Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill

– in the House of Commons at on 22 March 2024.

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Votes in this debate

Second Reading

[Relevant document: e-petition 650300, Ban imports of hunting trophies of endangered animals.]

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley 9:35, 22 March 2024

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Often in debates that have had a long genesis and been considered many times in the House, there is that hackneyed phrase: everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it. One cannot even use that phrase now, because everyone has said what they need to say many times over. Of course, that is not true in this case, not least because of the Bill tabled and pioneered very ably by Henry Smith in the last Session of Parliament. The clear and overwhelming view of this House was that the legislation should go forward. We all know that that Bill was subject to extended delays in the other House—without wishing to cast aspersions, one could almost suggest delaying tactics—and eventually time ran out. I have to say that in this regard, even if in no other, I welcome the postponement of the general election until the autumn, as I hope that will give us more than adequate time, not only for the Bill to go through its stages in this House, but to ensure that the majority in the other place are not frustrated by the few who take a different view of it.

In some ways, what is happening down there is slightly reminiscent of the debate on the House of Lords in the early part of the last century, when the Lords were very much divided between the hedgers and the ditchers—between those who accepted that some reform was necessary and were therefore going to hedge their bets and allow reform to take place, and those who were going to die in the ditch. I hope very much that the hedgers in this case triumph in the other House, so that this matter, which is very important not just to us but to the public, makes progress.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

About this time last year, on Report, we reached somewhat of a compromise consensus on the Bill that left this place and went to the Lords. Am I right in thinking that the right hon. Gentleman has reintroduced the exact same Bill on which this House reached consensus last year? The Bill technically does not stop hunting; it simply stops the import into this country of any animal protected by the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I thank the right hon. Lady for those comments, and for the work that she undertook as the Secretary of State to support this legislation. Given that we wish to speed the progress of this legislation, I hope that colleagues will not be prone to making long speeches on this issue—indeed, possibly not even medium or short speeches. Subject to Madam Deputy Speaker, I intend to be very generous with my taking of interventions, because right hon. and hon. Members want to ensure that the strong feelings of their constituents—which are made very clear every time this issue comes up—are expressed in this House, so that those constituents know that Parliament is listening and undertaking a course of action.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I will just finish my comments to Dr Coffey before I take an intervention from my hon. Friend from Bebington.

The right hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal is absolutely right; in the last Parliament, there were concessions and discussions in Committee and a consensus was brought about, which was expressed very solidly. That is why I stressed that this was the overwhelming view and message from this House to the other House, and it is regrettable that the Lords chose to ignore that. I understand that the other House has a role in revising legislation, particularly when there are deep divisions in this House, but that is not the case with this provision. It is absolutely clear that the overwhelming majority, including the overwhelming majority of our constituents—the figure is 86% or so, but I will come back to that—are in support of the Bill. The hon. Member for Crawley skilfully put it together, which shows the bipartisan nature of the legislation. That is why it should go through today, and why it should be speeded through its passage in both Houses of Parliament.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Future of Work), Shadow Minister (Employment Rights and Protections)

The Bebington element of the Ellesmere Port constituency left about 40 years ago, but I know my right hon. Friend has been here a long time, so it probably was correct when he first entered this place.

I wanted to make the point that he has just made—namely, that there is overwhelming public support for this measure. A number of constituents have contacted me to express their support; as he said, time and again surveys show huge public demand for this. Does he agree that it is important that we get the Bill through as swiftly as possible, so that those in the other place are able to do as much as they can as quickly as they can?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I make no apologies for being regularly re-elected to this place over a number of decades. I am sure that my hon. Friend speaks effectively for his constituents in Ellesmere Port, and I suspect residents in Bebington probably hold similar views. That is important. Sometimes issues come before the House that reflect views from certain parts of the country—there are often arguments that reflect the views of those in the metropolis, or the inner metropolis and the metropolitan elite—but this issue runs across parties, across classes and across regions. This is a universal view across the country. People want this country to have no part in this vile trade.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Opposition Whip (Commons)

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Like many hon. Members, I have received hundreds of emails from my constituents in Batley and Spen, who are appalled at the vile trade of trophy hunting. Does he agree that the Bill will not only prevent the importation of hunting trophies to the UK, but it will also send a powerful message to countries around the world that hunting and killing endangered animals for trophies is always unacceptable, and that much more must be done to prevent that atrocious act wherever it occurs?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution, and for the work she has been undertaking on this issue, quite apart from the Bill. She is absolutely right. Other countries, including Australia, France and Belgium—I think there are a couple of others—have already shown the way by banning the trade in hunting trophies, and I hope that what we decide here will start to send a message to other countries that this is an international movement. As we always realise, society and opinions evolve. This country has the Bullring in Birmingham, but we no longer torment bulls with dogs in a public arena, or engage in bear baiting or cock fighting. We have moved on from that and we need to move on from trophy hunting, not least because of the decline in species.

Some of the arguments relate very much to Africa, but I remind colleagues—I pay tribute to the campaign by the Daily Express on this—that other regions of the world are also involved, such as polar bears in Canada. The Bill demonstrates that the public do not want those magnificent creatures to be slaughtered not only for a bizarre form of pleasure, but to decorate people’s houses. They do not understand it.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing this Bill forward. Is it not the case that this legislation is supported by campaigners in many countries, including in Africa? They love their animals and recognise that there is much more to be gained and it is much more profitable to keep these animals alive, rather than to allow this barbaric practice.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

My hon. Friend is clearly speaking on behalf of her constituents in Nottingham in expressing those strong views. In a number of programmes yesterday, I pointed out that for the long-term sustainable future of tourism in these countries, it is much better to have tourists shooting animals with cameras rather than with rifles and crossbows. We need to look towards a future of sustainable species and people being able to enjoy these animals not just through historical videos from David Attenborough, but by visiting themselves. That gives rise to a great and long-term industry.

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham

I agree with everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said, as well as paying tribute to my Sussex colleague, my hon. Friend Henry Smith, for having persevered with this issue for so long. We should not be here; this legislation should have gone through already. I have been struck by the number of emails I have had from my constituents about how important this matter is, so may I make a practical offer to Members of the House of Lords who are minded to try to sabotage the Bill again? I speak as the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for photography, and we will have a special category in the exhibition this year for wildlife photos, so that those Members can show how brave and manly they are by getting up close with cameras rather than guns. Is that a deal?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I am not sure their knees could take it, but that is a further matter. I absolutely take the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and he is right about expanding the scope so that people can show their skill in photography and show these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. That is the record they should have—not some grisly trophy on the wall. I fully understand his point.

I am also pleased that the hon. Gentleman raised the question about colleagues being here today. I realise where we are in the electoral cycle, and that we have elections everywhere across England and Wales in May. Many colleagues will therefore want to be out campaigning, so I thank colleagues who are here today and hope they will be able to participate to put across their constituents’ views. I hope that constituents understand the effort that sometimes has to be made to be here on a Friday, given constituency pressures.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

I think it was the distressing case of the killing of Cecil the lion that alerted many people to what is happening. I, too, have many constituents in Chipping Barnet who want this Bill to go through. That is why I am here today to support it.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I thank the right hon. Lady for coming in today, particularly because there are even more important elections taking place in her part of the country. She and I might take a slightly different view on them, but we are united on this issue today. It is important that we stress once again the cross-party support for this important measure.

I earlier highlighted the role of the hon. Member for Crawley, but I also pay tribute to many of those who played a part in keeping this campaign going over many years. I think of my old friend, Bob Blizzard, the previous Member for Waveney. He was a comrade in the Labour Government Whips Office, back in the days before the 2010 election. He was a great friend and also a great enthusiast—both for jazz, but also very much for this cause. After he had left Parliament, he encouraged me to take up this issue, and his involvement in the campaign to ban trophy hunting was enormously important, along with the campaign’s current director, Eduardo Gonçalves, who is sadly not well; I hope he will be cheered by the progress of the Bill later today. That is along with a number of celebrities. Sir Ranulph Fiennes has most notably been a stalwart in the campaign, as has Dr Jane Washington-Evans and Peter Egan, who initiated the e-petition.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

Lord Mancroft in the other place said,

“What the Government are doing today is passing socialist legislation, which is an odd thing for a Conservative Government to be doing.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 12 September 2023;
Vol. 832, c. 957.]

