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Hunting Trophies

Volume 819: debated on Tuesday 22 February 2022


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they plan to introduce legislation to ban the import of hunting trophies; and what is the proposed timetable for that legislation.

My Lords, it is a manifesto commitment to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals. We will be bringing forward legislation to deliver this measure as soon as parliamentary time allows.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for what he has just said. Will he acknowledge that the Government have the opportunity, by getting this Bill on the statute book as soon as possible, to play a significant part in saving many rare animals from a horrible and unnecessary death? Therefore, can he confirm that the Bill will go further than the manifesto commitment and cover more than 1,000 additional near-threatened species, as stated in the government press release of 10 December? Is he aware that, at the end of last year, more than 300 carcasses of endangered species had been shipped to this country since 2019? Is it not the case that any delay in enacting the legislation would result in many more large animals being killed?

My Lords, there were about 20 licensed imports of trophies in the year 2020 and I suspect that many others may have been illegally transported around the world. My noble friend is right to say that the scope of what we are proposing is all species listed in Annexes A and B of UK wildlife trade regulations, which are broadly equivalent to Appendix 1 and 2 of CITES. That is about 6,000 species. Over 1,000 further species are not listed in the WTR annexes but are assessed on the IUCN red list as near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered and extinct in the wild. Only a very few of those are actually hunted for trophies.

Can the Minister explain why the MoD continues to sanction the slaughter of Canadian brown bears to produce ceremonial headgear for our soldiers when there are perfectly viable alternatives?

My Lords, I am not an expert on this, but I understand that the bearskin is a product of a heritage cull which has to take place in certain parts of the world and is not an endangered species import.

My Lords, the Prime Minister is infamous for breaking his promises. He has promised this ban, but will it be another broken promise?

My Lords, there is a Bill coming forward relating to issues of animals abroad. That will be published in the near future. The noble Baroness would not expect me to second-guess parliamentary procedures, but it will be introduced soon.

My Lords, given that there are suspicions arising that certain other animal welfare aspects are to be dropped from the Bill to which my noble friend refers, will he forgive me if I say that I entertain considerable suspicions as to whether the Government are back-tracking?

My noble friend’s question suggests that she has the advantage on me and a greater understanding of the pre-legislative discussions that are going ahead. As far as I am concerned, what was in the manifesto will be brought forward in a Bill in the near future.

My Lords, it was reported in the media over the weekend—I think this is what the noble Baroness was referring to—that the Government are doing an about-turn on imports of fur and foie gras, both of which are abominable for those of us who have animal rights at the forefront of how we treat the natural world. Would the Minister care to comment on why there has been this about-turn?

I have read some of the speculation in the press, but this is not something that has come to me in my department as part of these discussions. We will see in the near future whether the noble Baroness is right or wrong when this legislation is published and pre-legislative discussions have taken place.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, if people do not like the process by which foie gras is made, the option is not to buy and not to eat it and we do not need the Government to ban it?

The Government are bringing in a range of animal welfare measures. We have a proud tradition in this country across parties of having concern for animal welfare. There is a long list of measures that the Government can take, have taken and will take. When the animals abroad Bill is published, everything in it has to be seen in relation to a much wider determination to protect animal welfare.

My Lords, further to the questions from noble Lords around what has been in the press, if bans on foie gras and fur imports are to be dropped from the animals abroad Bill, can the Minister confirm whether the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, is being sidelined by the Government and his department? He has previously stated that the Government would legislate to ban fur imports at the earliest available slot. There seems to be general back-tracking on animal welfare promises from this Government, so can the Minister assure us that the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, has the full support of the Prime Minister and the Treasury on these matters?

I can assure the noble Baroness that my colleague and noble friend Lord Goldsmith has the full confidence of the Prime Minister and is very active on these issues. He would be answering this Question if he was available.

My Lords, I note that the Defra consultation on this matter received over 44,000 responses, with 86% of respondents supporting the proposed ban. As the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk, said, 300 trophies have since been bought into the United Kingdom. Can the Minister tell the House how many more trophies are likely to be imported into this country before the long-awaited ban is implemented?

The noble Lord knows the length of time it takes for legislation to get on to the statute book, but once it is there, imported trophies will be banned. I would expect that, if the Bill comes in in the relatively near future, by this time next year the noble Lord’s ambitions will be realised.

My Lords, has my noble friend the Minister made any assessment of the possible unintended consequences of this legislation? In the late 1970s, Kenya banned trophy hunting and saw the number of its elephants plummet. South Africa and Rhodesia, as it then was, went the other way and said that, if you owned land, livestock on that land was your property. As a result, local people treated large animals as a renewable resource rather than a pest. Can my noble friend confirm whether the Government have assessed whether there might be increased pressure on the habitats of rare species as a result of this legislation?

As part of the consultation, we heard from a number of different organisations and Governments, including those of South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Canada, Zambia and Botswana, all of which support trophy hunting as a conservation tool. There is a wide-ranging debate about the value of well-managed conservation hunting and the impact it can have on increasing the number of rare and endangered species as against badly managed hunting, which sees large amounts of rare and endangered species killed and has no value to conservation.