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Perhaps in response to Tory Party manifestos and a Queen’s Speech (in which the UK government announces legislation intended to be pursued in the upcoming parliamentary sessions) Conservative MP Henry Smith put forward a Bill to halt the import of hunting trophies from species listed as endangered or vulnerable into the UK. This was a “private member’s bill”, meaning it did not have the full weight of a bill introduced to Parliament backed by government.

Nevertheless, Mr Smith’s Bill passed all the debate and committee stages in the House of Commons and was then sent to the House of Lords for the usual further scrutiny and debate and possible amendments. Rather than affording due consideration of the Bill, a handful of Lords decided to belabour it with over 30 amendments and then filibuster to ensure it “ran out of time”. Those Lords involved perhaps should have recused themselves from any involvement as many are directly associated with “blood sports” in the UK.

Mr Smith said: "A couple of peers have held it hostage. It's been effectively vetoed by a small handful of unelected people. I will be calling for the government to introduce it in the King's Speech." There was no such move on the part of the government.

Despite some statements by government ministers indicating they would ensure progress of the Bill, this also never happened. Indeed, the Environment Secretary of State who mentioned she would take further action has now been replaced by the Prime Minister.

Now Labour MP John Spellar is seeking to re-introduce a new trophy hunting import Bill, again as a private member’s initiative. It is not certain at this point whether his application to table this Bill will be accepted.

LionAid will certainly support Mr Spellar’s initiative, but also encourage government to consider a shortcut to all this endless debate. Via what is called “secondary legislation”, ministers are empowered to immediately prevent imports of hunting trophies. Such secondary legislation is why lion trophies, for example, are banned import from Australia, France and the Netherlands. Similarly enacted bans could come soon in Belgium. Canada recently banned the import of elephant and rhino trophies using this type of legislation.

There is no reason why the slow and ponderous process of parliamentary debates should again impede timeous progress towards banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered and vulnerable species. After all, the UK public has indicated that the ban on trophy imports is supported by over 80% of those polled, and LionAid has amassed 856,738 signatures supporting a ban on further trophy hunting imports into the UK. You can sign the petition here.

Time is running out for many species not only experiencing the threats of climate change, habitat loss, poaching and human/wildlife conflict without the needless and pointless additional mortality inflicted by trophy hunting. It is therefore high time for politicians to make fast decisions on this matter and circumvent further dither and delays.

Posted by Chris Macsween at 16:12

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