[Stewart Hosie in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered trophy hunting imports.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie, and I am delighted that the relatively new Minister from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who has championed many different environmental issues, will respond to this important debate. I am particularly delighted to have secured this debate on banning trophy hunting imports to this country: although the Government have already announced that that is their plan, I wish to check exactly what their policy will cover. It makes a change to take part in a debate in Westminster at the moment that, I suspect, has cross-party support.
Oren Lyons, the chief of the Onondaga, was invited to address the United Nations in 1977. He made a long speech about our responsibilities. When talking about who had been invited to speak at the UN, he said:
“I do not see a delegation for the four footed. I see no seat for the eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior, but we are after all a mere part of the Creation. We must continue to understand where we are. We stand between the mountain and the ant, somewhere and there only, as part and parcel of the Creation. It is our responsibility, since we have been given the minds to take care of these things. The elements and the animals and the birds, they live in a state of grace. They are absolute, they can do no wrong. It is only we, the two leggeds, that can do this. And when we do this to our brothers, to our own brothers, we do the worst in the eyes of the Creator.”
We, the human race, have done wrong. Over the last few years, often through the greed of humans, we have brought to near-extinction many animals that used to exist in large numbers.
Is my hon. Friend aware that it is a widespread view on both sides of the House that there is something nauseating and revolting about someone who would slaughter an endangered animal to use part of its body as a trinket or trophy?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Further to the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight), is she aware that a recent opinion poll suggests that 86% of people across the UK support a trophy hunting ban? It is not just this House that is united on the issue, but the vast majority of this country’s population.
That is an interesting statistic, because I think that would not have been the case 20, 30 or 40 years ago. The extinction of many animals and the talk about that—for example, David Attenborough talking about it—have raised awareness among the general population, which can be only a good thing. I am sure the Minister is listening intently.
Local people in different countries do not benefit financially from this appalling trade, just the big greedy bosses of the operations. Elephants, tigers, rhinos, gorillas, lions and many more species are endangered—even giraffes are affected. British big game hunters have travelled to every corner of the globe, from Africa to Asia, North America to South America, and across Europe, in pursuit of often-rare hunting trophies. The most popular destination for UK hunters is South Africa.
Thanks to the determination of the Government and the previous Secretary of State, the ivory trade will be reduced, which will hopefully have an impact on the poaching of elephants for their tusks. Although other countries did that before us, we have at last caught up. With respect to trophy hunting, we might get to the forefront, although other countries have in fact banned trophy hunting imports.
During this debate, I wish to concentrate primarily on lions. Once they roamed free across many countries in Africa, but now there are far fewer truly wild lions. Although killing a lion for sport is bad enough, I can almost understand why that was done when they were plentiful, but I find the new, popular canned hunting of lions especially offensive.
Imagine being born into captivity, stolen from your mother at the age of about two weeks to three weeks and sold by merciless breeders to face death at the hands of bloodthirsty tourists. Laughing, smiling tourists pose for photos with dead lions, and I have even seen a photo of tourists kissing next to that fabulous being. That is the face of the animal that was once hailed as king of the jungle.
For 11,000 lions in South Africa, there will not have been one day of freedom. At a young age, they will be shot by a hunter who cannot miss. Lions are bred in cages for the canned hunting industry at more than 300 farms in South Africa. There will be no chase, no escape, no mercy. It beggars belief that British hunters are among those propping up this desperately cruel industry. The lions are reared in cages and forced to breed too young, and their cubs are taken away from them soon after birth so that the mothers can breed again, but too quickly.
The cubs might then be taken to petting zoos where tourists—possibly unaware of the past or future of those cubs—are able to bottle-feed them. Some tourists are even able to walk with the young lions until they are about nine months old, when they become much 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. They have been bred in captivity. This trust is tragically misplaced. The lions are either let out of the cages and shot at almost point-blank range by the trophy hunter or are taken by truck into the bush to make it more like the kill of a wild animal. In this instance, the lions are allowed out of the truck and shot—again at almost point-blank range—although some are never let out of the cages and are actually shot while in captivity, through the bars, by these so-called trophy hunters.
These magnificent animals have had no freedom to roam and live as nature intended, thanks to an industry that is, believe it or not, legal in South Africa. This kind of hunting is often given a licence thanks to the sometimes-corrupt authorities turning a blind eye, or because the owners of these “farms” persuade them that it is being done in the name of conservation. That is simply a lie. It is a heinous activity that lines the pockets of greedy owners. Every time a trophy hunter shoots a lion, they have paid many thousands of dollars for the privilege. These lions are farmed in great secrecy to produce cheap, quick trophies for hunters. In some cases, the breeders themselves shoot the lions so as to sell lion bones in the far east for ritual medicines. It is easy to see that it is only a matter of but a short time before the only lions we will see will be those in zoos.
Shamefully, Britain still allows so-called hunter trophies to be brought into the country. Yes, lions’ heads may be flown into our airports by hunters who glory in adorning their walls with them. We need to make it clear that the UK condemns the killing of lions, as well as 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 this cannot be done immediately. People’s lives are in danger when they speak out about this terrible practice, so we need to protect those who whistleblow about it. People might not be aware that there are three times more canned lions than wild lions in South Africa today. There are fewer than 15,000 lions left in the wild across the world. Indeed, our own Prime Minister mentioned this recently at Prime Minister’s Question Time.
Over the past decade, 10,000 lion trophies have been taken. Despite the very small number of lions, trophy hunting of adult males is still allowed in Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania. There is an absolute dearth of information that such activities are in any way sustainable or contribute to the conservation of the species in any way. In fact, it has been shown in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania that trophy-hunting concessions are now so devoid of wildlife, largely due to overhunting, that they cannot garner any further interest in tenders from trophy-hunting operations. There has never been a population count of lions in any trophy-hunting concession in any African nation that permits lion trophy hunting. It is no wonder that trophy-hunting operators are increasingly reliant on illegal hunts inside national parks, luring lions such as Cecil out of national parks, along with many other such transgressions on lion populations that should be strictly protected. The UK has put in place much funding to combat the illegal wildlife trade, but hunting transgressions on protected areas should be considered as one of the important illegal activities.
