Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:37 pm on 16 June 2023.

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Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 12:37, 16 June 2023

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate. I have no interest to declare except that I have a passion, just as great as that of my noble friend Lady Fookes, for nature, conservation and biodiversity. As I had no knowledge of what trophy hunting was really about, I sought to educate myself over the past months. What were my conclusions? First, there is far too much focus on Africa alone. Secondly, rational discussion is impossible—the sides are too embedded—but I will come back to that. Thirdly, no one really seemed to understand what we are talking about with this Bill.

As some have said today, the Bill talks about just over 6,000 species, but the only species that have been mentioned are lions, elephants and markhors. What we import is 0.1% of the 6,000 species subject to CITES control. It is therefore no surprise that my noble friend Lady Fookes did not wax lyrical about the tree snail, because it is extinct—it is still protected by this legislation but we are talking about a past species. Another conclusion that I came to is that canned hunting should be banned, and one good thing we could do is alter the Bill so that it reflects that wish.

During the numerous conversations I have had with both sides on this, I was sad that so many of the arguments are contradictory and how much they change as soon as facts are provided. I am in good, detailed discussions with the Born Free Foundation at the moment, and have received another letter from Dame Virginia, which is highly contradictory; I will reply to it as soon as I get time to get back to my computer. Having contradictory arguments does not help the case of those who wish to stop trophy hunting.

I will pick up some points that have been mentioned. My noble friend Lady Fookes mentioned the letter. It was very sad that the so-called experts said that the case for trophy hunting is

“promulgated by certain conservation scientists, many of whom have proven funding ties to the trophy hunting industry”.

That is not an accurate statement. Also, those in glass houses should not throw stones. A lot of the pro-trophy-hunting NGOs fund scientists. I believe that our scientists, whether they are funded by one side or the other, in large or small part, are above being influenced by that organisation.

My noble friend also talked about elephants producing smaller tusks. There are a lot of problems with the number of elephants killed—96 a day—while we import, under CITES control, about six year a year. What a huge difference.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, talked about the derisory 0.06% of GDP. That is twice what the UK fishing industry brings into this country. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister would be very happy to say goodbye to the fishing industry using the same argument as the noble Baroness.

The noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, fell back on an argument that has been put to me so many times: that, as soon as one is challenged on fact, one relates back to an ethical argument on a moral issue. The moral issue is that there should be no shooting. When I put that argument in relation to red deer in Scotland to the NGOs, they do not want to discuss it with me.

My noble friend Lord Selkirk talked about ecotourism. Tell that to those in Tajikistan. They do not have a wildebeest migration that brings in 300,000 people a year; they do not have the roads that my noble friend Lady Sanderson thinks that one can get access to; they do not hunt in the way that you do in a tame place in Africa, where you can walk for miles and might not get a shot at all. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Hannan referred to the markhor. It is by local conservancy set-ups and hunting in Tajikistan that the snow leopard is thriving in a way that it has not done before. That is because there is now enough food for it.

We know there are three basic ingredients to good biodiversity management: habitat, feed and predation. We in this country are talking about increasing and making wild belts as the green lungs for our national parks. The hunting conservancies in parts of the world are those green lungs that we wish to establish—1.3 million square kilometres, one-fifth more than national parks. We do not want to destroy that.

Trophy hunting is not, and has been proved not to be, a major threat. Habitat and prey loss and conflict among people are much more important, and the Bill does nothing to help with that.