I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill aims to ban the importation of endangered species body parts into Great Britain—to be more precise, those listed on the convention on international trade in endangered species, or CITES, in annexes A and B, whether from species in the northern hemisphere, such as polar bears, or species in the southern hemisphere, such as elephants. The territorial extent of this Bill is Great Britain, so let us be clear: this legislation, obviously, does not tell other countries what to do.
Seven years ago, Cecil the lion was infamously shot dead by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe. Sadly, British trophy hunters are among the world’s most active killers of endangered species. In recent years, British trophy hunters have imported thousands of body parts as macabre souvenirs back into the UK. According to CITES, the most popular trophies brought back from Africa into the UK are those of elephants, hippos, leopards, zebras and lions. The African forest elephant has recently been declared critically endangered by the IUCN—the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the African savannah elephant is also declared endangered; their combined population is estimated to be approximately 400,000. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were as many as 20 million elephants in Africa. Trophy hunters now shoot so many elephants that, when we add the numbers that are poached, more elephants are killed each year than are born. Moreover, trophy hunters are shooting the biggest elephants with the biggest tusks. That is leading to artificial selection: only smaller-tusked elephants are surviving and passing on their genes. There are now many more small-tusked and tuskless adult elephants, which will find it harder to find water under dry riverbeds at times of drought, which are occurring more frequently.
The hippopotamus, which is second on the British trophy hunters’ list, is classed by the IUCN as vulnerable to extinction, as are zebras and leopards. Leopards are believed to have suffered a dramatic decline since the 1960s, with numbers falling from 700,000 to only 50,000 animals today, according to estimates. The situation for lions is even more alarming. The population in 1970 was estimated to be 200,000, but researchers now tell us there could be as few as 10,000 to 15,000—perhaps 20,000 in the wild at best—and there are official warnings that lions may become extinct in the wild by 2050.
This is such an important subject, and my hon .Friend is right to highlight at the start of his speech that this is about us in this country banning imports, rather than about telling other countries what they should do. Is he aware that because there is such a shortage of lions in the wild now that captive lions are being bred and released into enclosures for the trophy hunters to shoot them?
My right hon. Friend raises an important and alarming point; the so-called “canned” shooting of lions and other majestic animals bred solely to be shot by trophy hunters in an enclosure is a particularly sickening aspect of this, which this country should have no part in whatsoever.
Will my hon. Friend explain to the House why the Government are issuing import licences for those CITES-listed creatures?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I think that illustrates the need for the Bill, which would send a clear message that, in this country—a sovereign nation—we should choose not to accept the importation of body parts of endangered species.
The impact of trophy hunting on lions has been well documented. The scientist who led the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list study on lions states that trophy hunting is linked to “declining numbers of lions” throughout its range. An Oxford University team looking at the impact of trophy hunting said that its research found trophy hunting had the “single most significant effect” on lion populations.
The problem of trophy hunting is twofold, both for elephants and lions. As a US congressional report put it,
“Trophy hunting removes a significant number of animals from…rapidly declining populations”, and also, the best genes are no longer being passed on to future generations at a time when wildlife faces new challenges. That makes the risk of extinction much greater. Trophy animals tend to be the most evolutionarily fit and possess the high-quality genes that a population of animals needs to adapt quickly to a changing environment. Trophy hunting can push otherwise resilient populations to extinction when the environment changes. Scientists say that lions have suffered a loss of 15% in their gene pool over the last century. The killing of just 5% of remaining pride male lions could be enough to push the whole species past the point of no return.
The hon. Member is making an incredibly powerful speech, and a powerful case on the big five. As we have heard, the Bill is so important, but does he agree that it is perhaps time to move beyond the big five, and that we need assurances from the Minister that all endangered species will be protected under the Bill?
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s support for the Bill and for her intervention. The Bill, when passed, would make it impossible for people to import trophy hunting body parts into Great Britain from all species listed in CITES annexes A and B, which is almost 7,000 different species, and there would be an ability under secondary legislation for the Secretary of State to add species as and when they became endangered. I am grateful to her for highlighting that important point.
We know that stopping trophy hunting can lead to significant recoveries of wildlife. When trophy hunting of lions was temporarily banned in Zambia and Zimbabwe, their numbers almost doubled in the space of a few years. Botswana banned the trophy hunting of elephants many years ago, and it now has one third of all Africa’s elephants—more than twice as many as any other African nation.
Kenya, which banned trophy hunting in the 1970s, is today an African conservation success story, in contrast to what is happening in other parts of Africa. In recent years, Kenya’s lion population has risen by a quarter. While black rhino numbers have fallen by 35% in the rest of Africa, in Kenya, they have gone up a fifth. Numbers of white rhinos are falling throughout Africa except in Kenya, where they have grown by 64% since 2017. Elephant numbers have doubled in Kenya, and the country has virtually all of Africa’s remaining big tusker elephants.
It is not just in Africa that the impacts of trophy hunting have been seen and recorded. According to the US Congressional Research Service, trophy hunting has been responsible for population declines in the cougar in North America, and hunters caused the extinction of the wild Arabian oryx as recently as 1972.
Many of my constituents have contacted me about this important Bill, and I thank my hon. Friend for the work he is doing. When we hear about an animal becoming extinct, it raises so much sadness in so many people. Will he join me in paying tribute to Lorraine and Chris Platt of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation? I know they have done much to support him and many other hon. Friends on animal welfare issues.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her support. I declare an interest as a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, and I certainly pay tribute to Chris and Lorraine Platt for all their remarkable work over many years to highlight the cause of animal welfare. I am personally grateful to them, and I know many right hon. and hon. Friends are also grateful for the support they have provided.
Trophy hunting is believed to be responsible for the extinction of the wild scimitar-horned oryx just a few decades ago and the near extinction of the dorcas gazelle, the Nubian bustard, the dama gazelle and the addax. Trophy hunting is more than just a contributor to a conservation crisis; I would argue that it is cruel and immoral.
Numerous studies indicate that over half the animals shot by trophy hunters do not die instant deaths but instead have slow and painful deaths. Moreover, the killing of living, sentient creatures solely for sport, selfies or souvenirs surely does not belong in the modern era. That is certainly the view of the overwhelming majority of the British public, 86% of whom say they want a ban on trophy hunting as soon as possible. Just 2% of people say that they wish the practice to continue.
I am pleased to say that the idea of banning trophy imports has enjoyed widespread support across the House, and across society as a whole. Just three years ago, I was proud to stand for election on a manifesto pledge to ban the importation of hunting trophies.
The hon. Gentleman says there is cross-party support for the measure; certainly, there is widespread support for it in my constituency. I had a concerning email the other day from an all-party parliamentary group, which said that the World Wildlife Fund was against the measure, because it thought that trophy hunters encouraged economic activity in areas where trophy hunting takes place, and that the Bill would go against that. Will he Gentleman comment on that, and try to rebut what was said in that email?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and his support. Let us be clear that the WWF in the UK, Europe and the United States is very much against trophy hunting and the importation of body parts by trophy hunters. Some organisations in some parts of southern Africa masquerade as conversation charities, but even a cursory look shows that it is often the gun lobby, particularly the American gun lobby, that funds them. We must have no naivety about the forces behind those who seek to maintain trophy hunting.
No fewer than 44,000 organisations, experts and individuals, including representatives of African communities, took part in the Government’s public consultation on these proposals; it was one of the most comprehensive such consultations ever conducted. Of those, 86% agreed that measures to end imports of trophies should be introduced.
Further to the point made by Mr Betts, in Africa, for example, trophy hunting is an alien and unpopular concept that is not indigenous; it was introduced by European settlers. It now damages the reputation and the natural heritage of proud southern African nations. A 2019 study of attitudes towards trophy hunting among local communities in Africa found that the dominant attitude was of resentment towards what was viewed as the neo-colonial character of trophy hunting, in that it privileges the access of western elites to Africa’s wild resources. Most recently, in August this year, an Ipsos poll found that only 16% of people in South Africa supported trophy hunting, and that 74% wanted the Government to focus on nature tourism and photo safaris instead.
The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent speech, and I wholeheartedly support his Bill. I have had a number of pieces of correspondence from constituents supporting this work, and I am grateful to him for taking it forward. Does he agree that what he says about southern Africa is particularly important given the state visit this week of the President of South Africa, and the very strong and supportive links between our two countries?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and his support. Yes, it was good to see the President of South Africa on a state visit to the United Kingdom earlier this week. Clearly, the majority of public opinion in his country wants southern Africa to celebrate, protect and grow its natural heritage, and benefit from photo safari tourism, which provides so much more economic opportunity for the people of southern Africa. Studies show that photo safaris generate many more jobs for African people in rural communities, and generate significantly greater revenues for conservation.
To repeat, the Bill is not about what happens in Africa. The Bill is about UK import policy. It is about what we, as a sovereign nation, choose to allow through our borders. It is a Bill about Britain making a concrete contribution to tackling the global conservation crisis. A British ban on imports of hunting trophies would help to save thousands of animals that are threatened with extinction. It would make a strong statement to the international community that we must act decisively to conserve our living planet.
“With the decline of wildlife worldwide, and many species approaching extinction, all caused by man, how can there be justification in trophy hunting?”.
Now, almost a quarter of a century into the 21st century, I could not agree more. Today, we can and must act.
I congratulate Henry Smith on bringing forward his private Member’s Bill today. I remember how exciting it was to have my name drawn in the ballot last year. Well done to him for getting this far. The Bill addresses an incredibly important issue that he has championed for some time. It has my full support and, I hope, the support of many colleagues from across the Opposition Benches.
I would also like to thank others for their work in this field, and for their determination to keep the subject high on the agenda, and in all MPs’ inboxes: Sir Roger Gale, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on banning trophy hunting, for whom I have a lot of respect; Eduardo Goncalves, the secretariat for the all-party group; Dr Adam Cruise; Dr Jane Goodall; Peter Egan; Ranulph Fiennes; Charles Dance; and many other individuals and organisations. The campaign has garnered the support of public figures such as Sir David Attenborough, Michael Caine, David Jason, Joanna Lumley and Simon Pegg, to name just a very small selection.
As we often hear when we come to this Chamber to debate animal welfare legislation, the UK is a nation of animal lovers. I have received numerous emails in recent weeks from constituents requesting my support for the Bill, which is why I am here. Of course, it already had my support. The fact that the Bill still has such prominent and vocal support from the general public, at a time when so many people are focusing on more immediate concerns in the face of the cost of living crisis, shows the great depth of feeling. Public opinion shows clearly that the UK does not support trophy hunting and will not accept the exchange of trophies on British soil. As I stand here today, many more majestic wild animals will be shot by trophy hunters across Africa and around the world. Trophy hunters shoot an animal approximately every three minutes. I hope to speak for about 12 minutes today from start to finish, so four animals will have been killed in that time.
The animals hunted include giraffes; elephants; zebras, one of which is killed on the African continent every 15 minutes; hippopotamus; leopards; lions, whose extinction in the wild could be irreversible if just 5% of the male population are shot; cheetahs; black rhinoceros; polar bears, which are already facing extinction as a result of the challenges posed by climate change; black bears, which are native to North America and popular with British hunters; lechwe antelopes; Nile crocodiles; caracals; and, perhaps most disturbingly, primates, which have distinctly similar DNA profiles to those of human beings. Trophy hunters are on course to kill 170 million animals this century—more than two and a half times the current human population of the United Kingdom.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting former President Khama of Botswana, whom the hon. Member for Crawley mentioned. During his decade in office, President Khama recognised the urgency of the issue. In 2014, he had the courage to initiate a ban on elephant hunting in his country. His vision to focus on photographic tourism as a way to boost his country’s economy led to huge benefits for conservation in Botswana. Although the exact number of elephants in the region is hard to determine because of their nomadic roaming, it is clear that the policy had a stabilising effect on the elephant population and their numbers grew.
Sadly, shortly after President Masisi took office, President Khama’s ban was overturned and the practice of trophy hunting was reinstated, citing growing human-elephant conflict. Understandably, environmentalists have a growing anxiety that lifting the ban is simply a precursor to an attempt to legalise the ivory trade in Botswana. Legalisation of that grotesque trade would have catastrophic consequences for the African elephant population.
The decision to lift the hunting ban was certainly a political one. It does nothing for the conservation of wildlife—quite the opposite. According to Humane Society International:
“In Zambia and Tanzania, 40% and 72%, respectively, of trophy hunting areas were abandoned once wildlife populations were depleted and hunting was no longer profitable.”
The ban may be an issue that divides locals, but there is real concern about the impact on tourism of removing the ban. Tourism is the country’s highest source of foreign income after diamond mining. Many tourists were drawn to Botswana as a direct result of the ban, because they liked the fact that trophy hunters were not welcome there. Photo safaris are not just beneficial because they are non-threatening to the lives of animals; economically, they are much more beneficial than trophy hunting, both for conservation and for local communities.
This year, I also had the privilege of meeting the inspirational South African author and award-winning wildlife investigative journalist, Dr Adam Cruise. Dr Cruise specialises in animal and environmental ethics and has spent time interviewing trophy hunters to try to understand why they do it and what the appeal is. Some of the interviewees say that it is a reaffirmation of their masculinity. Recalling what they did on the hunts, they have cried at the memories. It is not hard to imagine why. How many of us could kill a wild animal and not feel the pain of that action?
Advocates for hunting tell us that it is sport—that they are going and shooting animals for leisure or for fun. It certainly is not fun for the innocent animals, who may suffer for hours on end because the hunter has failed in their attempt to shoot to kill and has only maimed their target. It is not fun for the animals who suffer dying a slow and painful death for no other reason than that the hunter wanted to have fun. It is not fun for the hunters who cry at their recollection of the hunt. It is not fun for the hunters who cannot even bring themselves to do the killing. Unbelievably, some trophy hunters pay others money to do the shooting part for them. What is even the point?
Who is this sport fun for? What do these trophies—these chopped up animal parts—really represent? Hunters take the time to wipe away the murdered animals’ blood to present a sanitised version of their kill for the ubiquitous selfie. That is barbaric. It is not the action of the civilised world that we profess to live in.
I want to touch on why we need to look more closely at this issue at home. It is not just about the trophies that end up circulating here in the UK. As we have heard, British hunters are among the top trophy hunters. It is very much an issue for us here at home, even if much of the hunting happens overseas. Trophy hunting package holidays abroad are advertised to hunters here in the UK. Safari Club International runs points-based award schemes for hunters. It offers a diamond hunter achievement award for hunters who kill animals from 125 or more different species. I will speak in more detail later about the hugely problematic lobbying that SCI has undertaken against today’s Bill.
British hunters have brought hunting trophies from at least 70 different sites’ protected species back to the UK. The CITES treaty already forbids and restricts trade in trophies for endangered species, but a legal loophole means that they are treated as personal effects, and are therefore outwith the remit of the treaty. Opponents to a trophy import ban, such as SCI, will accuse the legislation of harking back to colonialism and accuse the UK of trying to tell the rest of the world what to do, without the authority to do so. It is ironic that trophy hunting is a relic from the colonial era. In the 19th century, British hunters in Africa were responsible for the extinction of the quagga, a zebra-like animal in Africa. In the 20th century, the Arabian oryx and the scimitar-horned oryx were both hunted to extinction in the world.
SCI was recently exposed for funding a £1 million disinformation campaign that targeted colleagues across this House to block a ban on hunting trophies. It is how the SCI funded that campaign that really puts a bad taste in my mouth. Earlier this year, SCI reportedly auctioned a polar bear hunt to fund its campaign. Looking closer at the funding streams, there are significant donations from the American gun lobby, for obvious reasons.
SCI is not the only group to disseminate misleading information to try to block these measures. It is always interesting what we find when we follow the money. Let us look at the Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group. Much like SCI did, SULi had a group of experts arguing that hunting is good for conservation. One of SULi’s funders is the Russian Club of Mountain Hunters—I am sure hon. Members all know where this is going. One member of the Russian Club of Mountain Hunters is Sergey Yastrzhembsky, a former personal spokesperson for Putin. He is one of only two sponsors of the club to achieve gold level, indicating the large financial contribution that he has made to the efforts to save the cruel sport.
I do not want to hear any arguments from SCI or organisations like it. Let us not be fooled by its untruths that auctioning off a hunt is about conservation. To get that argument on my desk proves that it is not. I implore every colleague who may be less familiar with the subject matter to take the time to educate themselves on it, and I encourage any constituents listening from home to do the same.
I reiterate my full support for the hon. Member for Crawley in his quest to get this Bill through the House and the other place and, ultimately, to gain Royal Assent. I am delighted that the Minister is in her place and supporting this vital legislation. The time has come. The British public want this abhorrent practice of shooting defenceless animals for sport gone. They want the importing of bodies and body parts into their country to be banned. Only 2% of people in the UK oppose such measures. There are very few causes that can claim to have so little opposition.
Not one of us who believes in the merits of the Bill will give up until the day that all defenceless animals are protected from the despicable practices of trophy hunting. We cannot afford to lose any more of our animal species to extinction. We should know better by now. Let us all be on the right side of history. Let us in the UK lead the way and show the international community the positive impact that a ban on trophy imports could have.
It is a pleasure to follow Margaret Ferrier; I reciprocate her kind remarks and endorse her comments about Chris and Lorraine Platt, Eduardo Gonçalves, Lynn Santer in Australia and many others who have espoused this cause. I congratulate my hon. Friend Henry Smith on promoting this Bill, which chimes completely with the Government’s manifesto commitment to bring an end to imports from trophy hunting. It is a very good thing that it has Government support.
I will be brief. I find myself in the slightly peculiar situation of having to talk hypothetically, but were any Member on these Benches to seek to talk out the Bill, they would deserve all the public opprobrium that they received.
Let me address a couple of myths. It is a myth propagated by Safari Club International and its acolytes and subsidiaries that the proceeds of trophy hunting in some way play a part in conservation. They do not. The large sums of money—this is big business—goes into the pockets of corrupt people. Very little, if any, of the funds find their way into the pockets of the ordinary people of Africa, or indeed of any other country. We are talking about gratification of the most revolting kind, which I would compare with paedophilia. If someone is rich enough, they can go anywhere in the world and buy anything they want, and this is just another form of vile gratification.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley said, the Bill does not seek to ban trophy hunting, because we have no power to do that. That is a matter for others to decide. We have to decide what it is appropriate to allow into the United Kingdom as the product of trophy hunting. That is all the Bill does.
We might hear arguments about the fact that herds of elephants in some parts of Africa are out of control, rampaging through villages, eating crops and killing babies. Elephants have to be managed in Africa, largely because man has destroyed their predators and their natural habitat. However, it would be a perverse argument, would it not, for anybody in the Chamber to suggest that there is some kind of equivalent between game management, properly conducted, and the vile so-called sport of trophy hunting?
In conclusion, I will cite again the instance of Ian Seretse Khama, who, as the President of Botswana, introduced a ban on trophy hunting. As a result, over a 10-year period, the wildlife population grew, conservation was enhanced, the net worth to his country of photo tourism expanded, and it was a win-win. After the fall of that Administration, the new President of Botswana reversed the ban—in the interests of what? Far be it from me to suggest that there is a strong relationship between the President of Botswana and Safari Club International, but that suggestion has been made. We now find a decline. The equation is absolutely straightforward.
Finally, I challenge anybody in this Chamber to seek to justify the unjustifiable by saying that there is any rhyme or reason for what has become known, revoltingly, as “canned” hunting. We are talking about the breeding in captivity of wild, magnificent animals purely for the purpose of being shot so that their body parts can be displayed on somebody’s floor or wall. That is what this Bill is seeking to prevent in the United Kingdom. The Bill has my full support.
It is always a pleasure to follow Sir Roger Gale, for whom I have a great amount of respect. I wholeheartedly agree with every word he just said. It is also a huge privilege to speak in support of this vital Bill. Many colleagues have referred to the fact that it has been a long time coming.
Let us be clear: killing animals for sport or killing animals to display their heads, horns, antlers, hides or any other part of their body is cruel and barbaric. It is utterly unjustifiable and should have no place in our society. What is worse, as we all know, is that this so-called “trophy hunting” is often used as cover for illegal poaching, as traffickers have historically been able to pass off illegal wildlife products as legal ones. This abhorrent practice is pushing endangered wildlife even closer to extinction and brings unnecessary suffering to innocent animals. This cannot and should not be allowed to continue.
This simple piece of legislation is well-supported by Members from across the House and people across the country. It is frustrating that it has taken so long for us to get to this point, but I want to place on record my thanks to Henry Smith, who, along with my right hon. Friend John Spellar, the shadow Minister and the Minister, has been a vocal campaigner in supporting this legislation for some time. Thanks to all their determination and commitment we are able to finally see some progress on this issue today.
One issue that I fear may have slowed down the movement to tackle trophy hunting and the import of these products is that it can often be, incorrectly, seen as an “international” rather than a “domestic” issue. However, as research by the International Fund for Animal Welfare found, we are talking about at least 1.7 million animal trophies being traded over the previous decade. That is a colossal number, and we absolutely must pay attention.
I appreciate that the Government have a busy legislative timetable on their hands, and colleagues will know that I have made clear my concerns about the potential for important Bills, some even related to my shadow ministerial brief, to time-out in this Parliament. The same can be said for the Government’s commitment to banning trophy hunting too. There really is no need for delay; we have only to consider the Government’s response to their own 2019 consultation if further evidence for action is required. When the response to the consultation was published, the Government announced they would ban the import of hunting trophies from almost 7,000 endangered, threatened and near-threatened species. At the time, the then Environment Secretary described their plans as one of the toughest bans in the world, which would go “beyond our manifesto commitment” to ban trophies from endangered species
Sadly, we know that trophy hunting is a popular practice with a few wealthy game hunters. Banning this barbaric practice can only be a positive step forward, and this Government have a unique opportunity to lead the way for other jurisdictions across the globe to follow suit. This Bill has my full support and I look forward to seeing it progress to ensure a proper end to this cruel and unnecessary practice—it must finally be outlawed.
I will not delay the House for long, as lots of colleagues want to get in and this Bill needs to be on the statute book, so we need to get it into Committee. As we have heard, this was a manifesto commitment of ours at the last election, as it was for the two main Opposition parties. I do not believe that any political party has opposed it.
For me, this is not just about speaking out on behalf of my constituents, many of whom have written to me; I had the honour and privilege to serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces in parts of the world where this used to take place—I am referring to Kenya. Kenya and that part of the world suffers enough from poaching, and we have heard about the number of species that are endangered, a lot of them because of poaching. This is greatly adding to that risk. I can remember being a young soldier and being lucky enough to go off at the weekend to the Ark, which is in the Aberdare park in Kenya, a most beautiful place to go. As a young soldier, there were lots of places I wanted to go; I never thought that I would want to go to a safari park, but I was truly amazed by what I saw. People wanted to go and have a piece of nature they could take home through photography, not with its head missing or after it had been shot.
The word “hunter” is used, but many of the animals are caged and then released; they are purely bred for someone to shoot them. That is so brave, isn’t it? I am a pretty good shot; I served many years in the armed forces and I shot at Bisley. Is it brave to have someone breed and release something, and then shoot it from just a few feet away? We have heard why some of those animals suffer for so long after they have been shot. Are the “hunters” all bad shots? Not necessarily—some animals are being shot in places where they will not die straight away, simply because people do not want to damage the head, which will be used as a trophy later on. The animal suffers and suffers.
With wildlife under so much pressure, and with the scourge of poaching, why can this House not do what we are entitled to do? I do not mean to tell another country what to do. We can absolutely praise other countries when they are doing the right thing. I should perhaps declare an interest here as the father of a marine biologist daughter; she will be watching me today ensuring I am talking about crocodiles and other things—saltwater crocodiles, in particular.
This is a moral issue for us. It is a moral issue for the countries that are allowing it, and the argument that this is bringing money into those countries is absolutely false. The WWF has been on the record about that; Mr Betts said earlier that the WWF did not support this Bill. That is fundamentally wrong. Anyone who has read the pamphlet that has been sent around today will see that there are definitive quotes in there. It is a lie to say it is creating a safe haven for the animals and protecting those species. They are being driven to the point of extinction in so many different ways.
My hon. Friend Henry Smith, who has done brilliantly well by bringing the Bill forward, alluded to elephants. Elephants have an amazing ability to remember things and hand them down from generation to generation, particularly when it comes to water. I was with a military unit in Kenya, and we were trying to find a suitable water source. We were on exercise, like the British military do, and a herd of elephants decided that they were going to come to the wadi, where we thought there was no water at all. They came right through the middle of the camp—it was quite interesting, to say the least. Because of the memory of the matriarch in that herd, they knew that there was water a few feet down. There had not been water in that wadi for years.
If we destroy, or allow to be destroyed, that innate ability to survive, by not passing this Bill we are just as bad as that man or woman who is shooting those animals. We are as bad as them. They are cowards, and we will be cowards if we do not pass this Bill today.
I welcome the Bill and thank my hon. Friend Henry Smith for bringing this important piece of legislation forward. I welcome the tabling of the Bill as it allows this place to debate the often difficult reality surrounding conservation.
I personally find hunting distasteful. I am appalled whenever I see, usually on social media, a hunter smiling gleefully next to their defenceless prey. I am at a loss, to be honest, as to why anyone would find enjoyment or even pleasure from shooting magnificent animals.
I apologise to the House, because I probably spoke for too long. These people are not hunters; we are being generous by calling them hunters, yet in this House we continue to call them that. Hunting an animal that cannot get away is not hunting.
My right hon. Friend makes a salient point. Shooting magnificent animals such as rhinos, elephants and lions, and calling it “sport”, is abhorrent.
Naturally, I welcome the Bill and see it as an opportunity to bring about healthy debate on how we can best conserve endangered species while supporting the communities that are directly impacted. There is no question that we must do all we can to protect endangered species and improved biodiversity. I am proud of the work that this Government are doing to protect the environment. The nature recovery Green Paper that DEFRA delivered earlier this year, for example, sets out the Government’s ambitions to restore nature and halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.
There is little debate about the fact that one of the primary reasons why we have seen vast reductions in the numbers of animals in the wild—be they lions, elephants, zebras or even polar bears—is human action, including the destruction of natural habitats to make way for farmland, the pollution of vital water sources, actions leading to climate change and, of course, hunting. To reverse that trend permanently, we need to work to make wildlife and conservation worthwhile for all stakeholders.
Currently, there is no incentive for communities impacted by wildlife to accept the natural world that surrounds them. I stress that it is wrong to suggest that trophy hunting is a problem solely in Africa. We must be careful not to be seen as hypocritical, or even neo-colonial, when discussing our views on how foreign countries handle their wildlife. All around the world, there are examples of the environment and wildlife being sacrificed—be it the deforestation of the Amazon, the exploitation of waterways in Europe, or even the mass removal of hedgerows in the United Kingdom in the decades after world war two, which I am glad to see is being slowly reversed by this Government—because Governments have not provided incentives for local people to work with nature.
We must therefore encouragement the Government, who are fortunate enough to possess incredible swathes of nature, to work with and demonstrate to local communities that living near majestic wild animals need not adversely impact on their ability provide for their families. If that is done correctly, communities that embrace their animal neighbours can flourish without compromising nature.
I understand that this is an incredibly emotional subject. As I said earlier, I abhor the thought of hunting for trophies. It is equally important that we take a pragmatic and evidence-led approach to the issue, driven by the data, experience and knowledge of those on the ground. The leading cause of the population decline in a range of animals across the world is not the regulated hunting that we are discussing, but illegal hunting, which is commonly referred to as “poaching”.
I was interested to learn from Save the Rhino International that between 2012 and 2017, an average of 83 white rhinos and 3 black rhinos were hunted each year. In the same period, an average of nearly 1,100 rhinos were poached each year. That means that, during that period, only 7% of rhinos were killed by legal hunters—I acknowledge the view of my right hon. Friend Sir Mike Penning on the term “legal hunters”—while the other 93% were cruelly killed by poachers for their own gain, without care for the conservation and protection of the area.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that under the regime of Seretse Khama in Botswana, poaching was effectively eliminated because of the robust attitude he took towards it, and that in countries where trophy hunting is now permitted, a blind eye is effectively turned to poaching as well?
Unfortunately for my hon. and right hon. Friends, Save the Rhino International gave the statistic that, after South Africa allowed the hunting of rhinos, the population went from 1,800 in 1968 to 18,000 in 2018, with black rhinos going from 3,500 in 2004 to 5,500 in 2018. The point made by my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken is absolutely right.
The point I am trying to make is that I abhor hunting for trophies. I see no reason why anyone would want to bring trophies back to this country. In this debate, we have to talk about conservation and what will play well with local communities that rely on trophy hunting, and we have to support them to move away from their reliance on trophy hunting.
In South Africa and Namibia where, according to Save the Rhino International, rhino hunting is legal, there are now strict rotas and less than 1% of rhinos are allowed to be hunted, which ensures the activity does not threaten the longevity of the species. In Namibia, the Government have directed efforts to create a programme of community-focused hunting, which involves local people in protecting and caring for wildlife.
My hon. Friend is right to focus on what is happening in those countries. As my hon. Friend Henry Smith said, it is not for us to tell other people what to do. Our acceptance of trophy hunting has clearly changed dramatically over time. It is now clear, from both polling and Government consultation, that the British public expect us to pass this Bill because of the instinctive revulsion we all feel when we see pictures of so-called hunters over the dead bodies of these majestic animals. We need to pass the Bill, not to tell other people what to do but to show leadership on a different way.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The case I am trying to make is that we must persuade people that trophy hunting is not a sport. At the same time, we must remember that local communities rely on this business—I use that term very lightly. Through smart conservation, we have to support people living on this in places like South Africa.
Again, by marrying animal conservation to the prosperity of local communities, we can make a lasting, positive change. I doubt many in this place would argue against the importance of smart conservation to mitigating any lost income for local communities that so dearly need the income they currently receive from hunting. When we discuss these issues, we must realise that the people most affected by this trade are the local people.
Members on both sides of the House are right to highlight the often barbaric activity of hunting wild animals, and I hope today’s debate and the Bill itself highlight the need for wider discussions on smart conservation, so that we can mitigate any lost income for local communities that currently rely on hunting. The Bill has helped to raise awareness of trophy hunting, and I welcome its progress.
It is a pleasure to follow Nickie Aiken.
Today is a strange day—sitting Fridays are always strange—but it is good to be with colleagues to contribute to this important debate. I thank Henry Smith on behalf of Opposition Members. I pay tribute to him for his tenacity in getting the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill to Second Reading. I assure him that he has the Opposition’s support.
Like many of my constituents in Newport West, and thousands of others across the country, I am disgusted by the cruel, damaging and outdated practice of trophy hunting. Tens of thousands of animals are killed each year, purely for fun, so that people can take photos, then cut off a body part and bring it home as a souvenir. Trophy hunters seek out the largest, strongest and rarest animals for bragging rights, as the hon. Gentleman said.
Since trophy hunting rose to prominence in the days of empire and colonialism, there have been catastrophic declines in populations of some of the world’s most magnificent animals, including elephants, lions, rhinos and giraffes. Let us not forget the appalling practice, which was mentioned earlier, of canned hunting, where wild animals are bred in captivity specifically to be hunted and shot in a small, fenced area, so that any idiot could kill them. Our United Kingdom has a right to decide what can legally be brought into the country. The overwhelming majority of the British public support a ban on the import of hunting trophies, so today we are here to ensure that British involvement in this grotesque industry comes to an end once and for all.
As we have heard clearly today, this is not a party political issue. A commitment to ban the import of hunting trophies appeared in both the Labour and Conservative party manifestos in 2019, in addition to being included in numerous Queen’s Speeches and the 2021 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs action plan for animal welfare. It is now time to deliver on those commitments and support legislation to ensure that the import and export of hunting trophies from endangered and threatened species is banned once and for all. We can easily lead the world in animal welfare, if we want it hard enough, and I look forward to working with the Minister and all relevant parties to ensure that we get this done.
I begin by thanking Henry Smith, who I would describe as a friend on these matters. Many hon. Members know how passionate he is about animal welfare and conservation. In fact, he painted a clear picture of what we are talking about today. At times, it was extremely distressing, but that helps to bring us to the crux of the issue. I thank him for his sustained work, and all others who have worked on the Bill. I also thank all other hon. Friends and hon. Members on both sides of the House, including those who have made interventions; I know that many hon. Members have strong views on the issue.
In particular, I thank Margaret Ferrier, the Scottish National party Member, who gave some strong examples, and Alex Davies-Jones. I also thank my right hon. Friend Sir Roger Gale, who always speaks powerfully on such subjects, for his meaningful words, which highlighted that Great Britain leads the way on conservation issues. Similarly, my right hon. Friend Sir Mike Penning spoke with such knowledge about his years as a young soldier working in Africa and seeing many of the creatures we are talking about in the flesh. All those right hon. and hon. Members made valuable contributions.
Many people outside the House have eagerly awaited this legislation, not least the campaigners who have worked tirelessly on the subject. I am pleased to confirm that the Government are supporting the Bill and that we are determined to fulfil our manifesto commitment to ban the imports of trophies from endangered animals. We have committed to working internationally on endangered species in our 25-year plan to protect and improve international biodiversity, and this Bill demonstrates that we mean business.
Following our call for evidence, more than 85% of the 44,000 responses were in favour of further action, so we know that the British people feel very strongly about this issue, as we have heard. People are concerned about the potentially negative impact that imports from trophy hunting might have on conservation and communities abroad; I will touch more on that in a second. We have seen shocking cases in the headlines that have drawn attention to the ways trophy hunting around the world can affect some of the world’s most iconic species. I share all those concerns, as do many hon. Members.
I will touch particularly on the comments of my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken, because she highlighted, as others have, the importance of involving communities where many of these precious animals live. The UK is committed to practical and meaningful support of conservation around the world and developing sustainable livelihoods based on wildlife, which I think is what she was getting at. I think she called it smart conservation, which is an excellent term. It is so important that we are really aware of what is happening to the communities where we work. I will probably be hammered by my officials for mentioning poaching, but she did so, and it is a very valid point. That is why the official development assistance money that we invest in countries is so critical to develop projects so that communities and people can have a further living.
I have visited Sarara in north Kenya, where Jeremy Bastard and family have a great project that is moving people away from poaching and on to conservation and elephants. They have set up an amazing elephant sanctuary. That proves that when we get the approach right, the communities can earn a living and the animals can survive and thrive, which is what I think what we would all like. We are spending a further £100 million on our biodiverse landscapes fund and £30 million on action against the illegal wildlife trade, so we are demonstrating as a nation that we are formulating the right approach.
While imports of hunting trophies to the UK are few in number, I do understand why people are concerned and want further action. About a million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction—many in decades, and in our lifetime—and the abundance, diversity and connectivity of species is declining faster than at any time in human history. That includes species that we all know and love that are targeted for trophies, such as elephants, lions and polar bears. There is a wide-ranging debate about trophy hunting, how it fits into the bigger picture and how best we secure a sustainable future for endangered species as well as those indigenous people whom I mentioned. The UK is committed to working with nature-rich countries to protect and restore their nature in those ways through our ODA funding.
Let us get to why the ban is needed. The Bill will ban the import of hunting trophies for specific species. Our aim is to ensure that our imports are not piling impossible pressures on to species that are already at risk. For those species, an import ban without exemptions will be most effective. It will provide clarity and address concerns about the possible negative impacts on the conservation of endangered and threatened species. I know that the species in the scope of the Bill—which will be included— is a fundamental issue for hon. Members. In the Bill, we will ban the import of trophies from species listed in annexes A and B of the wildlife trade regulations. Those annexes implement CITES—the convention on international trade in endangered species—and are broadly equivalent to appendix 1 and 2 of that convention. They cover a great number of species threatened by international trade, including big cats, all bears, all primates, hippos, rhinos and elephants.
The Bill includes in clause 2 a power to add—or remove—species from the scope of the ban. That is an important power to ensure that the ban remains comprehensive and can achieve the aims that I set out. Last year, we committed to cover species assessed as near-threatened or worse on the IUCN red list and ensure a comprehensive approach to ban all imports of trophies from species of conservation concern. I understand the importance of a comprehensive ban, and we will take action to list those additional species of conservation concern.
As the Bill sets out, Parliament will have the opportunity to scrutinise the list before it becomes law. The Government intend to table an instrument that covers those species of concern that we know are targeted for trophies, such as the African buffalo and reindeer. That would mean that this ban would cover all the big five animals, other trophy-hunted species and many thousands more, making it among the strongest of its kind in the world.
In closing, I would like to thank Members on both sides of the House, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley, for their contributions to this measured debate, and I am grateful for the support of the Labour party and all other parties. We are putting at the heart of this legislation not ourselves, but the world’s other rich and beautiful species. It behoves us to do all we can to protect them, and to ensure that there are no more extinctions on our watch. I am delighted to support the Bill.
I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Minister. I wish she had explained why, under the current legislation, these animal parts were allowed to be imported in the first place, because a licence is required to bring them in; the legislation is already in place.
I recognise that this is an emotionally weighted subject. I have had plenty of emails from well-meaning people with kind hearts who want to defend and protect animals from being hunted; we have heard that from Members this morning. To them, it seems an unfair and unnecessary contest that we can do without. Sadly, it is not quite as simple as they hope, and that is why this legislation is not as necessary as has been made out.
The fundamental problem for wildlife is people, and as we reach 8 billion people, I hope that is a fact on which we can agree. Keeping wildlife habitats safe and protected from people is far more complicated and more important. We need a pragmatic approach to this divisive issue. We use land ownership and money to manage habitats. We have seen land disputes, and wildlife competing with domestic crops and livestock, sadly, to the detriment of the wildlife.
We need to appreciate what it is like to live with large and dangerous or endangered species. We cannot expect people in rural Africa to have the same views on this subject as the voters in, say, Crawley. That is why telling Africans—however we choose to cushion the message—how to manage their wildlife is fundamentally wrong, post-colonial and possibly racist, and I cannot stand by and allow this to go uncriticised.
In fairness to my hon. Friends, my unhappiness with the racist elements in this message are not a reflection on their views or the views of any colleagues, but we must stand up to racism in whatever form it takes. Before anyone emails me about trophy hunting, they should consider that it is this racist issue that is the real problem for me. Racism is illegal, and I accept that they may disagree with me, but while we are on the subject of legality, we must be clear about the distinction between illegal and legal hunting. There is a great deal of misinformation, but where hunting programmes are well-regulated and legal, only carefully selected animals are hunted. Rather than diminishing endangered species, these programmes instead protect habitat and work to support conservation.
Here in the UK, we do not have to co-exist with big or dangerous animals, such as those that African people have to contend with. Before we condemn other countries for their wildlife management, we ought first to consider what the people who live there actually think. I was sent a survey by the Humane Society that claimed that polling in South Africa showed that people were against hunting, and I have heard colleagues mention that. It did not mention the wording of the questions, but I noticed that there was no data on what people thought about allowing the UK to determine South African wildlife policy. Contrary to what was stated in the email I got from Jane Goodall, I have had no contact with any Americans or Russians. By and large, I have had contact with African community leaders and conservationists who do not support the UK Bill to ban UK imports of hunting trophies.
I do not really care whether the people who have put their names to the emails have had contact with Safari Club International. They have written to me, and Safari Club International has not. When my constituents write to me, I do not find out who they have been in contact with; I deal with their emails. I will read one to my right hon. Friend in a moment, because I think it will be quite helpful. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend intervened on me, and I am trying to respond to his intervention. If he does not want to know, he probably should not have intervened. When people write to me, I take on board their words, not who they may have been in contact with, and I think it would be peculiar for there to be some sort of sinister agenda behind every email. Let me help my right hon. Friend with this one.
“My name is Maxi Louis, and I’m the Director of the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations…With the second reading of the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill coming up this Friday, I wanted to reach out to emphasise the importance of what happens with this Bill. People like myself who work on the front lines of this issue in communities that look after wildlife know the importance of licensed and regulated hunting to sustainable conservation.
While the Bill would regulate UK activity in regard to international hunting, African people would be directly impacted. Our voices are loud and clear demanding the UK adopt an evidence-led solution: a ‘smart ban’ on the importation of trophies from unlicensed, unregulated hunting.
There is overwhelming evidence from international academics and conservationists that a smart ban would underpin the funding model for local conservation projects and local economies. A total ban would take away important benefits from communities I work with. Please see below my signature for a graphic with key facts on the issue.”
Here are some of those key facts:
“53,400 jobs in Eastern and Southern Africa are supported by trophy hunting”
—my right hon. Friend may not care whether that is true or not, but I suspect that the 53,400 people concerned do—and
“60% of all cash fees received by Namibian conservancies came from licensed hunting… 100% of game fees go to local communities in Namibia”.
In Tanzania the figure is 55%, and in Zambia it is 50%.
These are the people who are writing to me. Their links to Safari Club International may or may not be there, but those figures are very verifiable, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will check them. I think it is important for us to listen to the people whom we will affect, rather than saying that we do not care about what they say, the reason being that wildlife conservation is vital to their economies. They rightly argue that it is not for us in the west to decide how they should manage their wildlife, and that is why I cannot endorse this Bill. It would remove financial incentives for habitat and wildlife protection in these countries, threaten African people’s livelihoods, and interfere with the decision making of African democratic Governments.
The President of South Africa was here on Tuesday, and I was delighted to hear him speak in the Royal Gallery. He never mentioned that he was hoping that we would remove the licensing regime for South African trophies. He did talk about sustainability and the future of the planet, but I do not think he was aware of this Bill. He is very important, given that he has a game farm and achieved a record price for his buffalo, which were being bred for the size of their horns, as that is what a trophy requires. Yes, this is the President of South Africa, who was here this week—the President of the G20 country responsible for the largest big game and trophy hunting sector. Its President has a game farm called Phala Phala. Members can see why I have real doubts about the validity of the claim that most Africans want us to introduce the Bill. These are supposed to be South Africans with votes, and I am sure that they are more than capable of deciding how they want to manage their wildlife without our intervention.
There is a key distinction between licensed hunting that contributes to conservation initiatives and illegal poaching of wildlife. We have repeatedly seen—and have heard this morning about—the evocative image of Cecil the lion, which is used by those advocating a ban on trophy hunting as a mascot to stir up support for their campaigns. What was not acknowledged today, and what they always fail to acknowledge, is that the hunters involved, Walter Palmer and Theo Bronkhorst, were taken to court for illegally killing Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe in 2015. Campaigns to ban trophy hunting have repeatedly extrapolated from that emotive case to all hunting, in order to fuel emotions.
While a briefing by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—I suspect that my right hon. Friend Sir Roger Gale expects that that is something to do with America—from 2016 condones illegal hunting, it maintains that,
“legal, well regulated trophy hunting programmes can—and do—play an important role in delivering benefits for both wildlife conservation and for the livelihoods and wellbeing of indigenous and local communities”.
By introducing the Bill, we would be undermining support for licensed hunters who operate professionally and contribute to conservation efforts in Africa. That would result in a great deal more poachers, who disregard the law and cruelly kill animals for their illegal trade. In its open letter to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009, the World Wildlife Fund recognised the value of limited, managed hunting of black rhinos in Namibia, stating that it can
“strongly contribute to the enhancement of the survival of the species”.
In Namibia, hunting is permitted between February and November, under tight regulation.
While proponents of the ban argue that elephants are endangered—obviously, we all care about that—Namibia alone claimed to have more than 24,000 elephants in March this year. That is the most it has had in over 100 years. According to Africa Geographic, elephant numbers in Namibia
“already exceed what many would consider desirable for the available habitats”.
That is clearly a welcome endorsement of post-colonial wildlife management by Africans, for Africans, in Africa, but it also poses a threat to other rare and vulnerable species, not to mention human lives. In 2013, 5,000 problem- causing animal incidents were reported in Namibia, some of which resulted in the loss of human life. To prevent lethal encounters with humans, the Namibian Government argued for round-ups of elephants to help to control numbers and fund their conservation efforts.
When big game hunting was banned in Botswana, local farmers lived in fear, due to the rapidly increasing population of elephants, for not just their crops and livelihoods but their lives. Prior to the lifting of the ban, elephants were so populous in Botswana that 36 people were killed by them in 2018, with many more suffering injuries. In 2019, Botswana reversed its ban on hunting, recognising its important role for conservation purposes. Botswana is not alone: Pohamba Shifeta, Namibia’s Environment and Tourism Minister, also remarked that foreigners curtailing prize hunting would be “the end of conservation” in Namibia.
South Africa boasts 90% of the world’s population of the southern white rhino, yet it permits hunting, whereas in Kenya, where hunting is banned, white rhino numbers fell significantly due to poaching, to the point that it had to buy its white rhinos from South Africa. That surely demonstrates the necessity of supporting those countries in promoting the conservation of wildlife.
People supporting the ban are rightly concerned about the killing of endangered species. That is why CITES is so important, and why we need to strengthen it, rather than overrule it with the proposed ban. By supporting the wildlife management industry economically, we ensure better regulation of hunting, and more training for professional hunters and trackers to ensure safety. As recognised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, instead of banning trophy hunting, we should encourage better regulation of hunting—known as a smart ban—and support responsible national agencies to improve on-the-ground management.
Professor Keith Somerville, a fellow of the Zoological Society of London who specialises in conservation in Africa, has highlighted that hunting safari operators police their shooting areas in order to prevent poaching. For example, in Botswana the hunting ban led to an increase in the number of poachers because of the soaring population of elephants and the lack of game reserve patrols. Instead of channelling our efforts into eradicating trophy hunting, we should instead support better regulation of big game hunting to help reduce poaching, which is a cruel, anti-conservationist practice.
The biggest threat to wildlife in Africa is the human incursion it faces, which will only get worse with an ever-increasing human population. In order to incentivise local communities to protect animal habitats, they need to be rewarded for their efforts. When wildlife has a value, people treat it better. It may be easy for campaigners to raise emotional stories of animals being cruelly killed to justify the Bill, but in using compelling and upsetting stories of humans brutally killing animals to campaign for the ban on hunting, they fail to recognise the importance of the industry for the human livelihoods and the wellbeing of the people who live in those countries.
By introducing the Bill, we are fighting for an issue that will have virtually no impact on our daily lives. While it may make us feel virtuous to introduce a ban on trophy hunting imports in the UK, in doing so we will be undermining a vital source of income for African people. No matter what people feel, they are sending out a message that white people, like me, know better and care less about black people in Africa, who are more successful at wildlife management than white people were when we ruled those countries.
In their open letter to DEFRA in 2020, African stakeholders argued that a UK ban on the trophies of animals hunted in Africa would have
“devastating consequences for conservation and livelihoods.”
In their letter they pleaded that we uphold their
“basic human right to sustainably use the natural resources on which our communities’ livelihoods depend”.
“without markets for high-value low-impact hunting, we will not be able to sustain conservation or feed our children.”
Not only would a ban on imports of trophies to the UK have devastating effects on the livelihoods of individuals in Africa, it would also have financial repercussions for the wider economies in these countries. Hunting has grown to be one of the most important industries in Namibia in terms of GDP and rural uplift contribution. Africa Geographic estimates that 40 million Namibian dollars is generated per year across 79 conservancies in Namibia.
Hon. Members may say that there are alternative sources of income for African communities, but it is worth considering the viability of the proposed alternatives. If there were to be a total ban on hunting in these countries, local people would likely use the land for farming instead. Ironically, that would result in far fewer wild animals, as they would be viewed as a threat to livelihoods rather than an asset.
As we have heard today, some UK conservationists have proposed that photographic tourism might be used to support local economies in place of hunting, but in some areas photo tourism is just not viable and the only source of revenue is hunting. The former chief executive of the WWF in South Africa, Dr John Hanks, acknowledges that certain areas are better suited to photographic safaris than to hunting, but he argues that in areas where wildlife is more sporadic and the landscape more mundane, hunting may be the only profitable use of the land.
Danene van der Westhuyzen, a professional hunter who grew up in Namibia, highlighted that big game tourism attracts far fewer people but much higher profits, estimating that one trophy hunter brings the same revenue into Namibia as 2,000 tourists. Indeed, one hunter might pay as much as £45,000 to shoot just one animal. Therefore, so many more tourists would be required to visit those areas to produce equivalent profits. That makes eco-tourism far less environmentally friendly than big game tourism, because a larger number of people visiting game reserves has an impact on local flora and fauna and disrupts habitats for wildlife. There are those who suggest that agriculture would be a much better use of the land than hunting, but in certain areas hunting is a far better land use option than domestic livestock and crops, because it protects biodiversity and incentivises local people to protect these large animals. Ironically, banning hunting and instead endorsing the use of the land for farming would mean that there were fewer wild animals, because they are a threat.
Finally, let me come to the issue that we should not be deciding on. African people manage the conservation of wildlife that is some 6,000 miles away from us here in the UK. A ban on trophy imports as a means of banning hunting seems to me to be colonialist behaviour. Animal rights lobbies are lobbying hard to see this Bill pass, but Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi—the current President, not one from the past—has asked why western conservationists should be intervening. The President of Botswana is asking why we are deciding what happens to their elephants. Many African people have rightly taken offence at western conservationists’ attempting to puppeteer their wildlife management despite it having no bearing on our daily lives here in the UK. In an open letter to Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley, Peter Egan, Ed Sheeran, Dame Judi Dench and Piers Morgan in 2020, more than 50 African community leaders urged British celebrities to stop exerting their influence to jeopardise wildlife conservation efforts. They stated:
“Imposing worldviews and value systems from far away places, amplified through your powerful, influential voices, results in disastrous policies that undermine our rights and conservation success.”
The Ban Trophy Hunting website uses anecdotes from 300 years ago to convince readers that hunting is some kind of colonialist sport, and yet African stakeholders in their open letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs likened the behaviour of these western conservationists to that of European colonists, who removed the rights of local people to manage their own land and animals. They highlighted that post-independence Governments have restored their rights to sustainably manage their wildlife by providing socio-economic incentives for doing so. An estimated 50% to 90% of these economic incentives derive from regulated, sustainable and humane hunting, which has resulted in wildlife population and habitat expansion.
On the surface, this Bill may appear to change only our import laws here in the UK, but it is no secret that, ultimately, a vote for this Bill is a vote to instruct African democratic Governments on how to behave. That is why I cannot endorse it. It should not be up to us to stop hunting in these countries. It should be for their own Governments to manage their wildlife and conservation, because we are not affected; they are the ones who will be affected. Of course no one wants to encourage illegal hunting, but by withdrawing our support for legal and well-regulated hunting in these countries, we are, in effect, removing the financial incentives that encourage African people to protect their local wildlife and habitats. That is why I support the current licensing system for CITES-listed species to protect vulnerable species and regulate imports to the UK.
I wish the Minister had used her comments to explain why she was not using that licensing regime to stop the imports of the various trophies that people object to, because that is what it is there for. If people use the CITES website on the gov.uk system, they will find it is extremely helpful. If they type in the type of animal they want to ask about, it will tell them that they need a licence. It lists animals in their taxonomic order, by their Latin names and by their English names. It is an extremely good website. I am fairly faint in my praise for Government websites generally, but this one is good. People can tell if they are allowed to bring species in or not; if not, they must have a licence. All the animals that the Bill will protect are already licensed imports.
I stood on a manifesto to protect our borders, and we have the legislation in place to do so. The Bill gilds the lily. It is extra, it is not necessary and it is deeply wrong, because it is up to African people to decide how they manage their rich natural resources, which are in their backyard, not ours.
With the leave of the House, I rise to thank Members across the House for their speeches and their support: my right hon. Friends the Members for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) and for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning), my hon. Friends the Members for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) and for Wolverhampton North East (Jane Stevenson), and the hon. Members for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier), for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) and for Newport West (Ruth Jones). We may disagree on the matter, but I respect the contribution of my hon. Friend Sir Bill Wiggin.
I thank the team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Lorraine Platt of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation. I also thank Eduardo Gonçalves for his work on this area.
I thank my hon. Friend for his brilliant work in promoting the Bill. Does he agree that although we talk about trophy hunting, these are not trophies? They are a physical representation of the fragile ego of the people who do cruelty to animals. By banning trophy hunting imports, we are not affecting what countries are doing to support themselves; all we are saying is that we do not want these representations of fragile egos imported into our wonderful country.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Henry Smith on promoting the Bill, which I wholeheartedly support.
I am fortunate to be the Member of Parliament for Marwell Zoo, which is a leader not only in caring for animals in the UK, but in conservation work around the world. Marwell is emerging from the challenges of the pandemic after being closed and restricted for so long, like so many centres of its kind. It is a wonderful place, both as a tourist attraction and as a centre of excellence in wildlife conservation, and I have sought the expert views of its chief executive James Cretney in preparing my speech.
Many issues that we debate in this House, and on which we legislate, capture huge attention from the public, but that is especially true of animal welfare. We are a nation of animal lovers. Issues relating to animal welfare make up a huge proportion of the correspondence that I receive as an MP, and I am sure that other Members have similar experiences. Over the years, I have received many hundreds of emails from constituents about trophy hunting. They have often been sent in response to lobby group campaigns focusing on specific incidents such as the shooting of Cecil the lion in 2015 or occasional cases in which a hunter kills a large number of animals in one go.
We have to look beyond emotions, however, and consider how a ban on trophy hunting imports would engage with nature, society and economics in some very poor areas of the world. This is not about any debates in the UK or about how we manage stocks or overpopulations of particular species in our own country. We must also be clear that there are occasions on which it is necessary to control an animal population where natural predation has broken down, in most cases because a predator has been hunted or driven from the environment by man. However, it is clear that when it comes to trophy hunting, there are problems that we must address.
I have a personal interest, through the work of my father in Yemen and Oman in the 1960s. While he was based in the region with the Trucial Oman Scouts, he became involved in the effort to record and save the Arabian oryx. This beautiful animal was once common across the middle east from Sinai to Iraq and on the Arabian peninsula. It is thought that there was likely an encounter with an Arabian oryx some time in the past by a European traveller which gave rise to the legend of the unicorn, although the oryx actually has two straight horns, not one. Gradually, the oryx was hunted to extinction across the wider middle east. Until the early 1960s, it remained only in the Rub’ al Khali—the empty quarter—across the boundaries of Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Even then, it was not certain that any living animals remained. However, a programme was put together to rescue remaining animals and establish a breeding programme at Phoenix zoo in the USA.
The Arabian oryx was prized as a trophy for its fine horns and, even as the programme was beginning its work in 1961, the herd of the oryx in the empty quarter was subject to a major hunting expedition. Hunters from Qatar and the Emirates killed off many of them for trophies. Had the programme not been successful in locating and taking some oryx to safety, it would have been extinct immediately. This was the modern effort to save a species from extinction and I am pleased that my father, with his colleagues, had a role in getting it under way.
In the laxer circumstances of the mid-1970s, the Arabian oryx was eventually trophy-hunted to extinction in the wild. Were it not for the success of the breeding programme in zoos, it would have gone the same way as the dodo. I am pleased that it has been possible, since the 1980s, to reintroduce the oryx to a number of locations in the middle east. There are now populations in Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Israel, but it is still classed as vulnerable. The Arabian oryx would fall under the scope of the Bill, being an annex A species within CITES. It is just one example covering one of the many species that are in danger. We tend to think of elephants and lions as being most at risk, but there is a huge range of animals hunted for trophies around the world that deserve protection.
Opponents of the kind of Bill we are looking at today make a case that trophy hunting benefits states that are less wealthy than the UK and warn of unintended consequences, as we have just heard from the previous speaker. This is something I have been looking at in the lead-up to Second Reading. I wanted to be sure, in looking at the Bill, that the end of trophy hunting, which, sadly, the Bill alone cannot lead to, would not destabilise fragile economies and ecosystems in the developing world. The evidence is convincing that it will not have those negative effects.
Trophy hunting can lead to destabilised social organisation in species such as lions, where males are killed preferentially by trophy hunters. This disorganisation has led to increased female and cub mortality, and an accelerated population decline. If an excessive number of male lions are killed, their families are killed indirectly too. The entire reproductive capacity of the species is harmed. Zimbabwe, whose lion population is being destabilised in the way I have just described, has been a source of more than a quarter of trophy-hunted imports to the UK over the last 20 years.
Trophy hunting as a benefit to the local economy is only of doubtful value. The function of trophy-hunting estates is similar to other high-end tourist resorts with a range of facilities and leisure for tourists. The profits from those resorts do not stay with the local population, who are mostly a source of cheap labour. They end up in the bank accounts of tour and resort operators who are mostly not based in the target country. The description of cheap labour can nearly always be applied to the specialist trackers or traditional hunters who are recruited to do the hard work of trophy hunting, which is to locate the prey. The hunter then just has to point and shoot, and pose for their pictures. The description of this kind of hunting as some kind of sport involving big game is greatly exaggerated.
Even in the top hunting destinations for tourists, the trade makes a tiny contribution to GDP. Nowhere does it account for more than half of 1% of GDP. In Zimbabwe, where we have seen the traders doing major damage, it accounts for 0.3% of GDP. The argument that it would be economically damaging to have to replace hunting tourism with conventional wildlife tourism hardly seems viable. In some cases, trophy hunting areas are, in fact, just large fenced enclosures, and it is on these that the argument for a managed, captive-bred population can best be made. However, these enclosures sit within the wider landscape, and their fencing and infrastructure negatively affect wildlife around the boundaries, disturbing the natural habitat for the wild population and leading to its decline.
Another feature of fenced enclosure hunting is the introduction of species attractive to trophy hunters that are not native to the area. Inevitably, some of those animals escape into the wild where they begin to destabilise the wider ecosystem. Their habitats in the resorts can damage the ecosystem and undermine the claim that the resorts are a managed but natural environment.
Poaching is legally separate, but it is undoubtedly given some cover by the activities of hunters and the market for trophy goods. Much poaching takes place using forged permits and an assumption that the possession of hunting equipment in an area is legal.
For a long time, the British Government’s view was that managed hunting of wild animals is acceptable, both in the canned format where animals are hunted within fenced enclosures and elsewhere where animals roam free but are supposedly under wider management by local agencies. I welcomed it when our Government looked again at the evidence in 2019 and began the consultation process that helped to lead to this Bill.
This Government are the greenest and most animal and environmentally friendly Government that the UK has ever had. The UK was always a leader in pressing for higher standards in the environment and animal welfare during our time in the EU, against concerted opposition from some other members. Now we have left the EU and introduced our landmark Environment Act 2021 and Agriculture Act 2020, we have a secure legislative base at home. Our leadership of international environment and ecological negotiations allows this Parliament and our Government to have great authority to others around the world. We must use that soft power.
I hope the Government will assist and support this Bill—I am pleased to hear that the Minister has already agreed to that—and will maintain their efforts around the world to help supress poaching. The reality for many species is that no level of commercial hunting by man is sustainable.
I am very surprised to be called so early in this debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Henry Smith on being selected in the ballot and on choosing such an important subject.
By banning hunting trophies, we can send a strong message to the rest of the world that the UK does not tolerate the killing of iconic species such as rhinos, lions and elephants by a very small minority for recreation alone. Like many others in this place, I have been inundated by emails and letters from constituents who care very deeply about this issue. I will read a section of an email from Danielle from Barrow, which sums up what many people have said:
“All animals have unique personalities, but to hunters, they’re merely target practice—things to kill, decapitate, and display on a wall. Wild animals just want to be left in peace, but trophy hunters —lacking empathy, compassion, and respect for these living, feeling beings—get a sick thrill out of taking their lives. They’re willing to pay thousands of pounds to travel the world just to kill. Their victims are often trapped in a fenced compound or private game reserve, or lured with bait from the safety of national park into the awaiting shooter’s path. Some who facilitate this blood sport track down animals for a fee. It isn’t uncommon for them to encounter sleeping animals, who may be shot at extremely close range…
The UK could deter hunters from killing animals abroad by banning imports of hunting trophies, thereby preventing people from bringing their sick souvenirs home.”
Danielle is just one of many who have reached out to me—and I am sure people across the House—on this issue.
Members have already mentioned the polling. In March this year, polling showed overwhelming support for the policy of banning hunting trophy-hunting imports. I think around 60% of the public agreed that the UK Government should bring a ban forward. Indeed, among Conservative-leaning voters, that was 92%. I am always wary about following polls because I think that we should listen to the arguments on both sides and make our own minds up, but it is clear that the public are ahead of us on this one. There is real merit to listening to their sensible and sage opinions.
Between 2004 and 2014, British hunters brought 2,500 legal hunting trophies into the UK, including body parts of some of the most endangered species such as elephants and rhinos. Despite wild lion populations being decimated to a mere 20,000 individuals, thousands of lions have been targeted and killed since the death of Cecil, which we all remember, in 2015. Similarly, what was a population of 20 million African elephants has been reduced to just 400,000, with only 50 big tusker elephants left on earth at all.
Trophy hunting directly contributes to the decline in threatened and endangered species populations while failing to provide the conservation benefits that the trophy hunting industry claims. To attain the most impressive trophy, hunters typically target animals with the most accentuated traits. That has a disproportionate impact on the genetic and social integrity of their family group and wider populations.
Contrary to the belief that funding from hunts directly supports conservation efforts for the target animal species, evidence from the US House Committee on Natural Resources found multiple examples of funds being diverted or completely dismissed from conservation purposes in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia.
South Africa holds 366 large-scale captive breeding facilities where big cats are being bred and exploited for commercial purposes. The investigative organisation, FOUR PAWS, found that indigenous species such as lions, cheetahs and leopards, in addition to non-native species such as tigers and jaguars, are being kept in substandard conditions and used for touristic gain through abusive experiences such as cub petting and canned hunting.
Lions are the largest population of big cat species in the industry, with three times as many lions in captivity as there are wild in South Africa. Due to their tame nature, gained through hand rearing and becoming habituated predators, the release of captive-bred lions into the wild is impossible. As they reach two years of age, many lions are used for canned hunting; they are released into a small, fenced area only to be shot and killed for a trophy. The dead lions and their parts that are not sold as trophies often enter the traditional medicine market across Asia, where the animals are more valuable dead than alive. By allowing the UK to import hunting trophies, we are indirectly supporting that heinous industry.
As has been mentioned, every party in this place, I think, has a commitment to ban the import of hunting trophies. It has been included in numerous Queen’s Speeches and in the 2021 DEFRA action plan for animal welfare. It is time to deliver on that commitment.
It is my daughter’s birthday today. Peg turned seven years old—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] Thank you; I am sure that she appreciates all your support. Fatherhood very much changes our view of the world—she is my first. I am sure that all of us who have children recognise the stage that they go through when, once they hit about three years old, they start to ask “Why?” about everything, relentlessly. As Peg was my first child, whenever she asked “Why?” I tried to answer the question. It makes you see the world very differently. I did not really think much about hunting issues, such as fox hunting or the wider animal welfare concerns that we are discussing. However, when trying to justify them to a three-year-old and say why the world operates in that way, it makes you think again. Frankly, I cannot justify this. I cannot see why we allow these barbaric practices to continue and why we allow trophies to be imported into our country.
Animals should not be managed to be hunted, with the excuse of them continuing to exist as the argument. We should sustain habitats, enable biodiversity, and create environments where they can thrive, rather than ones in which they are not effectively wild any more, unable to fend for themselves without humans or are in a waiting room for a hunter to bag an easy shot so they have something to go above the mantelpiece. The Bill is the right and moral thing for us to do. I am very glad to support my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley on this excellent Bill.
It is a real pleasure to speak in support of this excellent Bill from my hon. Friend Henry Smith. Many constituents have contacted me with very strong feelings on this issue and I am here to represent their views, as I always seek to do.
I have never been comfortable with the idea of killing an animal simply for a souvenir. I am told that trophy hunters perhaps feel a thrill when they hunt an animal. Perhaps it is just about the opportunity to take something home that they can use for a piece of furniture or to display there. I do not know what is in the mind of a person who chooses to do this—that is a matter for them—but it is absolutely right that we have this discussion today.
The animals most coveted by trophy hunters include lions, hippos, rhinos, elephants and zebras. Their populations have all declined over recent generations while trophy imports to major economies, including ours, have increased. Our import numbers pale in comparison to the US, the EU and China, but we have played our part in facilitating that trade. Indeed, the number of trophies coming into Britain has risen about tenfold since the 1980s. That is in part because of the international agreement on which the wildlife trade is regulated, known as the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora.
Although CITES restricts the trade of listed endangered species, trophies are considered to be personal and household effects that warrant an exemption. As a result, a number of countries across the world have a trophy hunting tourism industry for foreign visitors. Wealthy hunters from across the world travel to those countries, hunt their animal of choice and then bring that animal’s remains back home. We have heard the arguments about the positive monetary benefits that this business model may produce, but I hope we can also recognise the perverse incentives that there are around the industry.
My constituents have raised many problems and concerns. First, trophy hunters naturally opt for animals with desirable features, as we have heard from many hon. and right hon. Members from across the House. They ultimately want the elephant with the biggest tusks, the lion with the widest mane or the tiger with the sharpest, whitest teeth. In doing so, the industry is picking off the members of the species that are most likely to survive and reproduce in the wild. I am told that African lions are now less genetically diverse than they were 100 years ago. The average tusk size of African elephants has halved since the mid-19th century. If the strongest members of a species are targeted, the best genes are removed from their populations.
Secondly, South African landowners have adopted a business model of breeding lions in captivity, known as canned hunting. The practice is a much cheaper way of organising a hunt than a wild pursuit, meaning more people can hunt a vulnerable species as a trophy. Canned hunting excludes lions from the wild and serves no conservational purpose. With lion numbers plummeting over the past 20 years, and the global exports of canned lion trophies going up, we have to ask ourselves whether our country wants its hands in this.
I am conscious that I represent an area of the UK; it is not my place to tell South African landowners what their business model should be. However, I do think it is right that we control our part in it, and control the ability of those hunters to bring the product of that hunt back into our country. That is where our approach should lie, and I think it absolutely right that the Bill does that. The United States’ decision to suspend imports of lion trophies in 2016 helped to bring down the number of lions held in canned hunting facilities.
