The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, sponsored by Henry Smith MP (C) was a carefully constructed document to limit the import of hunting trophies from abroad into the UK. The limits would only apply to those species considered as endangered or vulnerable to extinction as defined by the European Union. Animals like elephants, rhinos, polar bears, lions, leopards. All other hunted trophies would still be allowed access to the UK. And there was no mention at all of trophy hunters wanting to shoot those animals be prohibited from heading to their destinations and killing – they just could not bring back their sad trophies into the UK. The Bill sailed through Parliament with hardly any amendments.
LionAid and a number of other coalition partners worked tirelessly with Members of Parliament to further this Bill for years. Over the past few months alone we have been requested to attend two meetings in the House of Lords and two in Parliament. To progress the process based on data based information.
It should be noted that the UK is a VERY MINOR importer of hunting trophies. In fact, the largest number of trophies imported over past years come from species like baboons and vervet monkeys. British trophy hunters just don’t seem to have the money to go for the “big five” in Africa and bring their spoils back home.
It should also be stated that the concept of the Bill was put to the British public – over 80% opposed such imports. The 2019 Conservative Party election manifesto vowed to “ban imports from trophy hunting of endangered animals”. The abhorrence of importing trophies was supported by Government, and they were all behind Henry Smith’s Private Member Bill. It sailed through Parliament and then was required to have a review by the House of Lords, the other chamber consisting of unelected members.
A few Lords took dim view of this Bill. Prominent among them was hereditary Peer Lord Mancroft, chairman of the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports and Wildlife Management since 2009 and well-known “blood sports” enthusiast. Lord Mancroft said - “Ahead of the Committee Stage of the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, I will be hosting a meeting to allow Peers the opportunity of listening to, and asking questions of a number of representatives from Botswana, Zambia and Mexico, with direct responsibility for the management of wildlife in those countries, along with a representative of the UK Deer Management industry.”
What the UK Deer Management industry person was doing there was anybody’s guess, as the proposed Bill would not exclude deer.
Botswana sent a huge delegation – a minister, a director of wildlife since without a contract, a Zambian representative of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Area, and of course all necessary support staff. When I looked up the number of hunting trophies imported into the UK from Botswana on the official CITES trade database, I could only find evidence that five elephant trophies had been imported – in 2015. No other species that would have been affected by the proposed ban in the last ten years to 2021. So why did Botswana send this delegation knowing that the nation was a very minor player in the export of trophies to the UK? The delegation’s airfare and hotel bills at least would have exceeded any income earned by the Botswana government in trophy fees from those few elephants?
Sure enough, when the Bill that had already passed Parliament with no dissentions came before the House of Lords with Lord Mancroft and his handful of supporters, they listed over 60 amendments to the original Bill. Fine, that should be allowed under the rules of proper scrutiny of Bills presented to the House of Lords. But then, they decided that those amendments could not be grouped into similar categories – no, every one of them needed to be debated. At great length.
On the day assigned to the Lords to debate they got through – ready for this – five amendments. No further debate time has since been assigned.
In other words, instead of making any sort of positive contributions, a few Lords were able to time the Bill out. Called a filibuster. How cowardly.
Government ministers might be able to break the impasse. Many said they were disappointed and said this was a manifesto agreement, said the UK public and Parliament was in overwhelming support.
LionAid is reliably informed that Members of Parliament, Ministers and Members of the House of Lords of all parties were appalled at this attempt to wreck the Hunting Trophy Prohibition Bill.
Simply put, all that is needed to save the Bill - Lord Mancroft and his allies need to withdraw their amendments. The early attempt to undermine the Bill began in March when Lord Bellingham (another hunt proponent) moved to hijack the Bill from chosen sponsor Baroness Fookes. Lord Bellingham sat on the Bill for 88 days refusing to give Baroness Fookes her rightful place.
A sad state of affairs. And how disappointing this must be for Henry Smith and Baroness Fookes. And all of us justifiably concerned about the nonsense promoted that trophy hunting contributes to species’ conservation, community benefits, African government coffers to maintain protected areas, etc. The majority of the House of Lords wanted to get this bill through but the shameful filibustering attempt by a few peers has squandered precious time – the Bill has limited time now to be passed before the King’s Speech in early November…