The United Kingdom Has Announced A Ban On Trophy Hunting Imports

Lion laying in field

As part of a conservation campaign to safeguard endangered wildlife, the British government announced today that hunting trophies will be banned from entering the country.

According to the All-Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Banning Trophy Hunting, British hunters have brought home nearly 5,000 hunting trophies since 2015, including 996 from endangered species. The organization was formed in July 2021, on the anniversary of Cecil the lion’s notorious shooting, to encourage the Conservative government to follow through on its 2019 manifesto promise to ban endangered species trophies.

According to the APPG, UK hunters brought back the tusks and bones of 15 African elephants in 2019, as well as the skins and skulls of 34 baboons, 27 hippos trophies, including teeth and tusks, and 12 leopard and lion trophies.

The government did initiate a trophy hunting consultation at the end of 2019, in which 86 percent of the 44,000 respondents called for a ban, but no action was taken. Sir David Amess, a prominent member of the APPG and author of the most current parliamentary motion, was murdered in his constituency in October 2021.

6,000 Species

In 2015, France and Australia both outlawed the import and export of lion hunting trophies, while the Netherlands outlawed the import of over 200 species of trophy in 2016. South Africa announced plans in May to phase out its multibillion-dollar lion-breeding industry, which supplies lions for trophy hunts, tourism, and traditional medicine.

The UK’s upcoming ban, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), will conserve a range of species, including roughly 6,000 animals threatened by international trade and an additional 1,000 species whose state is deemed to be near-threatened or worse.

Over 1,000 other species, including African buffalo, zebra, and reindeer, will be included in the UK ban. Globally, wildlife has declined by 60% in the previous 50 years, with the population of African savanna elephants dropping by more than half and the number of wild African lions plummeting to only 20,000 in the last 20 years.

“More animal species are now threatened with extinction than ever before in human history and we are appalled at the thought of hunters bringing back trophies and placing more pressure on some of our most iconic and endangered animals. We will be leading the way in protecting endangered animals and helping to strengthen and support long-term conservation.” said Environment Secretary George Eustice in an official statement.

What qualifies as a ‘prize’ under enforceable statute is crucial to the law. According to National Geographic UK, DEFRA will define a hunting trophy in accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). “A whole animal, or a readily recognizable part or derivative of an animal… that: is raw, processed, or manufactured; was legally obtained by the hunter through hunting for the hunter’s personal use; and is being imported, exported, or re-exported by or on behalf of the hunter, as part of the transfer from its country of origin, ultimately to the hunter’s state of usual residence,” according to the definition.

What’s On The Table? Bragging Rights, Display, and Pleasure.

“It is shameful that the EU is the world’s second [after the US] largest importer of hunting trophies, bringing in almost 3,000 trophies every year, including African lions and elephants, black rhinos, leopards, zebra, cheetahs, lynx and polar bears.” said Dr Joanna Swabe, Humane Society International/Europe’s senior director of public affairs.

Dr. Swabe stated “Germany, Spain and Denmark account for 52% of all imported trophies, and the trade data shows that trophy import numbers have actually steadily increased by almost 40% during the period studied, despite opinion polls showing that the vast majority of EU citizens oppose the gratuitous practice of killing wild animals for pleasure, display and bragging rights.” Adding wild and endangered animals should only be shot with cameras. 

The question of trophy hunting as an activity is more complicated when it comes to the larger picture of local communities and conservation.

A study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution in 2016 suggested that a blanket ban on trophy hunting could have negative consequences for conservation. The money raised from the sale of hunting licenses to wealthy westerners has frequently been cited to defend the practice, with the money going to wildlife agencies, anti-poaching initiatives, and other conservation measures. According to a 2015 research, the Tanzanian Wildlife Division earned 60% of its revenue from trophy hunting license payments, for example. A percentage of hunting fees is frequently set aside for investment in schools, medical clinics, water wells, and other community projects.

However, such advantages are not always realized. Mismanagement and corruption have the potential to prevent funds from reaching their intended recipients. The United States, for example, restricted elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2017 due to worries that hunting fees weren’t going toward conservation initiatives. Some scientists have also expressed concerns that some countries’ hunting programs are not founded on sound scientific evidence, implying that too many individuals of a specific species are killed. Others believe that killing animals for sport is unethical.

“Killing the largest or strongest animals, who play an important ecological role in genetic diversity and resilience, jeopardizes species conservation, disrupts social herd structures and weakens gene pools of wild animal populations already facing a myriad of threats…The conservation argument is a sham employed by people who know it is unsavory to admit they simply enjoy killing animals for fun and tasteless selfies. With so much at stake, and the vast majority of EU citizens opposed to the killing, it’s time for EU member states to ban trophy imports,” Dr. Swambe stated.

In Africa, attitudes toward trophy hunting range from one country to the next. Kenya, for example, has prohibited trophy hunting since 1977, with Botswana following suit until lately. Community leaders from seven southern African countries signed an open letter in July 2020, calling a group of British celebrity campaigners to “stop using their influence to undermine the human rights of impoverished people and jeopardize wildlife conservation in the region.”

‘Imposing worldviews and value systems from faraway places… [that] results in disastrous policies that undermine our rights and conservation success,’ the letter read. Estimates of the revenue and jobs generated by trophy hunting in Sub-Saharan Africa vary greatly.

The government’s action isn’t the only one aimed at halting the flow of animal-related commodities. The Ivory Act, which will go into effect next year, will put a near-total prohibition on the import, export, and sale of elephant ivory-containing objects in the UK, regardless of their age.

Source: “UK announces ban on trophy hunting imports” by National Geographic


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