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is not socialist legislation or Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National party or Plaid Cymru legislation? This is humane and compassionate legislation.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

Well, we are a broad church—if Members on the Government Benches wish to join the cause of socialism, I welcome them. My hon. Friend is absolutely right; some issues divide us on non-political grounds and Members from different parties end up in the same camps, and many of those issues are subject to free votes. This issue unites us, and it unites us with the British people. It should have been sorted out ages ago. It is really a shame that we have to be here today. I do not in any way resent it, because this is the right thing to do, but this legislation should already be on the statute book.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Henry Smith. Today feels a bit like déjà vu. We are back here again, but that sends a message to our friends in the Lords that we will not give up. This legislation is the right thing to do. It is an abhorrent act to go to another country and kill an endangered animal in order to stick its head on a wall. It seems like something from a totally different century. The fact that we are back again, fighting for the right cause and standing on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us sends an important message to both the House of Lords and the country.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that; he expresses particularly well his point that trophy hunting is like something from a previous century. Its time has passed. Life moves on and society moves on.

As I was describing, it was interesting in the interviews I did that none of the commentators could respond when I asked, “How can you defend someone who wants to travel a distance to shoot a giraffe, stand on its corpse and bring parts of it back to this country?” Nobody seems to be able to answer that question. I am not saying it was ever right to do that, but what is absolutely clear now is that the British public are certain that they do not want any part of it.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

My right hon. Friend makes a very valid point. Some in favour of trophy hunting argue that it lends itself to supporting conservation in the country, which seems to me an entirely spurious argument. We have just seen really promising figures on tigers; there are 5,574 in the wild now. That is actually a tiny number; there should be many thousands more, but it shows that conservation efforts can pay off if we focus on certain species. Trophy hunting is not about conservation. As my right hon. Friend said, it is about people shooting animals, taking pictures of themselves parading around the corpses and cutting the animals’ heads off to take home. It is an abhorrent act.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I absolutely agree. My hon. Friend has been campaigning on this in Bristol and here in Parliament for many years, from the days when we worked in the Whips Office. She makes a very strong point.

The argument that says, “We are killing these animals in order to save them” is a bit like saying, “We created a desert and called it peace.” I really do not buy into that and, importantly, neither do the British public.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington

There has in the past been the argument that trophy hunting performs the role of culling for protected species. We have always been able to negate that argument. There are times when there is a strategy for culling certain species, but that is done on the basis of scientific fact rather than inhumane delight at the killing of animals.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Vastly excessive numbers, such as in certain parts of this country where there are problems with deer, have an impact on woodland and the very proper campaigns by the Government to reforest the country. In many cases professional hunters do the cull, rather than having people firing crossbows at animals, which can then linger for several days. Cecil the lion was mentioned. That case caught the attention and imagination of the British public, and it focused them on this issue and they made it clear that they do not want this practice to continue.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, but there is another factor to consider. The elephants taken out are the big leaders of the tribe. That has a significant effect on the gene pool. There is already some evidence that elephants with smaller tusks are surviving and therefore, contrary to natural selection, changes are taking place to their appearance. Also, some hunters do not seem to accept that, although some are solitary, many animals live in social structures. We saw that with the death of Cecil the lion and we see with elephants that the social structure and cohesion of elephant herds are completely disrupted. That applies to other creatures as well. Hunting is to the detriment of gene selection and the development and maintenance of groups of species.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I wholeheartedly support my right hon. Friend’s Bill. As in the title of the Bill, these people are after trophies. They will not select the weakest in the herd or the pride. They will go for the one that looks the most magnificent on their wall or wherever they want to display it. Therefore, they are taking out the strongest, weakening the gene pool and having exactly the opposite effect on conservation. That is another reason why we need to send a strong message and support my right hon. Friend’s Bill.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The negative impact on the species as a whole has to be considered, especially, as my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy said, because we are seeing real reduction in some species. We are getting below the critical mass necessary to sustain the genetic variation of a healthy species.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I will just make a little progress, because I mentioned one of the campaigning organisations and if I take interventions before I mention the others, they might think I am leaving them out.

I pay tribute to the many campaigns that have maintained interest in this issue over the years, bringing us—I hope —to the culmination today. Humane Society International, LionAid, FOUR PAWS and Born Free have all played a prominent role in contacting Members and campaigning. There is also the coalition against trophy and canned hunting, which includes Action for Primates, A-LAW, Animal Defenders International, Animal Aid, Animal Interfaith Alliance, Catholic Concern for Animals, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation—again, showing the bipartisan nature of the support—International Wildlife Bond, Labour Animal Welfare Society, OneKind, People for Nature and Peace, Protecting African Lions, Quaker Concern for Animals, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Voice4Lions, World Animal Protection, Wildlife Conservation Foundation and Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation. If I have missed anyone out, they can text me and I might include them in the wind-up. Those organisations have worked together successfully to highlight the issue, and we pay tribute to them.

Photo of John McNally John McNally Scottish National Party, Falkirk

I totally agree with the right hon. Member on that point. I support the Bill because I stand with many of my Falkirk constituents who have written to me on the issue. He mentioned many of the non-governmental organisations. I have been heavily involved with FOUR PAWS in the UK, which has provided so much useful information to me on the subject over a long while. As we all know, this is a non-partisan issue. MPs from all corners of the House have spoken at great length and passionately on the totally incomprehensible nature of this brutal sport. Enough talking—the time is to make this actually happen. Does he agree that killing animals for sport is just not an acceptable practice?

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

The hon. Gentleman makes that point strongly and stresses once again the all-party support for the measure.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Clean Power and Consumers)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing the Bill forward. I fully support it and will be voting for it today. He outlined an impressive list of organisations. I do not think anybody has mentioned that apparently nine out of 10 of the British public support the ban, and that is something the House of Lords needs to take note of. I have just been looking through the list of emails I have had on the subject from right across my constituency from Chorlton, Didsbury, Burnage and Withington. From all kinds of different demographic groups and areas around the country, the British public are absolutely united in wanting this trade banned.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I thank my hon. Friend for that point and for highlighting the level of support. Of course, that was reinforced by the Government themselves in January in their response to the petition instigated by Mr Peter Egan, which said:

“We will continue working to deliver our manifesto commitment to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals, which has overwhelming support from MPs and the public…We recognise that this is an issue that the public feel very strongly about, and over 85% of responses to our consultation supported further action. In the previous Parliamentary session, the Government fully supported the Hunting Trophies Bill during its passage through Parliament. The Bill passed the House of Commons in March 2023, with strong support from MPs, but did not progress through Committee stage in the House of Lords. We will continue working to deliver this important manifesto commitment.”

I hope the Minister will be able to back that up further in her contribution later on. That was reinforced in a reply at the end of January to a letter from a number of Members across the House that the hon. Member for Crawley organised, in which the Minister once again said that there is considerable debate, and that the Government support the Bill and shared the hon. Member’s disappointment that it did not pass through the Commons. It is absolutely clear that whatever our other divisions, we are united in support of a ban.

There is one particular aspect that I want to highlight. We have talked a lot about hunting in the wild, but there is the even more deplorable business of so-called canned hunting, where animals, especially lions, are bred in an enclosure to be shot by depraved individuals who want a trophy. I pay tribute to Lord Ashcroft—again, someone with whom I might disagree on other issues—who has spent a considerable amount of time campaigning on and instigating research into that appalling trade. I hope the Bill will help reduce the attraction to such trade. One firm involved in that dreadful trade advertised that

“Your hunt is never complete, until you receive your animals at home for you to reminisce and re-call your experiences for the rest of your life.”

Do we really want to be associated with people who take that sort of attitude?

