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Hunting trophy import ban nears critical stage

The controversial bill that proposes banning the import of hunting trophies continues through The House of Lords in defiance of advice, reports Felix Petit

The House of Lords met for a line-by-line reading of a bill to ban the import of hunting trophies last week. The first five of 62 amendments to the bill were debated over a three-hour session.

The bill is being pushed through in opposition to expert advice, motivated in part by a 2019 Conservative manifesto promise. There is extensive evidence that the careful management of legal hunting licences results in maintained habitats for threatened wildlife and benefits local economies. This can be seen in Pakistan, Tajikistan, and across Africa.

The Earl of Caithness, Malcolm Sinclair, opened the debate in the House of Lords. He further highlighted the emotional rather than logical basis of the bill and the lack of expert backing that the bill had received. He spoke of Thérèse Coffey and Defra’s disregard for the advice of The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) – the Government’s chief advisory on international and domestic nature conservation.

The JNCC themselves had previously warned that ignoring their advice is not only detrimental to conservation aims but would set a precedent to international governments who would likely follow suit and discount advice from expert advisory if it ran contrary to political objectives.

The majority who spoke during the scheduled debate time spoke against the benefits of the trophy ban bill even if they were not supporters of hunting. Baroness Wolf of Dulwich said: “I have never shot anything or hunted anything and cannot imagine why people want to do this. But of course, the point of the bill is not to express disgust at this; it is to improve the prospects of the animals that are being hunted.”

Baroness Janet Fookes, who sponsored the bill, and Lord Richard Benyon, a staunch supporter, said little to counter the concerns of those who spoke against it.

Professor Amy Dickman, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, is one of the bill’s most highly qualified critics. “Decisions should be made on the basis of conservation evidence, not what MPs or lords think is morally acceptable,” she said.

Lord Remnant called the bill: “A triumph of emotion over reason” and Lord Mancroft said it was “completely pointless and nothing more than symbolic”.