock were stolen, as well as a small number of thefts of pigs and yaks. Citizens’ criminal offences caused material damage of more than 86 million rubles (approx. $1,17m) (Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Republic of Tyva 2021).
It should be noted that livestock theft in RF is widespread not only in the Tuva region. For example, in studies devoted to horse stealing as part of animal stealing, it is noted that RF’s Bashkortostan, Chelyabinsk, Orenburg, and Irkutsk regions are now considered to be areas of widespread horse stealing (Galieva 2017; Galieva 2019).
However, in the other regions, crimes related to livestock theft, as a rule, are caused by a common mercenary motive—obtaining material benefits by selling stolen goods. In this context, the crimes of animal stealing that take place in Tuva may be caused by other motives—motives that have historical and cultural roots. In addition, the geographical features of the area of criminal activity—the border region, contributing to the transfer of livestock across the border of RF and Mongolia—are also important. Cattle theft and smuggling (primarily meat) are a significant problem for law enforcement agencies on the Tuvan section of the Russian-Mongolian border. Due to the huge length of the border between the Republic of Tuva and Mongolia in sparsely populated areas, as well as the lack of border protection, the issue of animal theft takes on a cross-border context (Mongush 2019b).
Turning to the geography of the region and the historical context, it should be noted that the Republic of Tuva is a subject of RF, a republic within it. Tuva is a part of the Siberian Federal District. It is located in the upper reaches of the Yenisei River, in the geographical centre of Asia. Mountains occupy 82% of the territory, while in the centre is the flat Tuva depression. Tuva borders Mongolia to the south, as well as five constituent entities of RF: the Republic of Altai, the Republic of Khakassia, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Irkutsk Region, and the Republic of Buryatia. From 1758–1911, Tuva was a province of China and from 1912–1918 under a protectorate of RF. On June 18, 1918, the independent state of Tannu-Tuva was proclaimed; after the revolution on June 18, 1921, it became an independent Tuvan People’s Republic—the first socialist state after Soviet Russia. On October 13, 1944, the Tuva People’s Republic voluntarily became part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as an autonomous region (Weinstein 1991; Official portal of the Republic of Tuva 2021).
The contemporary population of Tuva is 324,400 thousand people. The administrative-territorial division includes 143 municipalities, of which: 17 municipal regions, 2 city districts, 4 urban settlements, 120 rural settlements (Official website of the Plenipotentiary Representative of RF President n.d.). The products of the agricultural sector in the Republic occupy the largest share, accounting for almost 70%Footnote 2. In 2015, crop production accounted for 17.7%, livestock—82.3% (Expert and Analytical Center of Agribusiness “AB-Center” 2015). Agricultural lands occupy more than 20% of the territory of the Republic (Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of RF). Due to natural and climatic conditions, the traditionally dominant branch of agricultural production is animal husbandry, amounting to 84% of products (Oorzhak 2019). The largest number of small ruminants is in Sut-Kholsky and Ovyursky municipal districts (114-162 thousand heads), then Kyzyl, Tes-Khem, Bai-Taiginsky, Dzun-Khemchiksky and Barun-Khemchiksky municipal districts (67.5-113 thousand heads). The largest number of cattle is in Kyzyl, Barun-Khemchik and Dzun-Khemchik regions from 11.8 to 15.6 thousand heads. The leader in terms of horses is the Kyzyl region - more than 8 thousand heads, then Barun-Khemchiksky and Dzun -Khemchik region - more than 6 thousand, Erzinisky, Piy-Khemsky, Sut-Kholsky - about 4 thousand (Bicheool et al. 2016). The agriculture of the Republic is represented by 42 thousand personal subsidiary plots: they account for 76.0% of the livestock of cattle, sheep and goats - 47.3%, pigs - 82.2%; also 1650 legal entities including: 1133 heads of peasant (farmer) households and individual entrepreneurs, 517 agricultural organizations of regions.Footnote 3 As of 2018, 7309 people were employed in agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing and fish farmingFootnote 4. Although to date there are no reliable data on the exact number of shepherds in the Republic, in 2013 the register of shepherds-thousanders (a shepherd who has a thousand cattle) included 50 people (Official portal of the Republic of Tuva 2014). A high share of shadow employment is typical for Tuva, in the informal sector of the economy of which more than 30 thousand people are employed (about 23% of the economically active population), mainly in agriculture and the sphere of wholesale and retail trade (Oorzhak 2020). According to the latest official data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, facts related to livestock thefts were registered in all regions of the Republic, with the exception of Tere-Kholsky (Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Republic of Tuva 2018).