I have taken a fair amount of time and a number of interventions. We could go on a lot longer and in a lot more detail, but I recognise that the House will want to make progress, and that colleagues will want to make what I hope will be brief contributions.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Will the right hon. Gentleman take us through the clauses of the Bill? Clause 4 was incorporated as a result of the acceptance of one of my amendments when this Bill was last debated. Clause 4 has not yet been explained, and I would be interested to know whether the right hon. Gentleman supports it, and how he thinks it will work in practice.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

I thank the hon. Gentleman, who sits with me on the British-American Parliamentary Group; we are joint officers. I consider him a parliamentary friend. I thank him for highlighting the fact that the Bill was amended to take account of various views. It was carried forward without dissent in this House, and was forwarded to the Lords. That is precisely why the Bill should be voted on again, sent back to the other House, and incorporated into the laws of this land.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley 10:06, 22 March 2024

It is a great privilege to follow John Spellar. I pay tribute to him, and to many other Members from across this House who have worked so hard, not only in supporting my Bill when it was before the House last year, but in campaigning to end the importation of hunting trophies—the body parts of endangered species —to this country. It has been a fantastic effort. As we have heard, the Bill enjoys the support of well over four fifths of the British public. Indeed, there was a commitment to do what the Bill proposes in a manifesto on which I stood for election four and a half years ago, and I understand that that commitment has been reflected in the manifestos of many other parties represented in this House.

Last March, the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill that I introduced passed through this elected Chamber unanimously. As we have heard from my hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope, we accepted compromise amendments to make sure that it reflected as many views as possible. When it went to the other place, a very small minority of peers acted discourteously in the way that they sought to block the legislation. That is why we have had to bring it back, and I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Warley for doing so.

I mentioned the widespread support for this legislation in this country, but it is also extremely popular in other parts of the world. Southern Africa has been mentioned. Last year, I was in a number of southern African countries where there is a clear desire among the majority of people to make sure that such legislation is enacted in this country—and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, in other countries as well. Hunting for trophies is not a natural practice for people in southern Africa; it is a colonial import to the continent from the time of colonisation. It is not native. The ending of this practice enjoys widespread support across the world.

As the right hon. Member for Warley said, the practice that we are discussing is not unique to Africa. Claims have been made that somehow this is racist legislation that tells countries around the world how to act and conduct their hunting policy. Let us just remind ourselves that this Bill is import legislation; it says that we in this country, by a clear majority, choose not to allow the importation of body parts of endangered species slaughtered by hunters to Great Britain; that is the territorial extent of this Bill and what it is designed to do. Nevertheless, it would send a strong signal that these practices are deeply damaging to conservation, as he eloquently said. Damage is done to the gene pool by taking out the top animals in a pride of lions, or the big tuskers from a herd of elephants. That is beginning to damage the ability of those animals to survive. Let us remind ourselves of what this Bill is about. It is not about banning hunting, although I might have a view on that; it is about protecting endangered species before it is too late.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

In my hon. Friend’s tour of Africa, did he have the opportunity to meet President Masisi of Botswana, who has described western interventions as “a racist onslaught”? He has said:

“It’s racism. They talk as if we are the grass the elephants eat. It startles me when people sit in the comfort of where they are and lecture us about the management of species they don’t have.”

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

I have not met the current President of Botswana, but I have met the previous one, President Khama, on a number of occasions. He is passionate about ending trophy hunting, because it is not typical African communities who benefit from it, but the big industry that supports it. Botswana is a good example, because in such countries there is a huge difference of opinion over whether trophy hunting should go ahead.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work he has done on this issue. Is not the answer to the point made by Sir Christopher Chope that the Bill deals with the import of trophies to the UK, and says nothing about Botswana?

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. As I said, this is import legislation; its territorial extent is Great Britain. It is about what we choose to import to this country, and a clear majority of the British people do not want the body parts of endangered species imported here, because they care about these majestic species and want them to continue to exist, for the sake of their children, grandchildren and many generations to come. The idea that killing an endangered species saves an endangered species is absurd and should be called out for what it is.

Photo of Dean Russell Dean Russell Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done on this issue. I reiterate that it is absurd that we are back here, because this House agreed unanimously to take this Bill through. My constituents, who are very far away from many of the countries in which this practice happens, are absolutely passionate about ending it. However, as has been stated, this Bill is not about the practices in those countries; it is about what we import to our country. If we do anything, we should make sure that we end this abhorrent act of importing the carcases of endangered animals for people to stick on their wall.

Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been stalwart in supporting me in this campaign. He is absolutely right to remind us again about what the legislation does; it is about what we choose to import or not to this country.

The Bill applies to the importation of endangered species’ body parts, no matter where in the world the animals were hunted, so it would also prohibit the importation of trophies hunted from polar bears in Canada, as the right hon. Member for Warley said. We do not hear people claiming that we are being racist against the Canadians because we choose not to import endangered polar bears. We need to remind ourselves what the legislation does.

I could speak with passion on this principle for hours, but I am conscious of parliamentary procedure, and I do not want to detain the Bill’s passage any further. I once again call on hon. and right hon. Members from across this elected House to send a clear message: we in this country choose not to import the body parts of trophy-hunted endangered species to Great Britain.

Photo of Rosie Duffield Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury 10:15, 22 March 2024

All of us here are familiar with the term “trophy hunting”. We have come to recognise the evil acts that those two harmless-sounding words represent, but for those watching who may be less familiar with the term, animal welfare organisations such as SPCA International define it as

“the hunting of…animals for sport, not for food. Usually, the animal is stuffed or a body part is kept for display.”

They go on:

“Many hunters claim that trophy hunting isn’t bad for animals. They say they are supporting animal conservation. The opposite is true, live animals support the population of their species.”

The League against Cruel Sports says:

“We believe this multi-million pound industry is unjustifiable from an animal welfare point of view, but also for conservation, as it is responsible for endangering several species around the world.”

As for “sport”, that word is usually reserved for activities that revolve around the more positive aspects of life: fitness, healthy competition, teamwork, friendship, personal achievement, endeavour and endurance. Not a single one of those could be attributed to an activity that involves an individual choosing to photograph themselves grinning triumphantly as they celebrate killing a once gentle and graceful giraffe, whose lifeless body now lies slumped and twisted at their feet, pumped full of deadly bullets. My good friend the vet and animal welfare campaigner Dr Marc Abraham OBE agrees. He says:

“Anyone with an ounce of compassion and kindness despairs at seeing these images of cowardly, pathetic trophy hunters grinning over their still-warm kill. Exploited animals used as pathetic props to maintain, even elevate, an online self-image of superiority, without any shred of guilt or conscience.”

He describes those taking part in these killings as having

“a tragic lack of empathy and the highest form of narcissism”, and says that

“to be complicit in this most extreme, callous form of animal cruelty, plus then to harvest the body parts and ship them back home to the UK, couldn’t be a clearer indicator of violent antisocial behaviour.”

Every Member of this House will have had emails and letters from, and meetings with, constituents who love and value animals, and loathe those who exploit, harm or kill them. There are so many British people who show such kindness—who campaign on behalf of animal charities, who volunteer, who make donations or fundraise, and who share a love for our planet and the incredible, breathtaking wildlife that we are so fortunate to benefit from. How dare a few wealthy individuals decide that they have the right to buy and cause the death of a lion, polar bear or elephant.

Alongside our constituents, there are those who use their fame and public platforms to fight for the protection of animals. Those campaigners include frequent visitors to Parliament whose passion is infectious—people such as the wonderful Peter Egan, friend to many in this place, who for years has fought hard to raise awareness and keep a ban on trophy hunting imports at the top of MPs’ agendas. Peter works with the fantastic campaigner Eduardo Goncalves, who we talked about earlier, and who is supported by many across this House, including my right hon. Friend John Spellar, who has never given up fighting to protect animals during his time here. He steps down at the next general election, but it is vital that we carry on his compassionate work. I absolutely pledge to do that to the best of my ability.

No speech about animal welfare should leave out top animal champion Ricky Gervais. He could spend his days polishing his many awards, but instead he chooses to condemn trophy hunting and shame those who consider the murder of animals to be a hobby. He supports the ban and has called trophy hunting

“humanity at its very worst”.

The murder of animals for fun is also condemned by Chris Packham, Bill Bailey, Joanna Lumley and Sir Ranulph Fiennes, as well as MPs and activists across the political divide and those with no political affiliation whatsoever. The legendary Jane Goodall said:

“Trophy hunting is utterly cruel, utterly unnecessary and utterly disastrous from a conservation perspective. It inflicts pain and suffering on animals for no other reason than to boast of some ephemeral ‘prowess’. There is no material human need met by it;
it is a hobby, pure and simple, and a deeply wrong one at that.”

I urge colleagues to support the Bill. I sincerely thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley for bringing it forward. I echo the words of the Humane Society and say that there is “no excuse” for trophy hunting, so let us get the ban done.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection 10:20, 22 March 2024

The one thing that unites the House is that we all want to see successful conservation, but this Bill has always been about racism and neocolonialism. This Bill is questioned by science and by African countries. If anybody, no matter how much they think they love animals, is thinking about writing to me or contacting me about trophy hunting, I insist that they seriously consider what African representatives have said about both the Bill and the people who support it.

Over the last 22 years, 73 CITES-listed species of animal have been imported as hunting trophies. In the same period, the pet industry has traded in over 560 listed species. If hon. Members care about CITES, then perhaps the Bill should include pets as well.

I do not believe anybody in the House intends to be racist, but this Bill crosses the line. The Namibian Environment Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, has written to our Environment Secretary denouncing the Bill as

“regressive step towards neo-colonialism… Your bill implies that your judgments supersede our insights and expertise… Such unilateral actions, made without consultation and collaboration with us…challenges the sovereignty of nations like Namibia.”

We have talked about Botswana and I will quote what President Masisi says. It is worth remembering that Botswana had 50,000 elephants; it now has 130,000 elephants. The population increases year on year by about 5,000 elephants. Some 400 trophy hunting licences are issued, but those licences have never all been taken up. When President Masisi describes intervention in Africa’s wildlife as “a racist onslaught”—

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

On that point, will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

I am in the middle of a quote, but I think the President will forgive me for allowing the hon. Gentleman to intervene.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the House is perfectly entitled to make decisions having considered all the facts, not just selective facts? It can then decide that it does not want hunting trophies to be brought into this country, and it is perfectly entitled to make that decision.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

If I did not respect the House, I would not have bothered to turn up today, so I do not think that is a valid point. We must consider how we would feel if Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa or Zimbabwe were legislating on what we do here. Awkwardly for the hon. Gentleman, we are not banning trophy hunting in the UK. We are targeting CITES-listed species, but we do not seem to care that there are 5,000 such species, of which only a handful are actually relevant.

To continue, the Namibian Environment Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, says this is

“regressive step towards neo-colonialism”— whether it is meant that way or not. He goes on to say,

“Your bill implies that your judgments supersede our insights”— those of the people who actually look after these animals. He says:

“Such unilateral actions, made without consultation…challenges the sovereignty”.

President Masisi said that this is “a racist onslaught” from people who

“sit in the comfort of where they are and lecture us about the management of species they don’t have.”

He was not just speaking for himself. Last November, The Times, The Telegraph and the Daily Mail reported that ordinary Africans share the President’s view. The paper quoted from a survey of 4,000 people in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe who said that the UK legislation was “racist” and “neocolonial”. That is what they are saying about us. Although I respect the sovereignty of this House, I would not like it if they said things like that about us, and I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman does.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

I do not read The Times very often, but the hon. Member said that the African community leaders and conservationists he referred to rightly argue that it is not for us in the west to decide how they should manage their wildlife, and that that is why he cannot endorse the Bill. I am not telling them how to manage their wildlife, or demanding that they do it in a certain way. What I and many Members in this House are saying is that we do not want those disgusting trophies in this country. It is simple.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

The African countries find it appalling that British politicians show no concern for the African lives threatened by these animals. They are furious with the virtue-signalling proposals, which lack scientific credibility. Time and again, they return with the facts and they are completely ignored by hon. Members in this debate.

I will come on to what Oxford University said about the facts and figures given by John Spellar. This week, Botswana’s Minister for Environment and Tourism, along with the high commissioners of Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Botswana, came to this House to express their dissatisfaction with the Bill. This is significantly different from when my hon. Friend Henry Smith brought forward his Bill. There was no pushback from African countries then. Now we are seeing significant unhappiness from those countries about the Bill. DEFRA Ministers and their Labour shadows know that the high commissioners of the six African nations have jointly condemned the Bill as inexcusable meddling in Africa’s democratic affairs.

There are in the UK tens of thousands of trophy hunting animals that the Bill does not cover. If the UK hates trophy hunting, it should ban it here first. I do not particularly want to see that, but that is what people in Africa feel.

On Second Reading of last year’s Bill that proposed such a ban, the Minister told the Commons that its purpose was to reduce the “impossible pressures” on Africa’s wildlife. Other MPs argued that the measure would save thousands of animals from the barbaric and savage African practice of legal hunting. Indeed, Rosie Duffield used other such adjectives, but this is misleading. In fact, MPs’ statements on Second Reading were analysed in an Oxford University study, and 70% were deemed to be factually incorrect.

The Bill covers 6,000 species and most of those are not threatened by trophy hunting. Since 2000, the UK has imported about 1% of the species in the Bill—that is in 24 years. At least 20 species that the UK imports may be or are benefiting from trophy hunting. Rural Africa welcomes controlled legal hunting, as it helps to manage excessive herds and rogue animals. Furthermore, the fees that hunters pay bring significant amounts of cash into remote areas, where tourists and photo safaris cannot get to. This creates incentives for villagers to refrain from poisoning, snaring or shooting the animals.

Between 20% and 100% of concession fees usually go towards community land. Africans know that legal hunting reduces illegal hunting. It is the poaching, often funded by Chinese criminal gangs, that puts at critical risk the survival of the species that we all treasure. Those brutal gangs are indiscriminate in how many animals they kill. By contrast, legal hunting estates need and want to grow their herds to ensure the future of their businesses, and that is why they invest heavily in anti-poaching patrols. They provide the armed guards that are vital to protect these animals from gruesome deaths. This legal hunting operates under strict quotas, agreed by national Governments and the international regulator. As a result, the herds have flourished. One paper found that in Kenya, where hunting has long been banned, there has been a dramatic fall in wildlife numbers. Another study found that Botswana, which did ban hunting, saw a horrific surge in human-wildlife conflict, with a 593% increase in the discovery of elephant carcases. That disaster led to a quick reversal of the ban.

In 2016, briefings from the International Union for Conservation of Nature stated that

“legal, well regulated trophy hunting programs 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”.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Namibia’s Minister for Environment and Tourism said:

“We are most concerned about how this proposed law would undermine the finances of our Protected Areas and Conservancies… The lack of dedicated land and the protection which protected hunting pays for would critically undermine the survival of species which we all love.”

He went on to say:

“The implications of this legislation, therefore, extend far beyond what has become known as ‘trophy’ hunting, potentially impacting the livelihoods of rural communities that rely on the revenue it generates.”

A joint statement from southern African Government representatives in the UK opposed the Bill.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

I think the hon. Gentleman indicated that only 1% of trophies have come to this country. If it is only 1%, enacting this piece of legislation will not make that much difference to those countries, will it?

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

It would make enough difference for the hon. Gentleman to turn up for the debate, and for me to do so. It would also make enough difference for all the representatives of those southern African countries who care about the creatures that we all purport to care about to say that the Bill is wrong. In fact, they said:

“If income streams from trophy hunting were substantially reduced—as would be the outcome of this Bill—land would be abandoned and subject to poaching, or converted to less biodiversity-friendly uses, such as agriculture and livestock production. Local communities who live near and with wildlife would suffer.”

I think it is pretty clear that they do not think that the hon. Gentleman is right. The statement ends:

Southern Africa’s track record on conservation is world-leading, and we use trophy hunting to do it. Let us continue to do so.”

I recognise that that is awkward for Opposition Members who care about animals, but the people who are responsible for those animals are telling us that we are wrong.

Botswana is the top country in the world for large animals, with Namibia second and Tanzania third. All three countries have paid hunting, which finances protected space and armed guards for those animals. The country that is 123rd in the world—that is us—is, in the words of David Attenborough, one of

“the most nature depleted countries in the world”.

We got rid of the last brown bear 1,000 years ago and our last wolves 264 years ago.

Africa’s human population has risen eightfold during our lifetimes, causing immense pressure on the land available for wildlife. That means that Africans increasingly come into conflict with big animals, which may eat their goats, threaten their children or trample their villages. Last year, Botswana’s Minister for Environment and Tourism started an article published in the Daily Mail by saying:

“Last month, I attended the funeral of two villagers in my homeland, Botswana. Both were in their teens, tragically killed by charging wild buffalo as they travelled to school and work. Sadly, this was not an isolated incident.”

She went on to say:

“believe me, I do understand the horror people feel when they see a photograph of a trophy hunting person posing beside a recent kill. Lion killings in particular seem to cause outrage among Britons, especially after the notorious shooting of Cecil the lion by a US trophy hunter in Zimbabwe in 2015. The widely circulated picture of Walter Palmer standing over Cecil’s body became emblematic of man’s destructive relationship with nature. Reasonable though this reaction is, it is a knee-jerk one. It fails to acknowledge that for many Africans, trophy hunting is vital for the local population. It is a wildlife conservation measure that generates income used to combat illegal poaching, support community development and enhance habitat protection. Sadly,” she says, we

“all too often…focus solely on animal welfare at the expense of human life in Africa.”

I have thought carefully about the amendment that I intend to table. The Bill does not need to keep coming back in the way in which the right hon. Member for Warley has brought it back. My amendment will ensure that the Bill protects certain species, while recognising that other countries may be even better at managing conservation than we are. It will allow the Secretary of State to add or withdraw countries from a list of those that issue hunting licences and show sufficient levels of concern for conservation. Any hunting trophy obtained under licence in a country that was on the list would be exempt from the ban. Kenya would not be on the list, as it does not allow hunting and its wildlife numbers, sadly, have declined; but countries that do allow it and are doing a good job should be allowed to continue.

This Bill is being questioned by science and by African countries, and there is no excuse for blundering into inadvertent racism. If we want Africa’s big animals to survive into the future, I ask the House not to ignore the science and the misinformation that endangers the animals that we care the most about.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham 10:36, 22 March 2024

It is an honour to follow Sir Bill Wiggin, but I cannot say that I agreed with a single word of his speech. He quoted David Attenborough, but David Attenborough has described trophy hunting as “incomprehensible” and certainly does not support it. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend John Spellar for presenting the Bill, to Henry Smith for his earlier work, and to our departed friend Bob Blizzard, who did an enormous amount of work on this issue when he was a Member.

I wanted to make this short contribution because I had the privilege of going on safari when my wife and I visited Africa. It was the trip of a lifetime. If I ever have the chance to go back and do it again I do not think it will be the same trip, because the first experience of seeing these magnificent beasts in their own habitat is something you never forget. I want to impress that on the people who seek what I suppose is the “thrill” of murdering these beasts.

Within two hours of arriving at our camp, we were in a truck being taken to look at the wildlife. As we sat in that open-sided truck, a lion walked past the bottom of it; I could look down and see its back as it walked past me. I sat there and thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” There is no cage around the truck, but you trust entirely the stranger you have just met—the guide who takes you around—while a wild beast only a couple of metres away walks calmly past the truck.

The experience of getting close to those animals is something never to be forgotten, but the most memorable experience was seeing, beside the Chobe river in Botswana, a herd of elephants feeding at dusk, talking and grumbling to one another as they ate the reeds on the river bank. We got quite close to these huge beasts, and felt entirely safe. Indeed, we felt that we were privileged to be so close to them in their natural habitat.

The idea that anyone would go into that environment with a gun and slaughter those animals is beyond me. If you want to experience wildlife, don’t go murdering it; get up close to it and experience it in that way. I ask Members to imagine this for a minute. There were probably about a dozen people in our truck. If every one of us had a gun and went out slaughtering these animals, the effect across the species would be enormous, but when large numbers of us go to these countries armed with cameras rather than guns, the effect on their economies is enormous.

We have heard arguments today about being racist towards African countries, but it is not just about African countries. I have not heard anyone say we are being racist to Canadians by not wanting polar bears to be imported. In the words of David Attenborough, this is incomprehensible.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I am going to give way once, but I do not want to take up too much time.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

The Canadian Government have not written to object—it is the African countries that object to this. I hope that was clear from what I said earlier.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I am sure it was, but the hunting fraternity only contributes to a very tiny bit of those countries’ economies. What we seem to have heard today is an argument that without the enormous wealth of the people who go trophy hunting, conservation cannot be afforded. I just do not accept that that is a reasonable argument. Of course, people can pay; I would pay an enormous fee for the privilege of going to see these animals in their own habitats—and leave behind that fee in order to pay for conservation. There are ways that we can contribute to conservation that way outstrip the money that Members on the Conservative Benches have been talking about.

Let us be honest: the majority of the people who talked the Bill out in the other place were hereditary peers. That is the truth of it. The enormously privileged wealthy, calling this idea, which has enormous support from all the people, socialist—well, because it has the support of the people, it has to be socialist, doesn’t it? It has to be socialist, because commoners want it! How could the Conservative party possibly support a measure that is so socialist in its fundamental objectives? It is complete nonsense, but there is a species that perhaps we should be metaphorically hunting to extinction: the position of the hereditary peers and their ability to vote on laws in our country. That is an outdated anachronism that has to come to an end, and the person who starts that hunt will have my full backing.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 10:42, 22 March 2024

It is a pity that in a debate that should be about facts, Clive Efford has allowed his prejudices to come to the fore. I do not think that helps his cause—indeed, my hon. Friend Sir Bill Wiggin and I agreed that it shows that we are winning the argument, because the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues are having to resort to smearing Members of the other place. Those Members tabled perfectly reasonable amendments; the problem was that they ran out of time for discussion.

The previous Bill was amended in this place. That was only because my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire and I tabled a large number of amendments, which put pressure on the promoter of the Bill, my hon. Friend Henry Smith, and the Government to accept some of those amendments. One of the amendments was to add what is now clause 4 of the Bill, and another was to remove from the Bill a Henry VIII clause allowing the subject matter to which the Bill would apply to be extended by statutory instrument without any proper consultation. This Bill is a better Bill than the one that was first introduced into this place by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley, but it is still very defective. Certainly, I think it would be a much better Bill if the amendments suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire in his excellent speech were to be incorporated into its text.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

I am most grateful—sorry, I was a little slow to intervene. As always, my hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. The purpose of the amendments is to ensure that we take any risk of racism away from this legislation, because at the end of the day, we are united in wanting better conservation.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

That is what unites us. The disagreements across the House are on the means to the end. Everybody wants to have better conservation of endangered species and wildlife in Africa. Like the hon. Member for Eltham, I have had the privilege of going on safari in Africa—indeed, in South Africa—on two separate occasions. One was in about 1984, when it was pretty hard to find the wild animals we were looking for in the game reserves. When I went again, about 18 months ago, there was an abundance of rhinos, giraffes, elephants, lions, leopards and so on. We had the most amazing experience. People used their cameras, and they relied on the protection provided by the excellent team that looks after and conserves that safari park or game reserve.

We could see with our own eyes that people were trying to poach the animals that were being looked after, and the cost of anti-poaching measures is incredibly high. How will that cost be funded unless it is paid for by the people who are engaged in the conservation? One small means by which they raise funds is by allowing the collection of trophies, and almost all the trophies that are not kept in Africa are imported into the United States, Spain or Germany. Very few are brought into this country.

Whatever happens to this Bill, trophy hunting will continue—but it may not include the import of a small number of trophies into this country under a licensing and regulatory regime that has stood the test of time. Instead of regulation, we will have an outright ban. Why are we doing that? The 2021 impact assessment in respect of an earlier Bill said:

“Why is government intervention necessary? Government intervention will address public concerns about imports of hunting trophies from endangered animals.”

Essentially, the Government’s impact assessment admits that this is about presentation, virtue signalling and pandering to public opinion, whether or not that public opinion is sound.

