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We must end hunting trophy imports for good


3 min read

In recent years thousands of trophy body parts from protected species have been imported to the United Kingdom.

These are the remains of iconic, often endangered, animals who have been shot for pleasure and their carcasses brazenly brought home to the UK. Sadly, there has been a steady increase in demand for these activities, including so-called “canned” lion hunts, where lions are bred to be pursued in confined reserves with no chance of escape. According to the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, there remain more than 300 lion “factory farms” whose role it is to breed thousands of lion cubs for this very purpose.

There is no place for these activities in a civilised society. This is why I am leading the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, which will receive its second reading in Parliament today. The bill will end the import of hunting trophies to the UK, and in doing so fulfil a key Conservative Party Manifesto commitment.

Every year the UK does not act we are implicitly condoning these actions

We must work hard to ensure this important policy commitment does not falter – because every year the UK does not act, we are implicitly condoning these actions. By ending imports, we can send a strong message to the rest of the world that we do not tolerate the needless killing of rhinos, lions, elephants, and other species in the name of sport.

The evidence is clear across the globe that our global wildlife is in danger. In fact, over the last half a century we have seen a 60 per cent decline in global wildlife. Every year more animal species are threatened with extinction and we must ensure that the UK plays no part in this deterioration. By enforcing a strict ban on trophy hunting imports, the UK can lead the way in supporting the conservation of endangered species and protect wildlife overseas.

There is also a strong democratic mandate for delivering this measure. The commitment to end hunting trophy imports was included in the Conservative Manifesto 2019; the same manifesto that prompted almost 14m people to vote the Conservatives into power with its highest percentage of the popular vote since 1979.  It was also subsequently featured in Defra’s world-leading Action Plan for Animal Welfare published last year.

Indeed, banning trophy hunting imports accords very much with public sentiment. The British people were rightly outraged by the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe seven years ago, though the reality is there are thousands of “Cecils” killed every year and imported to the UK. Recent polling shows 86 per cent of voters would like to see an end to hunting trophy imports, and this opinion is even stronger amongst conservative voters, 92 per cent of whom would like to see the government enact a ban.

In enacting this bill, we can uphold promises made to the public almost three years ago and end the UK’s role in allowing hunting trophies to be imported. We must act without delay and align our laws with public sentiment, while delivering key manifesto promises, and send a strong message overseas that the UK will not be complicit in this practice.


Henry Smith is the Conservative MP for Crawley.

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