The problem of livestock theft in Tuva is deep-rooted. A lot of works by Russian and foreign authors have been written on livestock theft and responsibility for it in Tuva and the Central Asian region. Thus, Frederic Constant in his works reviewed the legal system of the Qing Empire and the attitude of Qing officials to the customary law of the Mongols. In his opinion, Qing officials enacted harsh punishments for animal theft and considered this problem a serious threat to social stability in Mongolian society (Constant 2019). Researchers Jusupov and Orozov (2018) conducted a study in Kyrgyzstan, where the problem of livestock theft is still relevant. They studied contemporary measures to fight stock thieves. Authors Botash and Zhappasov (2020) wrote about trade relations between Kazakhstan and RF in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, where the problem of livestock theft is also mentioned. Exploring the origins of cattle theft in Tuva in the context of regional peculiarities, the authors note that cattle theft was widespread among the Kazakh nomadic tribes. From about the middle of the seventeenth century, the Kazakh nomadic nobility often attacked Russian merchants, capturing prisoners and stealing cattle.
The issue of livestock theft in Tuva in Russian pre-revolutionary and interwar period studies
In the pre-revolutionary Russian historiography of the issue, one of the first scientists who briefly touched upon Tuvan livestock theft was the geologist P.A. Chikhachev (Chikhachev 1974), who noted that the phenomenon of stock theft was developed not only among Tuvans, but also among neighbouring nomadic peoples, such as Kachin people (Chikhachev 1974).
Orientalist and Turkic peoples’ researcher V.V. Radlov, who visited north-western Tuva in the area of lake Kara-Khol and river Alash in 1861, cited information concerning the methods of livestock theft. People who intended to steal horses would undress and crawl to them on their stomachs, silently untie them, jump on them, and gallop away. There was also the second group of thieves that would stay with the remaining horses and wait for the owner to run after the first group of thieves. When the owner ran after the stolen (by the first group) horses, this second group of thieves would steal the remaining horses (Radlov 2007). It is noteworthy that both V.V. Radlov and G.N. Potanin (1895) gave similar information about the Tuvan horse thief, describing the appearance and clothing of Tuvan men, including horse thieves, and they paid attention to practicality of their clothing. Horse thieves were mobile, used a minimum of clothing so that there was no “smell”, and during the pursuit, they could easily escape.
According to A.V. Adrianov (1886). who had an expedition to Tuva in 1881, theft was a common vice for all Soyots (outdated name of a Tuvan), starting with the officials themselves and ending with the last poor man. Theft and robbery were committed day and night, sometimes right in front of the owners, and they often did not cause censure and persecution. Theft had become commonplace (In fact, theft in Tuvan society has never been encouraged; in this regard, there is a well-known expression oornuң oruu muңgash, which is literally translated as “the way of a thief leads to a bad end”. It is most likely that this information referred to Tuvans, who committed crimes against visiting merchants. Most informants for the researchers were Russians, who unflatteringly spoke about local residents (Adrianov 1886). A.V. Adrianov here described one of the methods of punishment, which was part of the system of torture and punishment tos erii (тос эрээ—“nine tortures”). In reality, there were many more of them.
There is a more detailed description of torture in the work of E.K. Yakovlev 1900. Torture was a necessary part of the investigation, or rather, the investigative procedure consisted of a whole system of physical and moral torture. However, usually naive and simple-minded Soyot, fallen on trial for some trifle, tried to confuse the case, despite the fact that he had to endure serious torture. “There is no mountain without a wolf; there is no man who does not have a trick!”—says the Soyot proverb [пюр джох, таг джох, мегэ джох, ир джохFootnote 5]. Only women were exempt from torture. Despite the fact that written sources explaining the inapplicability of torture to women have not survived, it is permissible to assume that this is due to the absence of precedents and the traditional role of a woman-mother in a patriarchal society (Natsak 2021).