Finally, we must ask if the industry itself is doing enough to offset the results of the practice and to improve conservation efforts. For example, Safari Club International’s diamond award requires hunters to shoot at least 80 different species, including all of the big five African mammals. Its cats of the world award requires hunters to kill at least four types of wild cats. I find that quite distasteful, and many of my constituents feel exactly the same way.
Further losses of vulnerable and endangered species would have disastrous effects for our environment, not only ecologically but for the economies in which those practices take place. I hope we can send a very strong message to the world today that bringing into the UK parts of animals that have been hunted in this way is not something that is acceptable to the British public.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Holly Mumby-Croft—sunny Scunny. I thank my hon. Friend Henry Smith for his brilliant work on this much-needed Bill, and on the broader issue of animal welfare. The UK is playing a leading role in standing up for animal welfare around the world.
Through the action plan for animal welfare, the Government have introduced—and continue to introduce —a series of vital reforms in areas such as animal sentience, farm animal welfare and international advocacy. Last year, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill became law, which saw the introduction of some of the strictest sanctions in Europe for animal cruelty offences. The Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill aims to fortify protections for pets, livestock and kept wild animals. Through that legislation, the Conservative party is delivering on our 2019 manifesto commitments, and I look forward to its return to the House when parliamentary time allows.
On the central issue of hunting trophies, I am sure that many hon. Members have seen images on social media of hunters standing over slain lions or elephants. These are appalling acts of needless violence that are having a damaging effect on global conservation efforts. It is high time that the UK played its part in cracking down on that practice.
The report by the APPG on banning trophy hunting is damning and eye-opening. In it, we hear about the extensive operation behind trophy hunting, where online forums advertise so-called trophy hunting holidays. It is not my kind of holiday—nor one that would be enjoyed by any hon. Members. The hunting industry is seemingly driven by organisations offering prestigious prizes for shooting a certain number of species. Perhaps, when hunters cannot bring back their trophies to the UK, the motivation for travelling across the world to kill endangered animals will be far less powerful.
The hon. Member rightly mentions the organisations that are operating. It appears that many supposedly grassroots organisations, particularly in Africa, are actually driven by the fanatical United States gun lobby. Should we not say to people who fall for that—interestingly enough, that is not many members of the British hunting community—that they need to distinguish between grassroots and astroturf?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and makes his point well. We in this House are limited as to what we can control through the scope of the Bill, but this is what we can do to make a difference. I am sure that the National Rifle Association will be poring over Hansard and reading his comments with trepidation.
The practice of killing endangered animals for the purpose of hunting trophies is abhorrent and immoral, and many of my constituents in Milton Keynes North feel the same. We in this House have the power to do our bit to tackle this despicable practice by introducing one of the toughest bans in the world on the import of hunting trophies through the Bill.
This strict import ban will have a twofold impact. First, we will make huge strides towards putting a stranglehold on this damaging practice. Secondly, by cutting off the ability of hunters to bring back their hunts, we will support the conservation of thousands of endangered species. In Kenya, for example, where trophy hunting is banned, the populations of lions, rhinos and elephants are rising fastest. As highlighted in the APPG’s report, animal populations have benefited hugely from trophy hunting bans in Botswana and Zambia.
It is clear that there is a strong mandate for a ban on trophy hunting imports. Hon. Members on both sides of the House want to see those imports banned, and public opinion, as we have heard many times, reflects that strongly. The Bill is about more than just a ban on trophy hunting imports; it is about dealing a significant blow to the industry and organisations that thrive and profit from trophy hunting. That is an important cause that I hope the House will support.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Henry Smith for the incredible work that he has done to introduce the Bill. I remember that a few years ago, before I was an MP, I was invited to an event organised by Nic Careem in this place to watch the film “Born Free” with Virginia McKenna. In that, we saw the role that conservation played in society many decades ago, the majestic nature of lions and other animals in the wild, and the contribution that they make to our world, not just in their economic value but in their value to our society and the world at large—to nature itself.
We are in a world where we need to be more mindful of the planet, and we talk often in this place about climate crises, but what is the climate there for and what is the world there for? It is for us all to live on it, and that includes our animals too. I have never had the luxury of visiting Africa, but we can see from afar, and people can see when they go there, not only the role that these predators play in the ecosystems of their local environment and in nature itself but their pure elegance and amazingness. So the idea that somebody would want to go that land, a foreign land for many of these trophy hunters, to stalk out an animal invisibly and in a cowardly way, in the bushes, or from afar with a long lens— or perhaps we could be talking about an animal trapped in a cage—and kill it simply in order to put its skin or head, as happened in the past, as a trophy on their wall, shelf or floor is cowardly, vile and utterly unnecessary. As I mentioned, we talk about “trophies”, but these are not trophies. At the extreme, this is done purely for fragile egos to prove somehow that they are stronger than a lion or more powerful than an elephant; they are killing these beautiful creatures for a trophy—really? Do we want to allow over many decades, and continue to allow in the case of some in this Chamber, although I have great respect for all on these Benches, people to bring trophies of that vile act back to this country? That just seems morally wrong and utterly abhorrent.
For hundreds of years, we saw these trophies and we saw animals killed or captured so that people could bring them to this country, perhaps for education or perhaps because of a misunderstanding of the role they play, but the world has changed dramatically in the past decades. Instead of shooting an animal with a rifle, people can now shoot it with a camera and they have the opportunity to bring their brilliance in life to the world, not in death to one household or perhaps one building. This is about understanding what role we play in society and the message we send from this country around the world about what is right and what is wrong. I completely understand that we need to make sure that things are sustainable for individuals in communities, and that they have the power to have economic input and pursue their livelihoods. But the idea that people, especially from western countries, go over there, kill their animals and take them back as dead body parts to their own homes as trophies, while not helping those villagers and those countries, and not helping those people in a sustainable way, just does not sit right with me. That is why this Bill is so important.
Ultimately, this Bill prohibits bringing hunting trophies to this country. It enables us to put that position in law, to stop people being able to take advantage of this practice, not just when they go out there and kill these animals themselves; it stops them encouraging others to kill animals on their behalf, in order to bring those so-called “trophies” back to this country. There is a positive bit that is so important in this Bill and it reminds me of a private Member’s Bill I spoke on a few weeks ago. That Bill was about shark finning, an awful, abhorrent act where fishermen will cut off the fins of sharks, leaving them just to nosedive, with no ability to save themselves, and drown in the deep. When I spoke in that Bill recently, it was an opportunity to change the way this country views animals, and it was about body parts and not just the full animal. That is also one of the powerful parts of this Bill: it is about hunting trophies, meaning
“the body of an animal, or a readily recognisable part or derivative of an animal”.
I commend the Bill to the House and my hon. Friend for the work that he has done, because the Bill, which has support from across the House, will make a huge difference to conservation and to the moral standing of this country. It sends a signal around the world that when things are wrong, we will stand up even for those who do not have a vote, such as animals.
Many people will find it quite extraordinary that we even need to have this debate, extraordinary to think that there is a market for bringing home the body parts of animals, and extraordinary that in certain quarters of the country, this is still considered a sport, desirable, or something to be proud of. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Henry Smith for introducing debate on the Bill, which has been widely supported across the House and, of course, aligns with our manifesto commitment. It is moving to be able to support him and, I hope, get the Bill over the line.
I have two points. First—this dovetails with what my hon. Friend said about the environmental aspect of the issue—it is shocking to think that the elephant population has depleted significantly in the last 50 years, that elephants with larger tusks are targeted, and to hear of the evolutionary impact that has had. He described the way that elephants with smaller tusks are less able to adapt to their natural habitats, with ongoing consequences. The population of lions in the wild has collapsed by 93% in the last 50 years—just a bit over the course of my lifetime. Climate change is affecting these habitats anyway. If we are serious about the preservation of wildlife, and particularly endangered species, that is a pernicious element that we need to do something about. I respect the fact that the Bill does not deal with trophy hunting per se, but it does say something about who we are as a society and what we think about it.
Secondly, the way that the British public view hunting has changed since foxhunting was abolished. A lot of people have strong views on that. Trophy hunting is not just about animal hunting, but about viewing animals as chattels and their body parts as a show of status or virility. John Spellar, who is no longer in his place, made the point that in some ways trophy hunting is an adjunct to those who are most committed to the National Rifle Association and the second amendment of the United States, and like so many slightly odd American habits, it has found its way here and is being replicated here, in certain quarters.
My hon. Friend Sir Bill Wiggin characterised criticism of trophy hunting as somehow racist or patronising to certain communities. I do not recognise that characterisation; it is not a true one, and I regret that he is not in his place to hear me say that. In certain parts of Africa, where there is a demand to use wildlife in a certain way, sometimes poverty is such that a market will grow up. If the market encourages protecting certain areas of landscape, as is very much the case in the Maasai Mara, the local community will complement that. We should not say that there is local collusion, or a natural appetite for trophy hunting. I have never seen that in Africa at all.
Finally, it is really important to say that the Bill is the latest addition to a package of animal welfare actions that the Government have taken. Sometimes a piece of legislation on its own does not tell a particularly powerful story, but when we consider the Bill together with the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021, the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 from last Session—a really important Act about whether animals are sentient beings—and the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which is beginning its passage through Parliament, we see that parliamentarians across the House have been looking carefully at animal welfare. Animal welfare will be in a completely different position by the time this Parliament ends. Many of our constituents would feel that that was important, and that it fairly reflects their attitudes, values and view of animals.
There are lots of other issues I could mention, including the mandatory microchipping of dogs and banning the use of battery cages for laying hens. We have taken a different look at domestic and farmed animals, and we should feel proud of that. I am very supportive of this Bill, and it is an honour to speak on it this afternoon. I look forward to seeing it pass its Second Reading shortly.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Henry Smith on bringing this important issue to the House. Like many others, I have been written to by people from across my constituency who feel really strongly about this issue and want the Government to take action on it. It is a pleasure for me to be here to represent their views, because I agree with them.
Elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and polar bears have two things in common: they all face the threat of extinction, and they are the target of trophy hunters around the world. As my hon. Friend and others have pointed out, we were all rightly outraged by the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe seven years ago, but the sad reality is that there are thousands of Cecils every single year. Like many others, I am sickened and disgusted when I see pictures on social media of trophy hunters grinning beside magnificent creatures that deserve to live in their natural habitat without fear of being hunted as a commercial sport by people who exploit them.
One of the most abhorrent practices is the so-called canned lion hunts. These wonderful creatures are bred and grow up in confined reserves, not in their natural habitat, in order to be shot by a trophy hunter. They have no chance at all of escape. It is shocking that, according to the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, there are more than 300 of these lion factory farms in existence, run by trophy hunting “holiday firms”. After these lions have been artificially exterminated for pleasure, their bones are often used to make lion wine and lion cake. As long as we fail to prevent these imports, the UK implicitly condones the actions of these sick individuals. I have no doubt that future generations will look back at this moment in horror, and they will draw a comparison between canned lion hunting, medieval practices such as bear-baiting, and the animal-baiting contests prevalent in ancient Rome.
Our global wildlife has declined by 60% over the last half-century. That is the backdrop to this, and that is why we must take a stand against those who seek to destroy wildlife. We can and must assert the UK’s leading role as a champion for the protection of wildlife. The trophy hunting industry would have us believe the myth that trophy hunting is important for conservation, but too often, that is nothing more than a smokescreen to rationalise the killing of endangered animals for pleasure. These arguments are outdated, tired excuses, and we must not opt for the so-called smart ban, which would limit the ending of trophy hunting imports to those obtained from canned hunts.