It is now abundantly clear that the future of wild lion survival in Africa is dependent on not more than four populations, which still have more than 1,000 individuals. Those populations are located in Northern Botswana; perhaps in the Kruger National Park in South Africa; in the Serengeti in Tanzania; and in the Selous in Tanzania. The estimate of 15,000 lions in total depends on an accumulation of small, scattered and isolated groups of lions across this very large continent. For example, there are 16 lions left in Senegal, 34 in Nigeria, 32 in Malawi, 34 in Angola and maybe 60 in Ethiopia.
This practice should stop and should stop now. Britain should not be allowing trophy-hunted imports of any species from any country. How can we allow zebra, rhino, lions or, indeed, any single animal from an endangered species to be brought in to go on someone’s wall at home or in the office when we are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers? Other countries have banned imports, but, so far, we have not banned them all. I am told we still allow some to come into this country. Why? That does not help conservation.
Shockingly, the infamous killing of Cecil the lion has encouraged British hunters to go to South Africa and shoot dead more big cats than ever. Experts had believed that worldwide revulsion at the shooting would mark a turning point for the endangered species and the start of a decline in trophy hunting. Instead, the number of British hunters targeting farmed lions and bringing home their body parts more than doubled in the three years after Cecil’s death, compared with the three years before, according to statistics from the global wildlife trade regulator.
This is not about telling African countries how to manage their wildlife. It is not even about laying down the law on trophy hunting to them. It is simply saying that the UK does not agree with killing lions, elephants and other threatened species for sport, nor with allowing hunters to bring back the heads, tails, feet, skins and other body parts of these animals to the UK.
Yes, I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. We must put a ban on everything that makes more species endangered, and we should be regulating and being very careful about what we do or do not allow into this country. As I said earlier, we are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers.
The times we are living in and the threat facing all wildlife demand a clear moral response. Things need to change so that live animals are better for the economy than dead ones. I understand that the US had a total or near-total ban when Obama was President, but the current President has decided to release the pressure and to allow some trophy hunting. I understand that that is because two of his sons like trophy hunting. That is something that should not happen in America. It should not happen here. It should not happen in Europe. It should happen nowhere.
I am fortunate to have seen many lions and other endangered species in various African countries, but I want my grandchildren and their children to have that privilege too when they are old enough to travel. We can visit a zoo, but that is such a poor relation, compared with seeing a lion, or any animal, living in freedom in its own natural environment. David Attenborough has spoken about the animals in Africa and other places, and indeed in the oceans, and his programmes whet the appetite, but unless we stop all trophy hunting, those beautiful animals will disappear from our reach, as many very nearly have.
I have a series of questions for the Minister, following the Government’s welcome announcement at the weekend, and I know he will listen hard to them. Which animals will be covered by the trophy hunting imports ban? When will it come into effect? Every month we take to pass legislation means more endangered species getting closer to eradication and extinction. Which countries will be banned from importing trophies into Britain? If it is not all of them, greedy businesspeople will find a way around the ban by moving the dead animal to a country from which we do allow the import of trophies. Which countries do we still allow trophies to be imported from? Will animal parts, such as bones, hands, tails and so on, be covered?
What about trading through a country, which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) mentioned? Obviously, countries such as China value the body parts of these endangered species. I ask the Government to impose an immediate moratorium on the importation of trophies until legislation is made. Is there any reason why that cannot or should not be done immediately?
Can I be assured that the welcome announcement by the Government a few days ago will not result in just more consultation? There have been multiple consultations over a number of years, and the longer that that continues, the fewer lions there will be truly in the wild. I understand that the previous Secretary of State was holding a consultation—another one—and said that we had to listen carefully to both sides, but while we do that, more and more lions die. I thank the Minister for his passion on this and many other environmental issues, and I look forward to his positive response later.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. With your permission, I may leave a wee bit early so that I can synchronise with the Virgin Trains timetabling. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) on securing this important debate.
Trophy hunting is a particularly emotive topic but, as usual with such an issue, the situation is not entirely clear-cut. While most of us are instinctively opposed to such a practice, as I certainly am, we must surely endeavour to set that emotion aside, albeit briefly, if we are to properly consider how best to respond. While a number of animal welfare and environmental groups are firmly opposed to the practice, other institutions, such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the European Parliament and the convention on international trade in endangered species maintain that trophy hunting has beneficial side-effects. Those include generating revenue for landowners to conserve or restore wildlife on their land and for wildlife management, including anti-poaching activities.
However, we must ask ourselves whether there is a better means to support those ends than revenue raised from hunting and associated tourist activities. What, after all, is the value of an anti-poaching effort for an endangered species if it is funded by the hunting of other species under the guise of big game hunting, often carried out in a merciless way, simply to secure a trophy or a photograph?
The natural assumption in this debate is that we are considering those who travel abroad from the UK for a trophy hunt, but of course the problem is broader than that. This is not just about British nationals bringing trophies back from other continents; the practice also operates the other way. Many hon. Members will recall the furore caused this time last year by an American television presenter, Miss Larysa Switlyk. She came to the beautiful island of Islay off the west coast of Scotland—I know it well—to shoot wild goats, which she then, in my opinion, glorified on social media. Those animals have no natural predator, and are classed as an invasive non-native species in the United Kingdom. They have been the subject of several official culls over the years, and they are thought to have roamed parts of Scotland and the north of England for 5,000 years. Although hunting them on private land is not illegal, we as a society were appalled at the sight of Miss Switlyk posing with one of her kills. Perhaps it was the glorification of the process and the trophy hunting element that most offended sensitivities throughout the United Kingdom.
Given our increasing concern as a nation for animal welfare, I was surprised to note that, between 2013 and 2017, trophy imports rose by 23%—a rise of almost a quarter over such a short period. That must surely be of concern worldwide, and is perhaps an indication that current regulation is ineffective. Additional red tape is seldom the solution to any problem, but do the Government—with their recent announcement of a call for evidence, they appear to be moving towards improving regulations—feel the time is now right for action? I know they have been keeping the situation under review, and although I cannot predict the outcome of that review, I hope it will be acted on and not simply placed on a shelf.
I understand the basic human need to hunt an animal to feed a family, and we must all consider rural life, in whatever country, and accept that it is perhaps unfair to apply urban values to an already fragile rural economy. Thankfully, however, hunting for food is hardly commonplace in the UK these days, and to kill purely for the purposes of hanging a memento on the wall seems, in this day and age, rather barbaric and unnecessary. Surely the days of such trophy hunting should now be behind us.
Let me close with a verse from Robert Burns, which was penned as far back as 1789. He was a farmer, and he saw the fate of a hare that was shot and not killed, but simply wounded. Strangely enough, the title of the poem is “On Seeing a Wounded Hare”. I will read the first verse:
“Inhuman man! curse on thy barb’rous art,
And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye;
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh,
Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart!”
“And curse the ruffian’s aim, and mourn thy hapless fate.”
I congratulate the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) on securing this debate. I believe we have debated this issue previously in Westminster Hall, and she and other hon. Members—including me and the Minister, in his previous role—were much involved. I assure her of my support in its entirety for what she has said today.
I wish to say, humbly and genuinely, that I am a country sports enthusiast. The hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) referred to those who hunt for the pot, and on the farm that our family holds back home we have a small pheasant shoot and a small duck shoot. It is not particularly big, but it sustains our country sports enthusiasm, and it is important that we manage the habitat for which we have responsibility and the animals on that farm. For the record, hares are not likely to be shot, because legislation in Northern Ireland means they are protected. We are fortunate to have a large quantity of hares on our land, and I love to see them, especially in March when they start to box and spar with each other in the fields.
I realised when the hon. Gentleman mentioned Robert Burns that it had to be back in that time, but I thank him for his intervention.
By way of introduction, I absolutely support the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire, but I want to explain how I can be a harvester of pheasants, ducks and pigeons so that they are of use, in contrast to what the hon. Lady put forward, which is totally different. I support her 100%. Everything that is shot by me and my sons—and ultimately my granddaughter, when the time comes—we eat, and I make sure that my neighbours who enjoy fowl also have that opportunity. Indeed, in her room in Stormont, where she was First Minister, my party leader, Arlene Foster, would find on her desk pheasants or ducks to take home and prepare for her family to eat.
As for conservation, we believe the land has to be looked after, and the animals on the land have to be conserved and protected. If we are truly embedded in conservation programmes, as we probably all should be, and we have the opportunity to look after the land, farms, habitats, countryside and trees, it is important for us to control the predators. For instance, this last season, we used the Larsen trap. I, along with my son, got 45 magpies and 10 great black crows. The result of controlling those predators is clear: we now have an abundance of small bird life that we have not had on the farm for many years. Yellowhammers—the word “Yellowhammer” is used very often nowadays, although for a different reason—are back in numbers on our farm again. They were a threatened species, but we took action to make sure they came back.
I have a true story from my childhood. Back in the ’60s—I suspect you and I are of the same vintage, Mr Hosie, so you can probably relate to this—we did not have very much. My cousin, who lived in Strabane in the west of the Province, used to shoot pigeons, put them in a shoebox and send them—it was truly carrier pigeon—by post to us in the east of the Province. One of my favourite birds, which I enjoyed from a very early age in Ballywalter, was pigeon. If used correctly, these things can control vermin, and that can be encouraged.
As for the canned hunting the hon. Lady referred to, it is obscene, immoral and incorrect. I say, as the person I am, and with the pursuits that I have, that I find what happened to Cecil the lion very difficult. Perhaps I am a bit naive, but I can almost picture the scene of a lion being enticed from a safe place. It perhaps had daily interaction with people. What happened was totally wrong.
We cannot ignore the fact that Australia introduced a ban in March 2015. In the face of canned hunting, it proposed a total ban on all African lion trophy imports. Nor can we ignore what other countries have done. Four months after Cecil the lion was killed, France’s Environment Minister Ségolène Royal—it is a fantastic name—said that she had instructed officials to stop issuing permits for lion trophies. The Netherlands took an even bigger step and introduced the strictest ban on the importing of hunting trophies into the EU. Those are the three countries that have taken action As the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire said, it is time this country took the same strong attitude.
I am grateful for the background information on the debate, which contains things I was not aware of, including about rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses and zebras. My goodness, who on earth would want to shoot a zebra? Is there not something wrong there? I think there is. It is a species of horse, probably—to us in the United Kingdom horses are horses and the zebra is a smaller version.
The other instance that really got to me was the polar bear. Many of us cannot relate to the polar bear sitting on the ice floe, surrounded by the coldness of the water. We wonder how it survives in the inhospitable habitat where it lives. Yet someone wants to shoot a polar bear. I just cannot understand it, and that is coming from where I am, although it is pheasants and ducks that we use, and it is about protection of wildlife.
The hon. Lady referred to the wildlife of today, and a magazine I get every week said something important about that—that the wildlife of today is
“not for us to dispose of”
as we please. It said:
“We hold it in trust for those who come after.”
That is our responsibility, as she mentioned, and it is why this debate is so important. We have a responsibility to ensure that lions, polar bears, zebras, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses and all the others on the list are protected from extinction. Large numbers of my constituents have contacted me to oppose trophy hunting imports. I oppose them too, and feel that they are totally wrong. Those constituents want me to oppose trophy hunting, put their views on record and look to the Minister for a response.
As the hon. Lady said, things may have been different 40 years ago—and even more so in 1780. However, society has moved on, and things that were acceptable in the past are certainly not today. We must make a positive response as a society.
The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent point about how we need to move with the times. Does he agree that we should allocate our international aid budget in a way that reflects modern sensibilities? My constituents would like our aid budget to be used to preserve biodiversity, whether that means the sorts of animals he has referred to or other types of diversity. That is what we should use our financial firepower for. Does he agree?
I wholeheartedly agree. The hon. Gentleman has introduced a point I was going to make, so well done. I think we should do that, because there are ways to do things in conservation. I think that the Department for International Development or some other Departments are helping rangers in some countries, at least partially. I am not sure where all the money is coming from, but they can train people in Africa to be the protectors of animals. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I know that we are doing something, but perhaps the Minister can tell us a wee bit to clarify things and add some meat to the bones.
Where there is any chance of making money, we can be pretty sure that a criminal gang is involved somewhere, and there are criminal gangs that clearly do not give—I should keep my language under control—any concern whatever in terms of what happens, as long as they can make money. So the criminal gangs, who kill indiscriminately and murder animals for their own personal gain, have to be addressed as well.
Let me make a comment about conservation. I said what I said earlier about conservation to set the scene, in a very small way, for how conservation works. In his intervention, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) referred to conservation that we can help with, in Africa and in other parts of the world. The Minister, and indeed everyone else, will understand the importance of habitat. When it comes to addressing trophy hunting and imports, which is what this debate is about, we also have to—perhaps directly, as the hon. Gentleman suggested in his intervention—do other things, which are about habitat retention. They are about addressing the conflict in parts of Africa, where the population is exploding and where there is confrontation between the farmers, landowners and animals. Those wonderful TV programmes that Sir David Attenborough presents tell us about Africa and elsewhere, but they also tell us about the savagery of wildlife and life on the plains, where animal eats animal; that is how things are.
However, we also need to ensure that, in addressing habitat loss and conservation in Africa, we help countries to do what they do. Landowners and farmers are growing crops to feed their families, so we need to have some methodology to address that. There is enormous demand on resources—water, trees, woodland, scrubland and the land itself. Where can the land sustain farming? We need the large savannahs as a large place for the animals to roam as well. There is no doubt that lots of the problems on savannahs are very complicated. Let me ask the Minister a question, which follows on from an earlier intervention: what are we doing to help countries to retain habitat and reduce the confrontation between people and animals?
I will finish with this point. Trophy hunting imports need to be not just controlled, but stopped. The Government have said they will keep the issue constantly under review. I respectfully suggest to them, and in total support of the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire, that it is time not just to keep trophy hunting under review but to stop it.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) on securing this debate. I agreed with everything she said, which is hardly a surprise, because I agree with most of her views on life generally.
I hope this is the last time we need to have a debate on this issue, because, by a happy coincidence, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) led a debate on it earlier this year—I think it was on 15 May—and he is now the Minister. I am absolutely delighted about that, and I suspect that we are pushing at an open door.
Of course, this subject is not party political, and all Members hopefully agree on it. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight) is no longer in his place, but when he and I entered Parliament the issue of animal welfare was treated very differently from the way it is today. When a show of support was organised in July for a ban on trophy hunting, I was delighted that many colleagues lined up—quite rightly—to have their photograph taken with Sir Ranulph Fiennes. That was very good to witness.
Trophy hunting is a wicked, evil practice, and anyone who indulges in it or encourages it should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. We should not mince words or be intimidated on this issue: trophy hunting is an absolutely disgusting practice. I recognise, especially from the point of view of my hon. Friend the Minister, that these words come easily. The question is: how do we stop trophy hunting? Our excellent Library briefing tells us that Australia has acted, France has acted and the Netherlands has acted. I do not know whether the Minister can tell us how successful they have been so far, but I believe that the Government want to do everything they can to stop this practice.
I was delighted to host a meeting of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation in Manchester on Monday. The Foreign Secretary, who stood in for the Prime Minister today, made an excellent speech on this very issue, as did Dr Nick Palmer, a former Labour Member of Parliament, who is now head of Compassion in World Farming UK. We had speeches from Peter Hall, who is a director of the CAWF, and from Kike Yuen of the World Dog Alliance, and an excellent contribution from Duncan McNair of Save the Asian Elephants. It was particularly good that we had speeches from the Prime Minister’s father, Mr Stanley Johnson, and from Ms Carrie Symonds. There was wide unanimity on the subject.
Conservatives’ perception of the issue has been changed by one person in particular: Mrs Lorraine Platt. She set up the CAWF and, through charm, has persuaded any number of my colleagues that we need to be on the right side of the argument. She has been supported in her endeavours by Mrs Elise Dunwebber, and I congratulate them both. There is still much work to be done on the issue, but I know they are keen to work with the Government on banning trophy hunting.
In the 10 years to 2017, 290,000 trophy items were exported across the world. That is absolutely disgusting. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire spoke about lions, but as the Library briefing tells us, this is also about polar bears, giraffes, antelopes, alligators and all sorts of beautiful animals. We realise that they could kill us—they are wild animals—but, for goodness’ sake, think of David Attenborough’s wonderful work, not only in our country but throughout the world, to highlight the fact that these animals are facing extinction. We do not want elephants and lions to be just a story for future generations, like the dinosaurs.
In these difficult times, this is a subject that Parliament can unite on. We should help and encourage the Government to do something about it—I know that the Minister is thinking about how to reply to my hon. Friend’s questions. I recognise that there is no easy solution; 200,000 endangered animals are put at risk each year, which is an awful lot to deal with. It is so depressing that as soon as someone comes up with an idea to stop trophy hunters, these evil, wicked people get ahead of the game and find some way round the legislation.
I do not minimise the difficulty the Government face, but I simply cannot comprehend why anyone would pay up to $72,000 to travel across the world and shoot a beautiful animal. As I have said at business questions, I have seen numerous adverts for trophy hunting, with some companies even advertising price lists by trip length—as my hon. Friend said—by animal on offer and by trophy fee. Such adverts should be completely banned from all platforms in the United Kingdom.
The Government have a responsibility to use their global influence, along with the views of our royal family, to stop this trade. We have an important role to play in bringing the world together on the issue, but it will be a real challenge because 0.76% of tourism jobs in some countries are directly linked to the trade. I was pleased by what my hon. Friends the Members for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) had to say on that point, and I hope the Government will take it on board.
In conclusion, before we are able to stop trophy hunting completely, we must recognise the need to act swiftly to ban all imports of trophies, which we must be able to do. Some 86% of British people apparently support this action, and the Government need to be alive to the fact that some of these beautiful animals will find their way into the UK because some of the customers are British citizens. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire said, we are a nation of animal lovers, so let us prove it. Let us do something about banning trophy imports. It looks as though we are going to have the Gracious Speech on 14 October, which may or may not be controversial, but would it not be good if a big chunk of legislation to deal with animal welfare were at the heart of that speech? What could be better than to pay a tribute to the debate my hon. Friend has led this afternoon and to have a proposal to ban trophy hunting imports?
It is an absolute pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Hosie. I start by thanking the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham). We often do not agree on many policies in relation to Brexit and so on, but when we worked together on the Select Committee on International Development we agreed on fundamental issues, including helping the poorest countries in the world and animal welfare. I pay tribute to all her work in Parliament on those issues, and she will no doubt continue that work in the future.
This crucial debate is important to many of my constituents and to the public across the United Kingdom. The hon. Lady provided a detailed, passionate overview of the issue, and I agree with her words and with her asks of the Minister. We do not necessarily have to unite on a cross-party basis around some of the issues that the public and MPs currently find so difficult, but animal welfare is a unifying issue for MPs and for people in each of the nations of the United Kingdom. I am therefore pleased that we are having this important debate today, and I hope that the Government will address the issue in the Queen’s Speech.
