International wildlife charity Born Free joined Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, Humane Society International/UK, and Lion Aid, on the steps of Number 10 to deliver one million signatures calling for a comprehensive ban on imports and exports of hunting trophies.
Born Free’s Head of Policy, veterinarian Dr Mark Jones, said: “Trophy hunting is a cruel and damaging relic of a colonial era that causes immense animal suffering and disrupts wildlife social groups and populations, while doing nothing to help wildlife conservation or local communities. The UK government should take decisive action to ban the import and export of hunting trophies, so as to discourage British hunters from travelling overseas and foreign hunters from coming here to kill wild animals for fun, and to set an international precedent for safeguarding the world’s diminishing wildlife. We must do everything we can to ensure this archaic activity is brought to an end.”
On 2nd November last year, Defra announced a 12-week consultation and call for evidence to support consideration of ‘controls on the import and export of hunting trophies’. It is understood from Defra officials that the consultation has already had 12,000 responses, a clear indication of the strength of public feeling on this issue. Defra announced that the deadline will be extended to 25th February 2020.
Gruesome analysis of CITES (Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species) trade data between 2008 and 2017 shows that the 2,260 trophy parts of CITES-listed species were exported to the UK, with the top five exporting nations as South Africa, Canada, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. These animal parts came from more than 50 species, with the top three species being African elephants (565 trophies), hippos (303 trophies), and American black bears (265 trophies). The macabre haul included 262 ‘skins’, 249 ‘skulls’, 53 ‘feet’ and 16 ‘tails’.
In September 2019 Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted about trophy hunting ‘We must end this barbaric practice.’ On the same day Animal Welfare Minister Lord Goldsmith issued a statement saying “The fight against trophy hunting of endangered animals matters. It is clear that it is morally indefensible…”. Public opinion polling commissioned in 2019 shows that more than 80% of the British public support a ban on hunting trophy imports.
Maasai elder Boniface Mpario, a member of the African tribal group’s leadership which stopped lion hunting, joined campaigners at Downing Street for the hand-in. He said: “I am supporting the ban on trophy hunting because it is a cruel act practised by some blood thirsty and rich individuals. It does not help conservation. It brings and increases poverty to the communities who get evicted to create hunting blocks.”
In responding to the consultation, campaigners are calling for the government to implement ‘Option 3’- a ban on hunting trophies from all species, not just from endangered or threatened species.
Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting founder Eduardo Goncalves said “Britain may have been divided over Brexit, but it’s united when it comes to trophy hunting. People are outraged that British hunters are shooting lions in enclosures, and killing giraffes, polar bears and even monkeys for fun. They’re also shocked that British companies sell these sick hunting ‘holidays’ and that foreign hunters can come here to shoot a deer classed as extinct in the wild. The message from the public to politicians is clear: it’s time to ban trophy hunting right now.”
Claire Bass, UK Executive Director of Humane Society International/UK said: “We welcome the government’s announcement that it is looking at a ban on imports of hunting trophies from endangered animals, but we’re clear that this law needs to go further than that. This isn’t just about stopping species from going extinct, it’s about taking a stand against a completely immoral practice. A complete ban would reflect the strong public disgust for trophy hunting, and would ensure that it’s effective and not riddled with loopholes.”
Dr Pieter Kat, Director of LionAid, said: “There is no evidence that trophy hunting has any positive effect on the conservation of any African wild species, and it has been shown time and again that that benefits like schools and clinics supposedly funded by trophy hunting are based on empty rhetoric. Hunting concessions in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania are receiving fewer and fewer tender bids as they hardly contain any remaining “marketable” game, the only commercially viable hunting concessions are those directly bordering nationally protected areas from whence they seek their trophies. Trophy hunting as a conservation measure should be relegated to the dustbin of history. The UK government should base a decision to ban imports on conclusions already reached by countries including the Netherlands, France, Australia and Guatemala, all of which have reviewed the evidence and come to the inevitable conclusion of banning imports of endangered and vulnerable species.”
Actor and animal advocate Peter Egan was among the group handing in the petition to No. 10. He said: “The whole world needs to wake up. We are facing an extinction crisis. Killing animals for kicks is making the problem even worse. Endangered animals are dying every day at the hands of these people. Trophy hunting needs to be stopped right away.”
For more information visit www.bornfree.org.uk