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We cannot afford any further delay to ban on trophy hunting imports

3 min read

In December, the government set out its plans to ban hunting trophies of all threatened, vulnerable, and endangered species. The measure was welcomed by MPs of all parties as well as by wildlife groups.

However, the Bill, first set out in the Queen`s Speech in October 2019, has yet to been assigned a date for its second reading. This legislation must be progressed immediately.

Politically, it is a “no brainer”. Opinion polls show strong support for a ban. Among Conservative voters no fewer than 89 per cent are in favour.

There is no great cost to administering it. If anything, it will save taxpayers money as officials will no longer have to assess hunters’ applications and issue permits to import their trophies.

Most importantly, every week that goes by sees more defenceless animals horribly killed merely to satisfy a trophy hunter’s vanity and their misplaced need to demonstrate their “prowess”.

Climate change and trophy hunting are combining to push many species to the brink of extinction

Since the proposals were first announced, hundreds more body parts of animals have come into the country. They range from lions bred in captivity and shot in enclosures (“canned hunting”) to elephants, leopards, giraffes, zebras, hippos, and monkeys corralled for the purposes of “sport”.

Change is needed, now more than ever. There are just 20,000 lions left, and around the same number of polar bears. Cheetah numbers are down to 7,000, and barely 3,000 black rhinos remain. Incredibly, it is still legal to shoot any of these animals for a “trophy”.

Climate change and trophy hunting are combining to push many species to the brink of extinction. Trophy hunters not only shoot large numbers of animals – they shoot the biggest with the “best” genes. This robs species of the ability to adapt and survive in rapidly changing environments.

Lion numbers have fallen by 95 per cent over the past century, and the species has lost 15 per cent of its gene pool. Shooting just 5 per cent of remaining pride males may push them past the point of no return. At the current rate of decline, US government officials predict this could happen as soon as 2050.

Artificial selection is also affecting elephants. Shorter tusks and growing numbers of tuskless elephants mean they are ill-equipped to source water under dry riverbeds during droughts that are more frequent and prolonged.

Trophy hunting is cruel and barbaric. Over half of all trophy-hunted animals are not killed instantly but suffer slow and often excruciating deaths. Cecil the lion was left for 11 hours to choke on his own lung blood just so the hunter could win an industry award for killing a “big game” animal with a bow and arrow.

There is no conservation gain from this “sport”. By contrast, photo safaris bring real financial benefits to communities that value their wildlife and seek to protect it for the enjoyment of future generations.

If the government really does not have time to bring its bill to Parliament at present then I have a proposal. On January 14, John Spellar’s Private Member’s Bill to ban trophy imports is listed for Second Reading. This is not a partisan issue; the bill enjoys wide cross-party support and I urge the government to adopt it.

Using this vehicle, we can deliver the ban that voters want without cutting into the government’s parliamentary timetable.

The government will then rightly be credited not just with bringing this manifesto commitment, desperately and urgently needed to protect the world`s wildlife, to the fore but for making it law as soon as possible.

So, let’s “Get the Ban Done”. Now.


Sir Roger Gale is the Conservative MP for North Thanet.

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