I thank the other Members who have contributed today. The hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) described trophy hunting as barbaric and unnecessary and went on to advance the alternatives that exist in this day and age. Indeed, he referenced the wild goat that was shot in Scotland, about which I received a full mailbag from my constituents, with many asking, “How brave is it to shoot a goat? How can that give pleasure? What exactly is the point?” It is not so much about conservation but, I dare to say, more about the ego of the person involved. My constituents were appalled by that individual and want to see movement on the issue.
The hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) is a real champion of animal welfare. We are usually lining up to have our photograph taken with pledges to support animal welfare, and I am pleased that he hosted a meeting of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation at the Conservative conference this week. The foundation is kind enough to send me a Christmas card every year, so Lorraine Platt is doing well by boosting not only animal welfare issues in the Conservative party but cross-party efforts to bring everybody on board, so I pay tribute to her.
Westminster Hall would not be the same if the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) were not sitting in his place right behind me. He outlined eloquently the difference between hunting for food and trophy hunting, and stated plainly that trophy hunting is not acceptable today; we need to move with the times. In my constituency and others across the UK, young people are so enthused by doing all they can for the planet, through addressing environmental issues and conservation. They are saying to MPs in this House, “Get on with it; do this work.” In this day and age, it is those issues that are top of their priority list.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that young people are interested in the planet. When DFID was set up in 1997, it was principally focused on people, rather than the planet. Does she agree that the time has come to recalibrate our approach on deploying our international aid so that it truly focuses on and prioritises preserving the planet?
As the hon. Gentleman may be aware, DFID has a presence in my constituency, and I am so very proud of the work that it does to eradicate poverty the world over. I believe that conservation is commensurate with the sustainable development goals, because it is not only about animal welfare; it is about helping the communities located where those endangered species are. It is about making sure that those communities have another source of income; that people and animals can cohabit. We must do everything possible on both issues, and I will be interested to hear from the Minister how the two can be married together. We must ensure that aid goes to the poorest and that no one is left behind. I have a particular passion for helping disabled children into school in developing countries, but I do not see a contradiction in helping the poorest communities and working on conservation and, in the main, I do not believe that colleagues across the House would either.
In November 2018 the Minister lodged early-day motion 1829, which was signed by 166 MPs cross-party, including myself. It asked the Government to commit to halting imports of hunting trophies as a matter of urgency. I am very pleased that the Minister is in his place today, and not just because of that issue. He also did a lot of cross-party work with the all-party parliamentary dog advisory welfare group on Lucy’s law, which will now become law not just in England, but in Wales and Scotland. We are extremely pleased about that.
As has been said, 86% of the public support a ban on trophy hunting. I pay tribute to the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, Born Free and Stop Ivory for placing these issues at the forefront of our minds, so that we can see what is happening. I had a look at the statistics. Although progress is being made on elephant populations and larger cat populations—not enough, but some progress—people are now reverting to hunting bears, cranes, antelopes, rhinoceroses and, would you believe it, crocodiles. Perhaps they have watched too many “Crocodile Dundee” films. Other species are up 29.2% as well; I am not sure what species those are, and it would be interesting to find out more, particularly whether any of those species are at risk.
Many trophy hunters use the rationale that they kill the old, the weak or the sick, and that they are therefore helping conservation. That is rarely proven by the egotistical photographs that are put up online, with the hunter standing next to the biggest, the rarest and the largest animals with the biggest horns. It is much more about ego than any effort towards conservation.
A current loophole allows hunters from the UK to import trophies of animals, many so rare that they have been declared extinct in the wild. For example, puffins are often hunted and the trophies brought to the UK, despite the UK Government’s efforts to save the species. Online websites are easily found offering these grisly puffin hunters trips costing around £3,000 to Iceland, where they have the chance to kill a bag of puffins and can boast of shooting up to 100 at a time. The species is classified as endangered in the 2018 “State of the World’s Birds” report, but is not listed for protection by CITES, the body that regulates the international animal trade. British people are bringing home puffin carcases in their hundreds and the puffin is at risk of becoming extinct, with uncontrolled hunting a leading cause.
I was proud to lead for the Scottish National party on the Bill that became the Ivory Act 2018. As a party, we welcome that historic legislation and the UK Government’s progress on tackling the illegal ivory trade and trophy hunting. Organised crime is often behind the individuals involved in that trade, as it offers big money, so we need to tackle it at the root. I was pleased—actually, emotionally quite overcome—to visit Sheldrick Wildlife Trust the day before the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire, I believe, with the International Development Committee. We were able to spend time with orphaned elephants there. Now, I have quite short legs, but the little elephants only came up to my waist, which shows how small they were. Some, only a few days or a few weeks old, were being bottle-fed, because the hunters were after their parents and left the little baby elephants behind, unable to survive on their own. This fantastic project goes out and saves them from otherwise certain death in the wild, but still, they will not have had the life they should have had. They should live with their herd, not be raised in those circumstances.
I did not get the details of what had happened to all the parents. I imagine it was a mixture of the two, but mainly poaching, because organised crime is behind a lot of that activity. However, trophy hunting does not help when saving the species.
I believe that the Department for International Development could support this work, and there is no contradiction in that. It would help some of the most rural and impoverished communities. I would like some money to go toward training local people as wardens, giving them the opportunity of jobs and livelihoods. Finally, will the Minister reinforce and re-endorse his own early-day motion calling for a ban on trophy hunting imports as a matter of urgency?
I congratulate the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) on initiating this very good debate, in which good points have been made by a number of speakers. It is a shame that it clashes with Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, because I know many of my hon. Friends wanted to speak in this debate. I imagine that, had they been here, they would have said much the same as has been said by others in the debate, but the Minister would have heard it from a few more voices.
I welcome the Minister to his place. It may not be fashionable—or productive for my future career—to say this, but I am excited about the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) becoming a Minister. His championing from the Back Benches of causes and views that I believe many Members share has been really powerful. At the risk of injecting a partisan flavour into the debate, I have to say that sometimes we have heard the soundbite from Ministers but not seen the action that goes with it. I am certain that the hon. Gentleman will not fall for any press release camouflage on inaction. This is an area where there is a real opportunity to stop the long-grassing of policies where there is clear cross-party support, and to get on with it. I hope that when he gets to his feet in a moment, he will say exactly the same things.
We have heard some good contributions. The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) mentioned a few but I will add a few more. The phrase of the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight), that trophy hunting is “nauseating and revolting”, cut through and adequately described what is going on. The hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) rightly said that a ban on trophy hunting is backed by 86% of the British public. The hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant) spoke passionately about the fact that it is not something that only happens abroad. We should recognise that and ensure that any ban takes adequate notice of that, so that it covers not just imports but exports of trophies from UK wildlife.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) used “yellowhammer” correctly—it is good to hear the yellowhammer bird getting due attention after its name has been borrowed for so many things. We all share the complete puzzlement implied by his question, “Who on earth would want to shoot a zebra?” I agree with the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), who was clear when he said it was a wicked, evil practice. We should not mince our words about people who go and shoot.
I am glad that it is not just parliamentarians who have encouraged this debate; people have used their fame and celebrity to endorse it too. Ricky Gervais does not mince his words on social media when it comes to this subject. I especially like his tweet from a few years ago, which says:
“The trophies I’m proudest of are the memories of all those times I didn’t kill a beautiful, majestic, endangered species for no reason.”
Although he may choose more powerful language to describe some of the people who are engaged in trophy hunting, his leadership on social media has highlighted a cruel and inhumane practice to many people who might not otherwise have appreciated its barbarity.
Ricky Gervais and the Minister are not alone, however, and have been in good company in championing the cause. Joanna Lumley correctly said that trophy hunting is “cruel, immoral…and unjustifiable”. Bill Bailey said:
“I can’t get my head round why anyone would want to kill a beautiful creature for fun. With the dwindling numbers of species, it’s time to halt this cruel and unnecessary practice.”
He is right, as are the speeches that we have heard today.
I will ask the Minister a few questions to try to understand the detail of the proposed ban. He has been clear that we should ban trophy hunting, but Ministers in the past have not been clear about what that ban comprises in detail, as the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire hinted in her opening speech. The thread of Ministers to date was that the Government’s proposed ban would affect just threatened species, by taking that international classification and banning the imports of trophies in relation to them. I would like us to go much further. Labour’s position is that the ban should be for every species above least concern. That would effectively capture many more species, not just the most endangered.
Looking around the room, I see that many hon. Members served on the Committee for the Ivory Act 2018 to support the introduction of a ban on elephant ivory. Since that ban has come into place, as expected, and as mentioned in Committee, we have seen the trade move from elephant ivory to other ivory-bearing species, such as the rhino, which has experienced additional hunting since the ban on elephant ivory came in. We knew that at the time and we must not make the same mistake with the trophy hunting ban by banning it for the most endangered and allowing it to slip down to those that are just below the most endangered. The Minister will be well aware of that and, hopefully, with his power, he can make sure that it does not happen.
We need to recognise that trophy hunting, as well as being cruel and unjustifiable, can act as a cover for illegal poaching, which was the sentiment of the intervention of the hon. Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin). The proposed ban that we would like the Government to adopt would cover all species above least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources red list, which would include species classed as vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered and extinct in the wild.
Sustainable alternatives to trophy hunting, such as eco-tourism and photographic safaris, are generating revenues that cover the real costs of conservation and effective anti-poaching work, as well as providing well-paying permanent jobs for local people. Shooting a lion such as Cecil can generate a one-off trophy fee of around $15,000. There is no evidence that that goes toward conservation, no evidence that it goes toward the local community, and no evidence that it goes toward the protection of other animals. Nature tourism, on the other hand, can generate money from the protection and valuing of those wild animals.
There is an opportunity, which has been mentioned a few times, through Brexit to come together. What Brexit has done for DEFRA debates is to open space in the Government’s legislative agenda for issues that might not otherwise have got the airtime they deserved. If we think about what has been passed by this House in recent months, on a cross-party basis, with the Brexit malaise and chaos going on around us, we will realise that many of the same faces in this Chamber have been working together on banning wild animals in circuses, banning the trade in elephant ivory and tightening up regulations across the board.
That work might not have attracted the attention of many people outside Parliament, and certainly it has not troubled some of our friends in the media, but it has been worthwhile. We should continue that spirit, whatever is happening with Brexit or outside, because there is something here that could make a real difference to the species involved.
The hon. Gentleman is speaking very eloquently about the issue and the potential opportunities of eco-tourism. He will know that last year in Scotland, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) has mentioned, the shooting of a wild goat on Islay caused a huge upset among people in Scotland and much further afield. What is most upsetting is that tourism companies are promoting Scotland as a place to come and trophy-shoot. Surely we should be clamping down on that. Companies are not just offering places in Africa as destinations; that is also happening here in the UK.
The hon. Lady makes a very sound point, on a common theme with the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), who voiced a concern about what powers the Government have over the advertising of those tourism products. I spent five years working for the Association of British Travel Agents, and in that role I supported the animal welfare guidelines that encouraged ABTA members to ensure that animals are used sustainably and without endangering them, their habitats or their handlers. There are opportunities to ensure that those principles, which are good and strong, are spread across not only ABTA members, but the entire tourism industry. I am sure that the Minister is familiar with those guidelines; if he is not, I encourage him to look at them next time he needs some bedtime reading, because there is some real strength there and some real opportunities to do the right thing. The market does not correct all ills, and in this case there is a role for real moral leadership from the Government.
I hope that the Minister will be as strong and forthright in his new role as he has been in campaigning to date. I was pleased to see a letter that he co-signed in The Guardian in April with a series of high-profile supporters, which said:
“Banning the import of hunting trophies will send a clear message to the international community that there is no place for trophy hunting in this day and age.”
We must be clear that the continuation of that colonial and neo-colonial practice of rich people descending on communities, for whom that extra money can have a positive impact on their lives, to do something that is abhorrent, is something that we should not accept any more.
The Minister was in good company in signing that letter. It was signed not only by the Prime Minister’s father and his partner, but by Michael Palin, Captain Kirk—William Shatner, that is—Matt Lucas, Will Travers of Born Free, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), for Kensington (Emma Dent Coad), for Stroud (Dr Drew) and for Makerfield (Yvonne Fovargue), and many others besides.
As my final remark, I encourage the Minister not to allow his passion for these topics to be diluted by the sense, which there sometimes is within Government, that animal welfare legislation can be cut up and parcelled in different parts, as happened with the Ivory Act. The Ivory Act should have been a comprehensive ban on ivory—I believe that is something the Minister himself supported from the Back Benches—but it was allowed to be parcelled up into smaller bits. I hope that the new Administration will move away from that parcelling up of animal welfare opportunities.
There is a real opportunity here for people who may be bitterly divided on Brexit and other matters to come together, on a cross-party basis, around animal welfare. I encourage the Minister to be as bold as he can be, because in these times animals do not have a voice, and every animal matters. We must ensure that we are their voice. The Minister has the opportunity to be a bull in a china shop on the previous behaviour of the right soundbite but the wrong action, and to ensure that we have the comprehensive trophy hunting ban that we deserve, which animals both in the wild and in the canned lion industry that the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire spoke about can really benefit from.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) on securing this debate. Over the past years we have stood side by side in so many debates on issues relevant to this one that I have lost track of how many we have shared. She has been a nature champion for all the time I have known her—indeed, this room is full of nature champions, and I wish there were a few more. It has been a joy to hear the contributions, including interventions, from all Members present.
My hon. Friend will know that this subject is close to my heart. Indeed, the last time I took part in a debate on this issue in Parliament—I believe she also took part—was on a motion tabled in my name, some time earlier this year. Last Saturday I was pleased to announce that the Government are launching a consultation on restricting, or banning, the import and export of hunting trophies.
Many questions have been raised, some of which I will struggle to answer because they relate to the details of the consultation. Hon. Members will understand that I must be slightly guarded and cannot go into too many details about a Government consultation, because I could end up jeopardising or compromising the process. Broadly speaking, however, we are not looking for any long grass. This is a serious consultation, and we intend to resolve the issue once and for all and not to waste any time. I will drive it through as fast as I possibly can, but in a proper manner.
I cannot answer the question about the threshold, were we to end up with the ban that we are talking about. My early-day motion broadly reflects the position laid out by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), which relates to not just CITES I and II, but the list from the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, those details will have to come out in the consultation, and it would be wrong for me to pre-empt it.
I am grateful for and flattered by the remarks made about my appointment. I am an animal welfare and conservation advocate, and I was worried, before being asked to be a Minister, that I might have to go through a lobotomy and cast aside all my passions for such issues. That does not seem to have been the case—yet—so I am able to pursue issues that matter to me and to Members across the House. Over the next few weeks, I look forward to reading the feedback on this debate from people across the spectrum, but I know from correspondence I have already seen that some people will push back heavily against the proposal for a possible ban.
On a personal level, hon. Members know I believe that shooting a beautiful and endangered animal for fun is, to quote the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), obscene, and it is something I could never understand. Most people with whom I have discussed the issue are similarly sickened when they see images of so-called celebrity hunters smirking over the corpse of a lion, giraffe, rhino or elephant. It is something that most people regard as grotesque, and poll after poll shows that to be the view of the British people. There have been a range of polls, but they have consistently shown that between 75% and 90% of people are in favour of a ban on imports of hunting trophies.
To demonstrate quite how non-partisan this issue is, I was shocked and amazed last Saturday to read an editorial in the Daily Mirror—I have appeared in it a few times as a politician, and I have always put on my tin hat and hidden away for a few hours afterwards. This recent editorial, however, praised both me and the Conservative Government for initiating this process, because the issue goes way beyond the left or right of politics today. I thank the Daily Mirror for having pushed the issue up the agenda. It has run an incredibly impressive campaign, as have The Daily Telegraph and a number of key campaigners, such as Eduardo Gonçalves, who runs the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.
Trophy hunting is not just a niche issue or a symbolic part of the conservation story. A 2016 report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that around 1.7 million hunting trophies crossed borders globally between 2004 and 2014, and at least 200,000 of those came from species that are threatened. Some of those species face a horribly uncertain future, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire in relation to lion numbers. There could be only 15,000 lions, 415,000 African elephants—there were 3 million elephants a century ago—and 5,000 black rhinos left in the wild.
As I said from the Back Benches a few months ago, we must nevertheless separate the moral arguments from the scientific ones. The moral arguments do matter, and for many people the idea of shooting a giraffe for fun or with the idea that it might help protect the giraffe seems utterly perverse, but the issue is subject to a live debate between experts and even some conservation organisations.
It is certainly right that wild boar are culled. There is a live discussion about whether there should be a protected season for wild boar, given that they are now prevalent throughout the country. I am not sure that my hon. Friend’s point is directly relevant to the issue of the positive contribution of trophy hunting to either the conservation or the denudation of wild species.
It is very easy to attach a huge amount of emotion to animals that are attractive and beautiful, as the Minister described, but they are still managed, and the ability to manage populations is the difficult part. The Government have to take responsibility. I felt he was perhaps straying into pretending that it does not happen.
My hon. Friend pre-empts the point I was about to make. We have to separate the ethical arguments from the scientific ones. If the scientific evidence can show that trophy hunting contributes to conservation, we will be having a different debate. Although I cannot pre-empt the consultation, we will be flooded with evidence that will tell us one way or the other. I acknowledge that some conservation groups make the case for trophy hunting. I have seen the documents and been bombarded with letters, as we will no doubt be throughout the consultation. Some of the arguments that I have heard are—I think this term entered the English dictionary only recently—whataboutery. A number of different organisations tell us that trophy hunting is an issue but that it is not as bad as habitat loss or illegal poaching. Obviously, habitat loss is the big problem facing species across the world, and we have heard about the illegal wildlife trade decimating communities and bringing species to the brink of extinction, but whether or not that is true, it is not an argument for or against trophy hunting. It is an entirely separate issue.
The central argument that has been put forward in favour of trophy hunting is that these magnificent animals, through being hunted, generate money that is then ploughed into conservation. I have not seen much evidence of the funds being used to support local communities or to invest in conservation. It is not much use if the main argument of the conservation groups is based on generalising the best of the best practice—no doubt there are some best practice examples—throughout the world; if so, their argument is flimsy at best. We will see during the consultation whether there are more examples of best practice than perhaps I have implied.
There are other issues to examine. Unlike wildlife tourism, trophy hunting contributes a tiny proportion of revenue for African countries. There is a question whether we should instead focus our efforts on promoting the former. I will come to that point in answer to another question, which was raised by the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron). There is also the issue of cruelty, with reports that half the animals killed in the course of trophy hunting are not killed instantaneously but are wounded. Cecil the lion lived for another 19 hours, I believe—no doubt in hideous pain—after first being shot.