The evidence also suggests that the benefit to local communities, often touted as a justification for trophy hunting, is overstated. On average, local communities receive only 3% of revenue from trophy hunting, while the industry generates a mere 0.3% of total tourism revenue in the African countries that allow it. Those figures are minuscule compared with the advantages of preserving wildlife across the world.
In fact, many African communities are strongly against the practice. A recent poll showed that 70% of South African citizens believe their country would be a more attractive tourist destination if they ended trophy hunting. Kenya banned trophy hunting in 1977, and we should, by adopting the trade policy in the Bill and other such policies, support others that follow in its footsteps.
Several colleagues, including my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley, recently had the pleasure of hosting the former President of Botswana, Ian Khama, in this House. In a video sent ahead of today’s debate, Mr Khama said:
“a significant contributor to this fast-diminishing jewel of nature is the slaughter of many species purely for enjoyment and the pleasure of inflicting death on our planet’s wonderful creatures.”
Earlier this year, I attended a reception held by the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation in memory of its late patron, the MP whose constituency I am now proud to represent: Sir David Amess. He was particularly passionate about this campaign, and it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge his years of work to see the Bill become a reality. It was Sir David who, time and again, championed an end to trophy-hunting imports, and I would like us to remember all he did to support these measures.
I also thank the all-party parliamentary group on banning trophy hunting, spearheaded by my right hon. Friend Sir Roger Gale, who is in his place. He has also worked tirelessly to end trophy-hunting imports.
Ending trophy hunting imports is supported by MPs from every party in this House, as is demonstrated by the passionate speeches from Members on both sides of the House today. Indeed, this vile trade truly unites an ever-divided politics, and it unites the British people. When the Government consulted on this policy in 2019, they received more than 44,000 responses, showing clear support for tighter restrictions from constituents and conservation groups. As we have heard, 86% of the UK public would like the Bill to become law. Interestingly, that view is even more strongly shared by Conservative voters, 92% of whom support ending the UK’s association with the trophy-hunting trade. As their representatives in Parliament, we must listen.
The UK will not be the first country to take a stand against trophy hunting; France and Australia both banned the import of lion-hunting trophies in 2015. The Netherlands banned trophy-hunting imports of more than 200 species in 2016. We can and should follow their example.
Let us be clear that there is no place for this practice in a civilised society. We must endeavour to eradicate our role in this trade. It began in the 19th century, as a new recreation under the British empire. We must consign it to being a relic of the past. Let us ensure that the UK is on the right side of history by saying no to trophy-hunting imports.
I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak for the second time today.
I praise my hon. Friend Henry Smith for using his private Member’s Bill slot for this hugely important legislation. Of course, all Conservative Members stood on a manifesto to introduce an ivory ban and a ban on the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals.
I am sure all Members on both sides of the House will, like me, have been inundated with correspondence from constituents asking them to support this Bill. For the avoidance of doubt, I make it clear that I wholeheartedly support this Bill. The illegal wildlife trade is a criminal industry worth more than £17 billion worldwide each year, threatening both wildlife and people. The UK Government have been at the forefront of international efforts to protect endangered animals and plants through the illegal wildlife trade challenge, but we can always go further and do more, which is what this Bill does.
The Netherlands currently bans trophies from approximately 200 species; Belgium will shortly implement an identical ban; France and Australia ban imports of lion trophies; and the US bans imports of certain endangered species, such as cheetahs and polar bears. By taking action through the Bill, we will demonstrate to the world our continued commitment to tackling such practices, and send a strong message to others.
The Bill has been welcomed by the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, which said:
“By banning hunting trophies, we can send a strong message to the rest of the world that the UK does not tolerate the killing of iconic species such as rhinos, lions, and elephants by a minority of individuals for recreation.”
Four Paws UK, a member of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting coalition, said:
“It is crucial that this Bill passes through Parliament…unamended”.
I agree. The Bill will introduce one of the world’s strongest bans on trophy hunting imports, leading the way in the protection of endangered animals. There is no need to delay any further—we must get the ban into statute as quickly as possible.
Since the 1980s, an estimated 25,000 slaughtered animals have been brought into the UK. The most popular animals shot by British trophy hunters include African elephants, hippopotamuses, black bears, leopards, zebras, lions and baboons. In recent years, British hunters have even brought home the heads, bodies and skins of polar bears, rhinos, cheetahs, giraffes, monkeys, seals, otters and wildcats. I appreciate that in the light of figures in the United States, where no fewer than 126,000 animal trophies are legally imported each year, the steps we take today will only scratch the surface. But I know that a majority of people will find it hard to sympathise with someone who pays tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, with everything prepared for them in advance, to shoot an animal at close range—often incompetently, so it suffers unnecessarily—and await the delivery of the prepared trophy. By banning the import of trophies, we deprive the hunter of their prize.
The Bill has widespread support among the public and experts. More than 100 of Britain’s best-known public figures, including Dame Shirley Bassey, Michael Caine, Brian Cox, Alex Ferguson, Tim Henman, Aled Jones, Michael Parkinson, Cliff Richard, Angela Rippon, Delia Smith, Rod Stewart, Chris Tarrant and Jonny Wilkinson, have signed a letter expressing their support for the ban. At the end of 2019, the Government launched a consultation on trophy hunting in which a huge 86% of respondents called for a ban. Clearly, the public want this ban.
The Bill is an excellent and overdue piece of legislation. Like the ban brought in by the Ivory Act 2018, our hunting trophy imports ban would be one of the strongest in the world, further complementing the strong actions that we have already taken to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. I wish my hon. Friend every success as he continues to guide the Bill through its legislative journey. I hope to see it reach the statute book as soon as possible, and—to repeat the offer I made earlier to my right hon. Friend Dr Fox—I would be more than happy to serve on the Bill Committee.
I thank my hon. Friend Henry Smith and congratulate him on his important private Member’s Bill. It is a privilege to speak today. I thank him and the APPG for their ongoing campaigning on this important issue.
The UK is a world leader in nature conservation. As part of that reputation, we should ban the import of hunting trophies to stop the draw for the industry. Ninety-eight per cent. of the British public support the ban, and I thank the many North Devon residents who have written to me sharing their support for the Bill. Despite such high levels of opposition to trophy hunting, the top female hunter in the world is British, as is the runner-up in the men’s category. Between them, they are estimated to have killed more than 800 animals.
Since 1970, wildlife numbers have fallen by 69%, and the number of trophies entering the UK has risen tenfold since 1980. Historically, this form of hunting would have taken weeks and months, but over recent decades, as travel has become quicker, people have been able to reach previously inaccessible or prohibitively difficult-to-reach locations in less than 24 hours.
We have already lost some of our world’s species. Why should this exploitative hobby be allowed to take any more? In my lifetime, we have seen the extinction of the western black rhinoceros, notable and attractive to hunters for its double horn. A species that lived for 7 million to 8 million years, its population declined by 96% between 1970 and 1976 before it was declared officially extinct in 2011.
Alongside the complete destruction of species, trophy hunting has the effect of changing the genetics and features of species. Scientists estimate that lions have lost 15% of their gene pool over the last century and there is evidence that they are becoming more vulnerable to diseases. Similarly, elephants are showing the effects of being targeted for traits such as tusk size and weight. The average weight of trophy tusks was approximately 210 lbs in 1970 but by 1990 it had fallen to 180 lbs. There are now tuskless elephants, and the numbers are rising. However, this is notably not the case in areas where trophy hunting is banned, such as South Africa’s Kruger national park.
The industry also claims that targeting males and the ban by some countries on hunting females have a negligible effect on population. While it is true that in many species males play a limited role in the rearing of young, removing males from the area simply draws in others that then kill any young that are not their own, removing a generation and narrowing the gene pool.
The industry falsely claims that a ban such as the one proposed by the Bill is a colonial action, where rich westerners are forcing their views on local people. In fact, the opposite is true. Only 16% of South Africans are in favour of trophy hunting. A study that covered multiple African countries found that:
“The dominant pattern was resentment towards what was viewed as the neo-colonial character of trophy hunting, in the way it privileges Western elites in accessing Africa’s wildlife resources.”
Trophy hunters pay vast sums for exclusive access to a country’s resources, excluding and exploiting communities in need of long-term support and development. For pleasure and selfies, they kill the very animals that local people are not allowed to hunt for food.
A variety of projects across the mountainous region covering Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have had great success over the decades. They have faced a number of issues that have been raised today, such as inclusive conservation across three different countries. In 2018, the mountain gorilla moved from “critically endangered” to “endangered”, a small success that was partly achieved by bringing the local community into conservation processes. Unlike private hunting reserves, which push local people from their land and where little of the vast sums paid by hunters go back to the community, these projects put the local community at the heart of their work.
Project leaders realised that they were still struggling with poaching as local subsistence farmers tried to earn money, so they started bringing local people into the reserve. That would otherwise have been unaffordable for many, as it would have cost up to $1500 a day. Being able to interact with the gorillas has significantly shifted attitudes, and the projects bring farmers into the successful tourism industry, offering training and long-term development.
Although conservation is about so much more than the monetary value of an animal, it is important to recognise that local communities need opportunities to develop their local economies. As the MP for a rural community, I know how important it is to recognise the value of natural capital. Fortunately, the pure monetary value of an animal is significantly higher over its lifetime as a draw for photographic safaris than it is if the animal is bred for hunting. The trophy fee for shooting a lion is around £20,000, but the same lion can instead generate £1.5 million in revenues from photo safaris.
A key element of the appeal of exotic game hunting is the collection of trophies. If hunters are prevented from bringing the highly desirable trophies back home to show off, that significant incentive is removed. Such people are not on adventures: they are killing animals and contributing to the destruction of our natural world. I support the Bill, and I support the ban and the ending of this horrific industry.
I will speak briefly, because I know we have more Bills to get through today.
I thank my hon. Friend Henry Smith for bringing forward the Bill and the Government for their support for it. It delivers our manifesto commitment, and I know there is commitment to it from across the House. As hon. Members have said, this is fundamentally a moral issue, and we all feel abhorrence when we see pictures of trophy hunting.
If I have a criticism of my hon. Friend’s Bill—this is not meant entirely seriously—it is about the title. We all know that a lot of the animals are killed not in hunts, but by traps that have been set up or sometimes by being drugged. I do not see them as trophies either. However, as he said, the body parts of endangered species are being brought into the country and we need to stop that. The UK must take a leading role in doing that through cross-party work. Pretty much everything that needs to be said has been said. The Bill is a big step forward and I welcome it.
With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, let me express further sincere thanks for the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Meon Valley (Mrs Drummond), for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell), for Scunthorpe (Holly Mumby-Croft) and for Milton Keynes North (Ben Everitt), John Spellar, my hon. Friends the Members for Watford (Dean Russell), for Newbury (Laura Farris), for Darlington (Peter Gibson), for North Devon (Selaine Saxby), and for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell), and my hon. Friend Anna Firth, who paid tribute to Sir David Amess, our late colleague.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (