Trophy Hunting Imports — [Stewart Hosie in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:28 pm on 2nd October 2019.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Fisheries, Flooding and Water) 3:28 pm, 2nd October 2019

I congratulate Mrs Latham on initiating this very good debate, in which good points have been made by a number of speakers. It is a shame that it clashes with Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, because I know many of my hon. Friends wanted to speak in this debate. I imagine that, had they been here, they would have said much the same as has been said by others in the debate, but the Minister would have heard it from a few more voices.

I welcome the Minister to his place. It may not be fashionable—or productive for my future career—to say this, but I am excited about Zac Goldsmith becoming a Minister. His championing from the Back Benches of causes and views that I believe many Members share has been really powerful. At the risk of injecting a partisan flavour into the debate, I have to say that sometimes we have heard the soundbite from Ministers but not seen the action that goes with it. I am certain that the hon. Gentleman will not fall for any press release camouflage on inaction. This is an area where there is a real opportunity to stop the long-grassing of policies where there is clear cross-party support, and to get on with it. I hope that when he gets to his feet in a moment, he will say exactly the same things.

We have heard some good contributions. Dr Cameron mentioned a few but I will add a few more. The phrase of right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight), that trophy hunting is “nauseating and revolting”, cut through and adequately described what is going on. Henry Smith rightly said that a ban on trophy hunting is backed by 86% of the British public. Bill Grant spoke passionately about the fact that it is not something that only happens abroad. We should recognise that and ensure that any ban takes adequate notice of that, so that it covers not just imports but exports of trophies from UK wildlife.

Jim Shannon used “yellowhammer” correctly—it is good to hear the yellowhammer bird getting due attention after its name has been borrowed for so many things. We all share the complete puzzlement implied by his question, “Who on earth would want to shoot a zebra?” I agree with Sir David Amess, who was clear when he said it was a wicked, evil practice. We should not mince our words about people who go and shoot.

I am glad that it is not just parliamentarians who have encouraged this debate; people have used their fame and celebrity to endorse it too. Ricky Gervais does not mince his words on social media when it comes to this subject. I especially like his tweet from a few years ago, which says:

“The trophies I’m proudest of are the memories of all those times I didn’t kill a beautiful, majestic, endangered species for no reason.”

Although he may choose more powerful language to describe some of the people who are engaged in trophy hunting, his leadership on social media has highlighted a cruel and inhumane practice to many people who might not otherwise have appreciated its barbarity.

Ricky Gervais and the Minister are not alone, however, and have been in good company in championing the cause. Joanna Lumley correctly said that trophy hunting is “cruel, immoral…and unjustifiable”. Bill Bailey said:

“I can’t get my head round why anyone would want to kill a beautiful creature for fun. With the dwindling numbers of species, it’s time to halt this cruel and unnecessary practice.”

He is right, as are the speeches that we have heard today.

I will ask the Minister a few questions to try to understand the detail of the proposed ban. He has been clear that we should ban trophy hunting, but Ministers in the past have not been clear about what that ban comprises in detail, as the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire hinted in her opening speech. The thread of Ministers to date was that the Government’s proposed ban would affect just threatened species, by taking that international classification and banning the imports of trophies in relation to them. I would like us to go much further. Labour’s position is that the ban should be for every species above least concern. That would effectively capture many more species, not just the most endangered.

Looking around the room, I see that many hon. Members served on the Committee for the Ivory Act 2018 to support the introduction of a ban on elephant ivory. Since that ban has come into place, as expected, and as mentioned in Committee, we have seen the trade move from elephant ivory to other ivory-bearing species, such as the rhino, which has experienced additional hunting since the ban on elephant ivory came in. We knew that at the time and we must not make the same mistake with the trophy hunting ban by banning it for the most endangered and allowing it to slip down to those that are just below the most endangered. The Minister will be well aware of that and, hopefully, with his power, he can make sure that it does not happen.

We need to recognise that trophy hunting, as well as being cruel and unjustifiable, can act as a cover for illegal poaching, which was the sentiment of the intervention of Bill Wiggin. The proposed ban that we would like the Government to adopt would cover all species above least concern on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources red list, which would include species classed as vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered and extinct in the wild.

Sustainable alternatives to trophy hunting, such as eco-tourism and photographic safaris, are generating revenues that cover the real costs of conservation and effective anti-poaching work, as well as providing well-paying permanent jobs for local people. Shooting a lion such as Cecil can generate a one-off trophy fee of around $15,000. There is no evidence that that goes toward conservation, no evidence that it goes toward the local community, and no evidence that it goes toward the protection of other animals. Nature tourism, on the other hand, can generate money from the protection and valuing of those wild animals.

There is an opportunity, which has been mentioned a few times, through Brexit to come together. What Brexit has done for DEFRA debates is to open space in the Government’s legislative agenda for issues that might not otherwise have got the airtime they deserved. If we think about what has been passed by this House in recent months, on a cross-party basis, with the Brexit malaise and chaos going on around us, we will realise that many of the same faces in this Chamber have been working together on banning wild animals in circuses, banning the trade in elephant ivory and tightening up regulations across the board.

That work might not have attracted the attention of many people outside Parliament, and certainly it has not troubled some of our friends in the media, but it has been worthwhile. We should continue that spirit, whatever is happening with Brexit or outside, because there is something here that could make a real difference to the species involved.