Let us take ourselves back to when the Government and Parliament took the view that we should abolish capital punishment. At that time, a vast majority of the population took the view that we should keep capital punishment. If we had applied the principle that is being applied to this Bill, we would still have capital punishment because it would “address public concerns” about people being murdered. We, in this House, need to rely on science and fact, rather than allowing prejudice and ignorance to prevail, which is one of the reasons why I hope the Bill will be improved, if it receives Second Reading today.

Section 4 of the impact assessment, from paragraph 98 onwards, refers to the costs of this proposed legislation, which is the point that my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire and I are seeking to get across to the Government.

The impact assessment says:

“A 2019 letter from 130 researchers described how in African countries that practice trophy hunting, more land has been conserved under trophy hunting than under National Parks, with hunting areas contributing to landscape connectivity. Some argue that restricting the import/export of trophies from hunting risks land conversion and biodiversity loss, and other alternative area management strategies must be in place to promote conservation, protect endangered species, and support livelihoods. Furthermore, many questions remain on whether alternatives such as wildlife tourism can effectively replace trophy hunting, especially in areas with poor political and economic stability, and areas with less aesthetic appeal.”

That is not what I am saying; it is what the Government said about the costs of this legislation when they did their impact assessment, which goes on to say:

“Wildlife conflict with local people can impose serious costs including causing physical harm and death, damaging crops, predating livestock and competing with livestock for food. Where wildlife provides few benefits to local people and/or imposes substantial costs, animals are often killed for food, trade, or to remove problem animals.”

That is a welcome recognition by the Government of some of the realities surrounding this subject, rather than the prejudices of people who have been ill informed by certain organisations.

In paragraph 100 of the impact assessment, the Government also concede that:

“Evidence suggests that trophy hunting can provide a value for animals which incentivises their protection for the purposes of hunting rather than indiscriminate removal, e.g. land use change to agriculture. Without trophy hunting, an income stream linked to positive conservation outcomes could be lost and other options need to be in place to address this conflict.”

That is what the Government said in their impact assessment, so I hope we are going to hear from the Minister how they will address the concerns that they recognised, if indeed they are still hell-bent on pushing this legislation through to try to get it on to the statute book.

The Government also conceded in their impact assessment—perhaps this is a point that my hon. Friend the Minister could refer to—that:

“A ban in the legal movement of animal trophies could have the unintended consequences, including increasing the illegal trade in wildlife parts which is unregulated. It could also reduce the amount of protein available to local communities as meat is often a by-product of trophy hunts. After a hunting ban in 2014 in Botswana one village lost the provision of 154 tonnes of meat, so less protein was available to the community. This resulted in an increase in illegal poaching and documented declines in wildlife.”

Those are facts. What is the Government’s response to the facts to which they referred in their own impact assessment in 2021?

The issue of costs is discussed in paragraph 102:

“One of the major arguments for hunting for trophies is that it provides financial benefits to local communities, and without trophy hunting these benefits could be lost. However, the extent to which local communities truly benefit is widely debated.”

Of course, that is the debate we are having today. Let us not take a view that all the people who support this Bill are lovers of animals and all the people who are against it despise animals. Nobody could be a stronger supporter of animals than I am. Indeed, my wife and I are proud that we have produced a daughter who is now a veterinary surgeon. Can one adduce any more evidence of the importance of inculcating into one’s children a love of animals that their parents share? Let us have none of this nonsense suggesting that this is not a vile activity and that those who are against this Bill should be subject to some sort of vilification. That is completely ridiculous.

Let me also refer to the letter to which my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire referred from the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organisations. The letter was sent to all British MPs, and I am disappointed that more of my parliamentary colleagues who will have seen that letter are not present. One asks rhetorically, what have they done as a result of the points made in it? Mr Louis says:

“Please do not regard Africans as being incapable of deciding our domestic policies. The reason we have legal hunting is that it pays for protected land for our big animals. As our human population grows, it is crucial for our lions and elephants to have such space.

Our rhinos also require armed guards to safeguard them from ruthless poaching gangs financed by Chinese criminals. When there are no guards, massive numbers of the animals get killed by these brutal gangs. Legal hunting pays for the guards and kills far fewer.”

When we as a family were in South Africa, we saw the consequences of what happens with rhinos. To try to disincentivise the illegal poaching of rhinos, the rhinos are de-horned, but such is the value of rhino horn now, even from dead animals, because of ill-conceived bans on its use, rhinos are now being poached just for that part of the horn that is no longer visible, which is part of an extension of the head. That is a consequence—an unintended consequence, obviously—of the restrictions on countries exporting the rhino horn from dead animals. That is why this is a very nuanced debate, and I am not sure we are getting as close to that today as their lordships were when they were debating the legislation on Report in their House.

This very important letter from Maxi Louis goes on to say:

“The evidence for this is in the peer-reviewed science which shows how successful Africa’s system is at defending our precious animals. People who have read this science—and back legal hunting—include the EU Commission”—

I am not sure that is his strongest argument—

“and George Monbiot”, which is a stronger argument. He continues:

“So does the global regulator, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. We use legal hunting to manage our big animals because they are a mortal risk to us and our children. African lives are at stake.

You do not have any dangerous wild animals. Britain got rid of its last brown bears 1,000 years ago and its last wolves 264 years ago.”

In his conclusion, he says that

“wildlife in Africa is flourishing. Because of our management. We ask for no more virtue signalling. It is arrogant, ignorant and racist.”

I could not have put it better myself. That is why I am disappointed that the Government continue to pander to those who would fit into the description given by Maxi Louis.

I turn now to the amendment that was made to the Bill introduced in the last Session by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley. In introducing this Bill today, John Spellar did not refer to that, except to say that that amendment was in the proposed legislation, and that it showed how we had passed a Bill to the other place as a result of a consensus. That is one interpretation of what happened on that Friday when we were debating amendments on Report. Essentially what happened, as you may recall, Madam Deputy Speaker, was that there were a large number of amendments, and a deal was done whereby two of those amendments were accepted, and all the others were rejected. One new clause about setting up an advisory board on hunting trophies is now in the Bill, and I wish to speak briefly about the importance of that and the background to it.

Who will decide on issues relating to hunting trophies? I think we should have expertise, rather than people who are prejudiced. Clause 4 states:

“(1) The Secretary of State must appoint an Advisory Board on Hunting Trophies

(“the Advisory Board”).

(2) The Advisory Board appointed under subsection (1) may have up to three members.

(3) The role of the Advisory Board is to advise the Secretary of State—

(a) on any question relating to this Act which the Secretary of State may refer to the Committee;

(b) on any matter relating to the import to Great Britain of hunting trophies derived from species of animal which appear to the Secretary of State to be, or to be likely to become, endangered.”

That is an improvement on the original Bill, because it would require the Secretary of State to take advice, instead of just listening to the mob, so to speak, and I am pleased that that measure is in the Bill. Clause 4(4) states:

“In appointing members of the Advisory Board, the Secretary of State must have regard to their expertise in matters relating to the import of hunting trophies.”

One thing we discussed previously, which I do not think we have discussed today, is the extent of the Bill. The Bill extends to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the prohibition on imports applies only to imports into Great Britain. Why is that, and why does the right hon. Gentleman, in limiting the Bill to imports into Great Britain, think that that will help meet his objective? Does it not show that we are no longer one nation of the United Kingdom, but that there will be a different regime in Northern Ireland, compared with the one that prevails in the rest of our country? I hope the Minister will be able to explain why, if the Government are in favour of the Bill, and if they purport to be a Government for the whole United Kingdom, rather than just Great Britain, they are proposing to restrict the import of hunting trophies into Great Britain and not into Northern Ireland. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there is an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and that Ireland is in the European Union, which has a much more benevolent approach to the import of hunting trophies than this Government seem to have. That important issue needs to be addressed in the Bill, and I hope that if it goes into Committee, we can ensure that its provisions apply equally to all parts of the United Kingdom.

There is no need to speak at great length on something like this when the arguments against the Bill are so strong, but we should not vilify those people who engage in conservation measures in the way that some have been seeking to do. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If we compare Kenya with other countries in southern Africa, we see that Kenya’s well-intended ban has been totally counterproductive, whereas in southern Africa there has been tremendous progress on the conservation of endangered species.

