A lion laying in the grass with zebras in the background

The bill banning the import of hunting trophies has died



In September, Henry Smith MP’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill had its Committee Stage in the House of Lords where it was deliberately blocked by a small minority of pro-hunting Lords.

This landmark piece of legislation would have stopped hunters bringing to the UK the dead parts of endangered wild animals, brutally killed for their so-called entertainment. Over 60 amendments were tabled at Committee Stage to derail the bill and the government failed to allocate it any further parliamentary time to pass in this legislative session – effectively killing it. Once again, the government has squandered an opportunity to build on the UK’s legacy as a world leader in animal welfare.

The hunting trophy import ban was a Conservative manifesto commitment in 2019. It should have been introduced via the government’s Animals Abroad Bill, which promised ‘one of the toughest bans in the world’ before being abandoned in 2022. Government-backed legislation was then introduced independently as a Private Member’s Bill by Henry Smith MP but has been allowed to fail despite the support of all political parties and overwhelming public support of 86% of voters. The UK is a nation of animal lovers, which rejects the senseless killing of endangered species for sport.

A captive male lion behind a fence

So why have the hopes of wildlife-loving voters once again been betrayed? The trophy hunting lobby orchestrated a campaign to block the Bill supported by a small-group of pro-hunting Lords, portraying trophy hunting as essential to funding species conservation and supporting local livelihoods, and the Bill as an attempt to take away the rights of communities in the global south to manage their wildlife in the ways they choose.

The truth is that the modern trophy hunting industry has developed almost entirely to cater to wealthy western tourists and available research suggests as little as up to 3-9%* of the revenue it generates reaches local communities.

Flood-polling for World Animal Protection in 2022 found three quarters (74%) of South African citizens agree that trophy hunting is unacceptable when wildlife-friendly tourism alternatives have not been fully utilised. Instead of being essential for conservation, the trophy hunting industry starves the oxygen from creative thinking to identify, incentivise and implement cruelty free alternatives to conserve Africa’s iconic wildlife.

A lion behind a fence

Recent World Animal Protection research has demonstrated the potential for wildlife-friendly alternatives that do not require animals being killed for sport and entertainment. We asked 1,000 of the people who are most likely to visit South Africa whether they would be willing to pay a ‘lion protection fee’, designed to offset any potential revenue losses in the event of a trophy hunting ban.

Not only did 84% of them think it was a ‘great’ or a ‘good’ idea but their enthusiasm for this wildlife friendly approach was so strong that it could generate enough funds to equal, if not exceed, those currently generated by trophy hunting of all the iconic species in South Africa a year. In summary, international travellers both in and outside of Africa say they are willing to pay out of their own pockets as a wildlife friendly way to protect wildlife and livelihoods.

A lion with an injury on the side of its head

While this study is focussed on South Africa and offers just one possible solution, it has the potential for wider application and one thing is clear. The trophy hunting industry will not change until it is forced to. The UK has the opportunity to be part of a catalyst for change. As long as we accept the idea that the only way to protect wildlife is to allow the rich to visit other countries and pay to torment and kill its native wildlife, alternative solutions such as the one suggested by this research will continue to be overlooked.

In 2021, the government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare stated ‘the way we treat animals reflects our values and the kind of people we are. We will continue to raise the bar, and we intend to take the rest of the world with us.’ Our government must bring back a trophy hunting import bill in the King’s Speech on 7 November and finally deliver on its promise to British voters.

We need your help to ban the import of hunting trophies

The UK is a nation of animal lovers, which rejects the senseless killing of endangered species for sport.

Please send a pre-written message to your local MP and demand that this bill be introduced in their party’s next manifesto. By taking action, you can help put an end to the inhumane practice of importing hunting trophies into Great Britain. 

Email your MP

Once again, the government has squandered an opportunity to build on the UK’s legacy as a world leader in animal welfare.

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