Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 11:08 am ar 22 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 11:08, 22 Mawrth 2024

Thank you for clarifying that, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley for setting out what happened in the Lords, but I will move on.

The Bill will prevent people from bringing into Great Britain hunting trophies from the species listed in annex A, which are the most endangered species, or annex B, which are species threatened by commercial trade, of the principal wildlife trade regulation. Those lists largely correspond to equivalents in CITES, which is an important international agreement protecting endangered plants and animals, and the UK is a party to it. The Bill also creates an advisory board on hunting trophies, as some Conservative Members highlighted, which will advise the Secretary of State on any issues relating to the legislation, or any matter relating to the import to Great Britain of hunting trophies derived from species that are, or are likely to become, endangered.

I cannot emphasise enough how crucial this legislation is. Trophy hunting is not only barbaric, but wholly unnecessary. In this country, as in most others, we have long recognised that animals should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering. That principle is reflected domestically in our Animal Welfare Act 2006, and aligns with our understanding, supported by animal welfare science and enshrined in legislation, that animals are sentient beings. As such, they deserve to be treated with dignity and humanity.

There is nothing dignified or humane about the sport of trophy hunting. It involves killing innocent animals for the sole purpose of turning their bodies into trophies. The animals often experience immense pain, fear and distress in the moments before they die. Some may be shot by inexperienced hunters using less efficient weapons, such as crossbows or spears, which do not deliver a rapid death. We saw this with Cecil the lion in 2015, who suffered for several hours following his wounding by crossbow in a beautiful part of southern Africa before he was finally put out of his misery. His death quite rightly caused outrage around the world, including here in Britain.

Other practices that trophy hunting can involve raise further welfare concerns. I was horrified to learn of the practice of canned hunting—the captive wildlife farming of animals for hunting. It often involves inflicting extremely poor welfare conditions on the captive wild animals, mostly lions, who may have to suffer from unsatisfactory enclosures, a lack of enrichment, and insufficient provision of shelter and vet treatment, all so that part of their body may eventually become somebody’s trophy. Let us not forget the negative impact that trophy hunting can have on other animals, such as the harm to offspring, who may be unable to survive on their own after their parent is left for dead. That was highlighted earlier, as was the weakening of the gene pool. These are important factors to consider.

Trophy hunting can have a negative impact on wildlife. Trophy hunters tend to target the world’s most iconic animals, including endangered wild animal species such as lions, polar bears, giraffes and rhinos. Hunters selfishly kill these vulnerable animals so that they can display their body parts as some sort of perverse prize. World Animal Protection notes that British hunters have brought home approximately 25,000 hunting trophies since the 1980s, and approximately 5,000 of these came from species at risk of extinction. The public are right to find this absolutely abhorrent, and to want to increase the protection afforded to these species, which are already under pressure from habitat loss, climate change, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, by passing this important legislation. My hon. Friend Rosie Duffield eloquently outlined those issues earlier.

Let us not forget how unnecessary these horrors are. Compared with the overall revenue that local economies gain from tourism, income from trophy hunting is insignificant. A 2017 report by Economists at Large that analysed eight African countries found that while overall tourism was between 2.8% and 5.1% of GDP in the eight countries, the total economic contribution of trophy hunters was, at most, about 0.03% of GDP, in stark contrast to the claims made by some Conservative Members.

There are more ethical and sustainable alternatives to trophy hunting for conservation. A recent study showed that 84% of previous or potential tourists to South Africa, including those visiting from within Africa, would be willing to pay a daily “lion protection fee” for wildlife conservation. Photographic safaris, which, as the Born Free Foundation puts it, involves shooting an animal

“with a camera, not a gun”,

is another welfare-friendly alternative to hunting trophies. These alternative activities have the potential to generate income equalling or even exceeding the income generated from trophy hunting without causing pain and suffering to wild animals. My hon. Friend the Member for Eltham highlighted that when he mentioned the amazing experience he had on his photographic safari.

Supporting global efforts to promote humane tourism is consistent with recent legislation passed in this House, namely the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Act 2023. However, I note that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is yet to even consult on the activating regulations that are necessary for the 2023 Act to have any impact, or to give any indication of when such consultation will begin. I encourage him to do so as a matter of urgency, because wild animals deserve protection, and that requires regulatory action.

On this and so many animal welfare issues, the Government are letting animals and the public down by failing to act. As the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Steve Reed, pointed out last Friday when another private Member’s Bill containing a broken Conservative party promise was before the House, the Government have completely abandoned an extraordinary number of the animal welfare pledges they had made. The Government like to tell the public that they have progressed world-leading animal welfare commitments, but Compassion in World Farming ranked the UK only ninth among European countries by percentage of cage-free farm animals, trailing Luxembourg, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, Denmark and Belgium.

Although the Government have announced their support for private Members’ Bills on animal welfare issues put forward by their Back-Bench MPs since they abandoned the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, that is not leadership. I gently say to the Minister that if the Government really cared about animals and wished to honour the enormous public interest in passing strong laws for animals, they would put forward their own promised measures. Until they do so, Labour will keep reminding the Government of their broken promises and putting forward private Members’ Bills like this one, which we hope will become law as soon as possible. We have seen in the House today a near unanimous show of support. This is not racist, colonial legislation; it is UK law governing what comes into the UK. That is our right, and the Bill seeks to exercise that, so let’s get on with it and get it done.