We must find out the impact of trophy hunting on the gene pool. If hunters prize the biggest and the best of the rarest, the most endangered and the most valuable species, does that not logically mean that the gene pool is inevitably going to be weakened over time? These are issues that, again, we are going to have to address.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire mentioned the issue of canned hunting. I forget which hon. Member described it as an obscenity, but it is. As far as I can see, these lions are bred for one purpose only and they are shot in such a manner that anyone would be able to finish them off, no matter how talented they are with a gun. It is no different from putting goldfish in a bowl and just shooting them. It is an extraordinarily grim practice. In answer to my hon. Friend’s question about whether the consultation will include measures to tackle canned hunting, I would say that it is one and the same. That will be explored in the consultation, and I hope the outcome will fully take into account the points she made.
The UK cannot ban trophy hunting overseas. We are not at liberty to do so, but we can ban the import of hunting trophies. Over the five years from 2013 to 2017, we estimate that up to 1,500 trophies were imported into the UK, with up to one third of those from the most endangered species. Perversely, elephant parts are the favourite import for British trophy hunters. I say that is perverse because we are the world leader now in stepping up our efforts to protect elephants around the world, not least through the ivory legislation that has already been commended today and much more besides. This consultation is critical, and it is going to have to provide answers to those very difficult questions.
I want to talk briefly about animal welfare and conservation more broadly. People in this country do care—very much—about the issue. As the animal welfare Minister, I clearly do too. I am proud of the progress this Government have already made. We introduced the ivory legislation I just mentioned. We introduced legislation to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. We have legislated to ensure that CCTV is required in every slaughterhouse. Along with this consultation on the importance of hunting trophies, we are also consulting on mandatory cat microchipping, we are issuing a call for evidence on banning the keeping of pet primates and we are bringing forward proposals for consideration on ending the live export of animals.
I was proud that the UK played a defining role at the recent CITES COP, working under the radar, barely noticed by the rest of the country, to bring an end to the appalling practice of capturing wild elephants to be sold for captivity around the world. Without our negotiating team from DEFRA taking part in that debate, the motion would not have passed and it would still be possible for countries to capture wild elephants and pack them off to grim zoos in China and elsewhere. If they were here, I would pay tribute to them. In their absence, I will do so, all the same.
I am delighted that the Prime Minister announced at the United Nations that we are going to radically step up our contribution to tackling the wider environmental and climate crisis—and it is a crisis, no matter how you choose to interpret it. We know from scientists that a 1.5°˚ C rise in temperatures is going to be utterly devastating to humanity and nature. We heard just a few months ago, in what is the most comprehensive ever assessment of the state of the natural world, the report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, that 1 million species face extinction, many of them within decades. We have heard that, since 1970, the populations of the world’s wild animals have declined by 60%—a staggering figure. We learned from the World Resources Institute that, last year, we lost the equivalent of 27 football pitches’ worth of forest every single minute. Incidentally, we also learned from the World Economic Forum that, by 2050, our oceans will have more plastic in them than fish, if measured by weight.
We recognise the scale of the challenge. We are determined as a Government to provide the leadership that is needed globally and to do our bit at home. I was at the General Assembly of the United Nations when the Prime Minister made his announcement that we are going to double our climate funding. I was there when he made the important point about the crucial role of biodiversity in nature in tackling climate change. That directly addresses the point raised by a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Strangford, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) and no doubt others as well. The Prime Minister emphasised that much of that uplift in climate funding will be spent on nature-based solutions to climate change. We know that if we invest in protecting, saving and restoring forests, we protect the livelihoods of those hundreds of millions of people who depend on them for their livelihoods. We protect the harbour for 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and we also tackle climate change, given that deforestation is the second-biggest cause of emissions.
The same is true of our oceans. About 1 billion people depend on oceans for their main source of protein. Some 200 million depend on oceans for their livelihoods and on there being fish for them to catch. However, oceans are also a gigantic carbon sink, so the case for investing in nature-based solutions as a means of tackling climate change and helping to stop the extinction crisis, and also as a means of alleviating and preventing base poverty, is absolute and unarguable. I am thrilled that we are moving in that direction, and I do not sense any opposition from any party in this place to that shift. So that is where we need to go, and that is where I am thrilled to say we are going.
As a start to that package—these are just the things that have been announced in the past few weeks in relation to biodiversity—the Prime Minister announced a new £220 million fund. That includes a dramatic uplift to the Darwin initiative, which I am sure Members are aware of. That world-renowned programme has brought individual species back from the brink of extinction. We will see a major uplift in the illegal wildlife trade challenge fund, which is relatively new, but is already yielding incredible results, particularly on the continent of Africa, but elsewhere as well. It helps train local people to tackle poaching and create alternative livelihoods in areas most at risk, and it is having a significant and measurable impact.
We are creating a new fund. It does not have a proper name yet, but we are calling it the biodiverse landscape fund. It is a £100 million fund—a world first. It will tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss in large biodiversity hotspots around the world, focusing particularly on trans-frontier initiatives such as KAZA in southern Africa, which is a programme that five countries have signed up to to create wildlife corridors connecting their countries, their national parks and more. It is all based on helping local communities to create alternative livelihoods so that the viability of local economies is based and dependent on the health of the local environment and on flourishing biodiversity.
That is just a start. We are doing a lot, and I am thrilled that the UK has been given an opportunity to host the COP in 2020. We keep hearing about 2020 as a superyear for nature. It is absolutely the Government’s ambition to play a part so that 2020 will be the superyear for nature. We will host COP, and by the end of the year, in December, we aim to have aligned as many big countries in the world as possible with our ambition to step up our contribution to tackling climate change, to focus much more on nature-based solutions and to help turn the tide on this catastrophic extinction crisis, which is now beyond any doubt at all—it is happening right now on our watch.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire for bringing attention to this hugely important issue and for all the work she does as a parliamentary nature champion. I thank other hon. Members for their contributions too. We will crack on. We will get this done. We are not looking for the long grass. We will nail this issue as quickly as we possibly can.
I thank the Minister and all hon. and right hon. Members for contributing to this debate. It must be terribly hard for the Minister to be the poacher turned gamekeeper. He has a difficult decision, having now to stick with what he is told and what he has to do, but I hope that his passion will cut through some of the civil service speak and that he will get on and do it, because we are only temporary custodians of the wildlife and the environment of this planet. We really need to act if we want our grandchildren, their children and their children after that to be able to see these magnificent animals. We can play only a small part, but we can do a lot to persuade other countries to cease their activities. A ban on wildlife trophy imports into this country sends a hugely significant message that we care and want to change things. I commend this motion to the Minister and everyone else.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered trophy hunting imports.