On a lateral point, is the collection of rare and endangered butterfly species illegal in this country? No, with very few exceptions. If we are free to pin butterflies to the wall or put them in display cabinets, does it suit us to preach to people in Africa about their conservation measures? I think not. We talk about the importance of culling, which is essential to control the numbers of a species in the restricted area of a wildlife park. We cull in this country, particularly deer. That culling can include the use of rifles to shoot the deer that people think have the finest antlers. Those antlers are kept as trophies. That is not my line of business at all, but I respect that other people might like to do that. It is all part of culling to ensure that we do not have too many deer to manage.

This complex Bill is worthy of further detailed consideration, but I am worried that the Government may have a secret agenda: they may try to use the Parliament Acts on this legislation. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister could assure me that under no circumstances will the Government seek to override the Parliament of this United Kingdom by seeking to use the Parliament Acts on a Bill that was rejected in the other House—not because it was voted down, but because not enough time was given for it. I am not sure that there is any precedent for the Parliament Acts being used when debate in the other place has been curtailed through lack of time, the Bill has been brought back in the next Session, and the Government’s failure to provide time is used as a justification for using the Parliament Acts. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to that point when she winds up the debate.

Finally, let me put on record that I am against this Bill having a Second Reading in its present form. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to vote that way later.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 11:08, 22 March 2024

I am pleased to speak on this important Bill. The importation to the UK of trophies produced during the barbaric sport of trophy hunting should have ended a long time ago. I thank my right hon. Friend John Spellar for introducing the Bill, following the earlier Bill from Henry Smith. We need to get this sorted today, because we have had Warley and Crawley, and I am not sure there is another constituency that rhymes.

I thank animal welfare charities nationwide, including FOUR PAWS, Humane Society International, World Animal Protection and Ban Trophy Hunting. They have worked tirelessly for years to ensure that this legislation is passed, and have produced the most helpful briefing note for this debate. I also pay tribute to the former President of Botswana, Ian Khama, who has been a tireless and passionate campaigner on these issues.

However, for all the praise that our campaigners are due, we should not have needed to be here debating this Bill today. The legislation should have been passed by this Government long ago. We all know that members of the public, including in my constituency, overwhelmingly support the Bill. The wider public support for it is reflected in the fact that banning hunting trophies was both a 2019 Conservative manifesto promise, as the hon. Member for Crawley said, and a Labour manifesto promise. Why is this measure, promised by the Government, not already in law? Why did they fail to bring forward their own Bill banning trophy hunting, as they pledged to voters that they would? Given that an earlier private Member’s Bill seeking to implement a ban progressed through the House last year, why are we here again debating an equivalent Bill? It is because the Bill we debated last year was deliberately and wholly undemocratically derailed by a small number of mostly hereditary Conservative peers. As my hon. Friend Clive Efford pointed out, those peers ignored the will of the public, the welfare of animals and their own party’s manifesto commitment, and used the amendment process as a blocking device. Labour Members think that that is unacceptable, and our party wants this long promised and long overdue legislation progressed as soon as possible.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

When that Bill reached the House of Lords, no peer stepped forward to sponsor it. Why did no Labour peer do so?

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for pointing that out. Obviously, there were issues going on in the other place that I was not party to at the time, so I am sorry, but I cannot comment on his point.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

The hon. Lady keeps referring disparagingly to hereditary peers, but is it not correct to say that a significant proportion of hereditary peers were elected to that House, unlike most of the other peers, who are appointees?

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. He says that I keep referring to hereditary peers, but I have referred to them once, in response to one of my colleagues.

Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Labour, Warley

It is fascinating that some Conservative Members want to defend not only this completely outdated and barbaric practice of trophy hunting, but the procedure by which a few hereditary peers are elected among themselves, no member of the public having any say in the matter. May I help my hon. Friend by saying that in the previous Session, the Bill was introduced by a Conservative Member? Indeed, a Conservative Member of the House of Lords was going to take up that Bill, but someone else shot in and grabbed it beforehand, with a bit of sleight of hand. If Sir Christopher Chope wants to defend that sort of jiggery pokery, he is welcome to.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. I am anxious for us to come back to the Bill before us, as opposed to discussing a Bill that we might deal with later today about hereditary peers.

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Thank you for clarifying that, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley for setting out what happened in the Lords, but I will move on.

The Bill will prevent people from bringing into Great Britain hunting trophies from the species listed in annex A, which are the most endangered species, or annex B, which are species threatened by commercial trade, of the principal wildlife trade regulation. Those lists largely correspond to equivalents in CITES, which is an important international agreement protecting endangered plants and animals, and the UK is a party to it. The Bill also creates an advisory board on hunting trophies, as some Conservative Members highlighted, which will advise the Secretary of State on any issues relating to the legislation, or any matter relating to the import to Great Britain of hunting trophies derived from species that are, or are likely to become, endangered.

I cannot emphasise enough how crucial this legislation is. Trophy hunting is not only barbaric, but wholly unnecessary. In this country, as in most others, we have long recognised that animals should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering. That principle is reflected domestically in our Animal Welfare Act 2006, and aligns with our understanding, supported by animal welfare science and enshrined in legislation, that animals are sentient beings. As such, they deserve to be treated with dignity and humanity.

There is nothing dignified or humane about the sport of trophy hunting. It involves killing innocent animals for the sole purpose of turning their bodies into trophies. The animals often experience immense pain, fear and distress in the moments before they die. Some may be shot by inexperienced hunters using less efficient weapons, such as crossbows or spears, which do not deliver a rapid death. We saw this with Cecil the lion in 2015, who suffered for several hours following his wounding by crossbow in a beautiful part of southern Africa before he was finally put out of his misery. His death quite rightly caused outrage around the world, including here in Britain.

Other practices that trophy hunting can involve raise further welfare concerns. I was horrified to learn of the practice of canned hunting—the captive wildlife farming of animals for hunting. It often involves inflicting extremely poor welfare conditions on the captive wild animals, mostly lions, who may have to suffer from unsatisfactory enclosures, a lack of enrichment, and insufficient provision of shelter and vet treatment, all so that part of their body may eventually become somebody’s trophy. Let us not forget the negative impact that trophy hunting can have on other animals, such as the harm to offspring, who may be unable to survive on their own after their parent is left for dead. That was highlighted earlier, as was the weakening of the gene pool. These are important factors to consider.

Trophy hunting can have a negative impact on wildlife. Trophy hunters tend to target the world’s most iconic animals, including endangered wild animal species such as lions, polar bears, giraffes and rhinos. Hunters selfishly kill these vulnerable animals so that they can display their body parts as some sort of perverse prize. World Animal Protection notes that British hunters have brought home approximately 25,000 hunting trophies since the 1980s, and approximately 5,000 of these came from species at risk of extinction. The public are right to find this absolutely abhorrent, and to want to increase the protection afforded to these species, which are already under pressure from habitat loss, climate change, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, by passing this important legislation. My hon. Friend Rosie Duffield eloquently outlined those issues earlier.

Let us not forget how unnecessary these horrors are. Compared with the overall revenue that local economies gain from tourism, income from trophy hunting is insignificant. A 2017 report by Economists at Large that analysed eight African countries found that while overall tourism was between 2.8% and 5.1% of GDP in the eight countries, the total economic contribution of trophy hunters was, at most, about 0.03% of GDP, in stark contrast to the claims made by some Conservative Members.

There are more ethical and sustainable alternatives to trophy hunting for conservation. A recent study showed that 84% of previous or potential tourists to South Africa, including those visiting from within Africa, would be willing to pay a daily “lion protection fee” for wildlife conservation. Photographic safaris, which, as the Born Free Foundation puts it, involves shooting an animal

“with a camera, not a gun”, is another welfare-friendly alternative to hunting trophies. These alternative activities have the potential to generate income equalling or even exceeding the income generated from trophy hunting without causing pain and suffering to wild animals. My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham highlighted that when he mentioned the amazing experience he had on his photographic safari.