The following grade of several stages of physical torture was distinguished—ereler (эрэлер):
shagai (шагай)—slaps in the face with a long leather mallet
khaak (хак)—stick strikes on the backside
manza (манза)—stick strikes on leg muscles
sas khylga (сасхылга)—tightening and twisting of the fingers
ten sogar (тэн согар)—hammering thorns under the nails
ooryskar (оорыскар)—a board was put on the neck and hands, and a person was to be eaten by mosquitoes, flies, and parasites
sooduk (ссодук)—shake on the rack
yshtar (ыштар)—one who did not confess up to three times was tied up into a yurt filled with carbon monoxide, corked up, and then pulled out half-dead
However, for the Soyot, nine other moral tortures, or chagan (чаган), were much more terrible. One who did not confess was forced to (1) drink from a dog skull; (2) drink from a camel skull; (3) drink from a human skull; (4) swear—as khynar (ас хынар); (5) urinate on fire and salt, under fear of getting a venereal disease if a lie was told; (6) sniff the bear’s nostrils—хаяркан думчу окча (hayarkan dumchu okcha), and lick his paws—хаяркан джилга (hayarkan jilga) for fear of being eaten by a bear; (7) lick the knife blade; (8) lick the barrel of a gun; and (9) пужар чаган—puzhar chagan (“filthy oath”); the torture meant crawling between two stakes with the pants of an old, “damned” (never given birth) woman (Yakovlev 1900). As for the punishment for livestock theft, he noted that animal theft was not a crime: if a thief was caught red-handed, then he was punished, the stolen animal was taken away, and the thief was fined in favour of the investigating official (Yakovlev 1900).
Grum-Grshimailo (1926) noted that in relation to “grave criminals and incorrigible thieves”, punishments were applied in the form of cutting off arms or legs or imprisonment for up to several months in the so-called kara-bazhin. Valuable ethnographic materials were recorded by the researcher N.F. Katanov, who was in Tuva from December 1888 to the fall of 1889. In his work “Essays on the Uryankhai Land”, a meeting with a horse thief was recorded. “One armless Soyot, seeking tobacco, bowed to my feet three times. Having received the tobacco, he put on his cap and left at once. I found out that this Soyot lost his hand for horse theft” (Katanov 2011). The practice of using torture and corporal punishment for crimes disappeared in Tuva with the annexation of the territory to Tsarist Russia. In 1914, the tsarist government declared a Russian protectorate over Tuva. Under the name of the Uryankhai Territory, Tuva was administratively subordinate to the Yenisei province. Penalties for robbery were established depending on the severity of the crime: the death penalty, hard labour, reference to hard work at post stations. When imposing responsibility, both the number of criminals and the degree of participation in robbery were taken into account (Kiseleva 2012).
Among the pre-revolutionary authors, F. J. Kon (Kon (1936) tried to explain the Tuvan livestock-stealing from a historical point of view and believed that it might be a part of the form of baranta (the capture of livestock from the Turkic nomadic peoples as a way of revenge for an insult or reward for damage caused) that has survived from ancient times. Like other researchers, wrote that the Tuvans stole horses and cattle from the Russians. This was done so skillfully that it was never possible to find the culprit. Thus, in pre-revolutionary times, researchers and travellers who visited Tuva for the most part wrote that the Tuvans had developed livestock theft. Cattle thefts had two motives, according to the ethnic names of the crime: Oorlaashkyn and tutkuushFootnote 6. Oorlaashkin pursued economic goals, while tutkuush regulated social and ethnic conflicts. The main desire of the livestock thieves was not to increase their own property or punish the offender, but to strengthen their personal authority in their native community, so as to raise their social status (Kisel 2018).
The study of the problems of Tuvan livestock theft will not be complete without considering the image of the kaigals. The image of the Tuvan kaigal is very complex and contradictory. It cannot be said that the kaigal is definitely a thief and a swindler. If this was the case, then Tuva would not have many bearers of such names. For example, the famous performer of Tuvan folk songs, master of throat singing Kaigal-ool Khovalyg is an Honored Artist of RF. The inconsistency is revealed in the dual meaning of the term kaigal. In the Dictionary of the Tuvan Language, the term kaigal is defined in two senses: in a positive assessment as “a daredevil, daring, desperate person” and in a negative one—“a thief, deceitful, rogue person, a rogue” (Mongush 2011).
Kisel (2018), who also studied the image of the kaigal, mentioned that among many peoples, livestock theft was considered not only a daring act but also a feat. If one considers the image of the kaigal from a military-historical point of view, then it appears as a scout, a saboteur who weakens the enemy’s troops. Having stolen a herd of horses, horse thieves could inflict great damage on the enemy. That is why the presence of such capable people was a necessary condition for military superiority. In the “Secret Legend of the Mongols”, it is noted that Temujin himself, the future Genghis Khan, had to get his horses back: “Once robbers appeared and stole eight night geldings located not far from the yurt ... Temujin sat down on his greyish horse and followed the trail left on the grass by the night geldings … and managed to get his horses back” (Kozin 1941).
The Tuvans have an expression: “They recognize a windy place by the trees, the kaigal - by the eyes”. The word kaigal has a positive connotation here. In this expression, kaigal is the closest in meaning to dzhigit, daredevil.