We must act now on trophy hunting – and ban the import of these sick souvenirs
In the past decade 10,000 lions have been killed as ‘trophies’. The UK must take a moral lead on ending this desperately cruel industry – and we can start by banning hunters from bringing their souvenirs here, writes Pauline Latham
Imagine being born into captivity, stolen from your mother at between two and three weeks old and sold to face death at the hands of blood-thirsty tourists.
This is the fate of the animal who was once hailed as the king of the jungle. For 11,000 lions in South Africa, there will have not been one day of freedom. At a young age, they will be shot by a ‘hunter’ who cannot miss.
There are more than 300 farms in South Africa where lions are bred in cages for the ‘canned’ hunting industry. There will be no chase, no escape, no mercy.
It beggars believe that British hunters are among those who are propping up this desperately cruel industry.
The lions are reared in cages, forced to breed too young and their cubs taken from them soon after birth so that the mothers can breed again too quickly. The cubs are taken to petting zoos where tourists, possibly unaware of their past and future, are able to bottle feed them. Some are even able to walk with the young lions until they are about nine months old when they become harder to control.
From then on, these immature lions are kept in small pens until they are about two years old.
These animals have trusted humans because they know no different, having been bred in captivity.
This trust is tragically misplaced. They are either let out of the cages and are shot at almost point-blank range by the trophy hunter, or they are taken by truck out into the bush to make it look more like a kill of a wild animal. In this instance, they are allowed out of the truck are shot again at almost point-blank range, although some are never let out of the cages and are shot whilst in captivity.
Let me emphasise that they are no challenge to the hunter because they have been bred to be more docile towards humans. These magnificent animals have had no freedom to roam and live as nature intended thanks to an ‘industry’ which is, believe it or not, illegal in South Africa.
This kind of hunting is often given a licence thanks to the authorities turning a blind eye because the owners of these farms persuade them that this is being done in the name of conservation. That is simply a lie. It is a heinous activity which lines greedy owners’ pockets.
Every time a trophy-hunter shoots a lion they are paying many thousands of dollars. These lions are farmed in great secrecy to produce cheap, quick trophies for hunters. In some cases the breeders shoot them to sell lion bones for sale to the Far East for ritual medicines.
There are now fewer than 20,000 lions left in the wild across the world and, over the past decade, 10,000 lion trophies have been killed. It is easy to see that it is only a matter of time before the only lions we will see are in zoos.
Shamefully, Britain still allows so-called hunter trophies to be brought into the country.
Yes, lions’ heads could literally be flown into our airports by hunters who glory in them adorning their walls. But we need to make it clear that the UK condemns the killing of lions and other threatened species.
This should start with legislation preventing hunters from bringing back the heads, tails, feet, skins and other body parts of these animals to the UK.
We need a clear moral response. The government should impose an immediate moratorium on the importation of trophies until legislation is made. There is no reason why this can’t be done immediately.
Pauline Latham is Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire