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Controversial trophy ban moves on to the next stage

The bill received unanimous support in the House of Commons, but an amendment ensures the ban remains restricted to endangered species


The ban is expected to cover species listed in appendices I and II of CITES, including elephants

As reported last week in Shooting Times, a ban on the import of some hunting trophies into Britain became a reality with a unanimous vote in favour of the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill after a Commons debate on 17 March. (Read ‘Trophy hunting – when it’s well managed it’s a force for good.’)

Introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Crawley MP Henry Smith, the bill was given Government support as a result of a commitment in Boris Johnson’s 2019 Conservative Party election manifesto to ban imports from trophy hunting of endangered animals. It received support from all sides as members queued to congratulate those who campaigned for the new law, in particular anti-hunt activist Eduardo Gonçalves. Defra Minister Trudy Harrison was almost breaking with emotion when she told MPs that Cecil the lion had not died in vain.

The debate was not entirely one-sided, however, as Conservative MP Sir Bill Wiggin argued successfully to ensure that any ban was indeed restricted to trophies from truly endangered species, in line with his party’s pledge. As a result, the bill was amended to remove the Government’s power to vary the species to which the new law will apply and to require the Secretary of State to appoint an expert advisory board to guide on matters related to the import of hunting trophies.

In practice, the import ban is expected to cover those species listed in appendices I and II of CITES, the treaty on trade in endangered species. These include some antelope and gazelles, some deer, elephants, wolves, big cats, bears, zebras and rhinos. Most of the plains game species commonly hunted in southern Africa are not included.

Just as with the hunting ban in 2004, one sensed a shifting in the tectonic plates of public acceptability over the display of trophies on the walls of our pubs and clubs. Other European countries seem likely to follow the UK’s lead, and the move has already sent a shiver through the African hunting industry.

The bill has yet to go through the House of Lords and may yet be further amended. For the immediate future, however, any hunter planning an overseas trip would be well advised to check his intended quarry against the CITES list and to ensure that trophies are correctly documented prior to import into Great Britain.