Supporting global efforts to promote humane tourism is consistent with recent legislation passed in this House, namely the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act 2023. However, I note that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is yet to even consult on the activating regulations that are necessary for the 2023 Act to have any impact, or to give any indication of when such consultation will begin. I encourage him to do so as a matter of urgency, because wild animals deserve protection, and that requires regulatory action.

On this and so many animal welfare issues, the Government are letting animals and the public down by failing to act. As the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Steve Reed, pointed out last Friday when another private Member’s Bill containing a broken Conservative party promise was before the House, the Government have completely abandoned an extraordinary number of the animal welfare pledges they had made. The Government like to tell the public that they have progressed world-leading animal welfare commitments, but Compassion in World Farming ranked the UK only ninth among European countries by percentage of cage-free farm animals, trailing Luxembourg, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, Denmark and Belgium.

Although the Government have announced their support for private Members’ Bills on animal welfare issues put forward by their Back-Bench MPs since they abandoned the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, that is not leadership. I gently say to the Minister that if the Government really cared about animals and wished to honour the enormous public interest in passing strong laws for animals, they would put forward their own promised measures. Until they do so, Labour will keep reminding the Government of their broken promises and putting forward private Members’ Bills like this one, which we hope will become law as soon as possible. We have seen in the House today a near unanimous show of support. This is not racist, colonial legislation; it is UK law governing what comes into the UK. That is our right, and the Bill seeks to exercise that, so let’s get on with it and get it done.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 11:20, 22 March 2024

Many Members on both sides of the House have been eagerly awaiting the passing of this piece of legislation, as have many outside campaigners who have worked tirelessly on the issue and many of our constituents. I have had many emails on the issue in Taunton Deane. I thank John Spellar for introducing the Bill and all those who have taken part in the debate, not least my hon. Friend Henry Smith, who did such a sterling job just one year ago. I think he will agree that we had a lively debate then, and we have had a similarly lively debate today.

I want to list some of the colleagues from both sides of the House who have spoken eloquently. My hon. Friend Tim Loughton made the point well about taking photographs of these wonderful creatures. There were interventions by my right hon. Friends the Members for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) and for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) and my hon. Friend Dean Russell, but there have also been moving speeches, in particular from my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley. Of course, many Opposition speakers have joined in as well.

It is clear that the issue of hunting trophies continues to divide opinion. We have witnessed some of that today from my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) and for North Herefordshire (Sir Bill Wiggin). There is disagreement over the scientific, social, economic, moral and ethical rationales for trophy hunting, and that will no doubt continue for some time. There are those who point to evidence of the potential benefits of well-managed hunting—we heard a great deal about that from my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire. We also heard the other side of the argument, with evidence of the harm caused by poor practice.

I want to stress something critical: we face the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. Those are the greatest threats we face globally and, as the nature Minister, they are in my inbox every day. I am only too aware of all those threats and of how we need to tackle them. About 1 million animal and plant species face extinction. Much of that has occurred very recently—in our lifetime. The abundance, diversity and connectivity of species is declining faster than at any time in human history, and that includes the species targeted for trophy hunting. We all know and love them: elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and polar bears, to name just a handful.

There are those who argue that banning the import of trophies from those animals will do nothing to improve their conservation status, and I am certainly listening to my hon. Friends on that, but we have to ask ourselves whether importing into Great Britain trophies from endangered animals helps to tackle biodiversity loss. Does this trade really help to secure a sustainable future for species on the brink of extinction? Many animals are under terrible threat anyway because their habitats are shrinking. That is happening for a range of social and economic reasons, but climate change is certainly part of it. Ultimately, the aim of the Bill is to ensure that imports of hunting trophies to Great Britain do not put additional pressure on already threatened species. That is what should concentrate our minds, and that is why I am pleased to confirm that the Government will support the Bill. In doing so, we signal our continued determination to fulfil our manifesto commitment in this regard.

I have heard the argument that a ban will have implications for local communities and conservation efforts globally, which is definitely something we must consider carefully. We must be alive to the unintended consequences. However, the Bill is about imports into Great Britain, as many have said in the debate—my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal reminded us of that. This is about listening to the British public. There is a clear, strong and consistent message that we need to bring to an end the imports of endangered animals taken as hunting trophies. The winds of change are blowing us in that direction, and a number of countries have already put restrictions in place.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am not going to take any interventions, because Members have made so many already and we do not want to restrict the debate on the ultra low emission zone, but I will refer to some of the points that my hon. Friend rightly raised in a moment.

It is important to recognise that the import ban will not prevent a UK resident or citizen from participating in hunting while they are overseas. Trophy hunting can and will continue around the world. It is right that each country should be able to decide how best to manage its own wildlife, and the Bill does not change that. That point was highlighted vociferously by my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch and for North Herefordshire, but it has to be remembered that we are not preventing that. Countries around the world on both sides of the debate have had regular opportunities to discuss this issue and raise their points. Indeed, we have had letters from the Presidents of Botswana and Namibia—the high commissioner was written to just yesterday.

It is important to keep in mind the contribution that the UK trade in hunting trophies makes. Annual imports of hunting trophies to the UK are very few in number—on average, there have been 73 a year over the last 10 years. Even so, it is essential that we play our part to ensure that communities around the world benefit from conserving the wildlife that they live alongside. That was reflected in the agreement of the hugely important global biodiversity framework. There is now a strong and essential focus on how, as a global community, we finance biodiversity, conservation and restoration work. Members will be aware of just how much the Government are doing on that front, with our huge £93 million Darwin initiative and our £30 million Darwin Plus initiative. All of that focuses on biodiversity and conservation, working with locals and indigenous peoples.

Penultimately, let me run through some of the provisions in the Bill. The Bill will ban the import of hunting trophies from specific species, with the explicit aim of ensuring that imports into Great Britain do not place unnecessary pressure on species that are at risk. For those species, an import ban without exemptions will be the most effective protection, as it will provide clarity and address the conservation concerns arising from trophy hunting.

Clauses 1 and 2 make provision for the import ban, which will cover trophies brought into Great Britain from animals hunted after the legislation comes into force—there are strict, clear lines about anything that happens before that. The definition of a hunting trophy in clause 1 is:

“the body of an animal, or a readily recognisable part or derivative of an animal, that…is obtained…through hunting…for the hunter’s personal use”.

That is how hunting trophies are defined in our current controls under CITES.

Clause 2 applies the import ban to all species listed in annexes A and B of the wildlife trade regulation. The wildlife trade regulation implements the convention on international trade in endangered species—CITES—in Great Britain. Annexes A and B are broadly equivalent to appendices I and II of the convention, and include species that the global community has agreed to protect through trade restrictions due to their conservation status. They cover a great number of species threatened by international trade, such as big cats, all bears, all primates, hippos, rhinos and elephants. As a result, the Bill will end the permit system for imports of hunting trophies derived from those species. There will be no provision for exemptions to the import ban.

Clause 3 is about movements from Northern Ireland. The clause states clearly that the import ban will

“not apply in relation to the removal of qualifying Northern Ireland goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.”

Clause 4, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, establishes an advisory board on hunting trophies. The clause states:

“The role of the Advisory Board is to advise the Secretary of State on any question relating to this Act”.

Clause 5 simply covers the Bill’s extent, application, commencement and short title.

Let me quickly discuss the impact assessment, as I did not allow any interventions. We heard some views about the impact assessment and what the Government will do about it, but there are two sides to that. The impact assessment presented both sides of the debate, but it also highlighted that trophy hunting can lead to population declines and that over-hunting threatens more than 30% of endangered mammal species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The impact assessment also noted that trophy hunting quotas are inappropriate, unscientific, excessive and over-reliant on opinions, and that the management of such quotas is based on poor-quality data. Similarly, a report by the University of Oxford found that the damaging effects of the unsustainable trade in hunting can extend beyond hunting areas.

I hope that I have answered some of the questions. This has been a very positive and lively debate on both sides of the House. I thank the right hon. Member for Warley for bringing the Bill back to the House, and reconfirm that the Government are fully committed to supporting it.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

In that case, I will put the Question.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Division number 112 Hunting Trophies Bill 2R

Aye: 49 MPs

No: 0 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

Tellers

No: A-Z by last name

Tellers

The House having divided: Ayes 49, Noes 0.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).