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Tag: UK Minister of Environment

Lion March crowd

Marching to victory?

Yesterday we were invited to a private meeting with the Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rory Stewart to discuss the next steps in the UK's response to the importation of lion trophies into the UK.

As you will remember we last met him on December 3rd following the November Adjournment Debate , brought by The Rt Hon David Jones MP, when Minister Stewart suggested that the UK Government would look at banning the importation of lion trophies within two years. A time scale which filled us with dismay if we are to save our remaining fragile lion populations.

In his reply to the debate, Minister Stewart cited Botswana as a “litmus test” to determine if a ban on all trophy hunting will not result, as he has been led to believe (wrongly in our view),  to an overrun of agriculture in former hunting areas and an overrun of human populations instead of the conversion of former hunting land to conservation areas, allowing wildlife to flourish.

He had planned to bring LionAid into a seminar with his usual conservation advisers for a frank exchange of views which he hoped would lead to a consensus of opinion. We can only imagine that such a proposal was not met with joy as this seminar never took place.

Since that time of course, France and the Netherlands have joined Australia in announcing a ban on the importation of all lion products. More significantly for the Minister, the USA has effectively locked down all further importation of lion trophies until they can satisfy themselves that killing lions for sport is both sustainable and beneficial to the species. A tall order indeed!

We say significantly for the Minister because one of his key ambitions was to “bring the United States with us” if the UK were to ban the importation of lion trophies.

Yesterday, we met a very different Minister who has perhaps realised his stated fears and caution about moving against lion trophy hunting expressed in November and December have not been echoed by the USA and an increasing number of European countries acting independently. The UK is beginning to look like a country not willing to take a stand against lion trophy hunting.

He has assured us that he is now very keen to align the UK with the US position. He tells us that he and his colleagues in Defra have been doing much to try and persuade our European partners to unify and announce an EU wide ban on all lion trophy imports. We believe he is clinging to an ideal that he will not achieve but we will, as promised, do all we can in LionAid to help him persuade as many as possible of his European counterparts to support his call for an EU wide ban.

We pushed him for a deadline for attaining this lofty goal and we now have a firm commitment from him that should he not succeed in obtaining this EU wide ban after the next CITES Conference  of Parties in September/October and if that Conference does not promote the lion to endangered status, he will then “review” the UK's position in October. Minister Stewart also said he would be attending the upcoming UNEP Environment Ministers’ meeting in Nairobi next week and would raise the issue there. We advised him to arrange a meeting with his counterpart in Botswana to receive a clear and direct message from an African country that has successfully converted a trophy hunting formula to a conservation initiative resulting in far greater income and employment from their wildlife resources.  

Whilst we did not hear the exact words that he will ban lion trophy imports into the UK in October, the implication was crystal clear that the UK would then align with the USA and follow a similar strategy to declare a moratorium on lion trophy imports. So a great step forward if we can achieve a UK total ban in five months instead of the eighteen months he outlined in November 2015.

We do thank the Minister for his efforts in trying to unify the EU on the issue and we were pleased to receive the praise he gave to us on LionAid's work to bring us to this point in history.



Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 13:05