Hunting trophies import

ban announced

Conor O'Gorman

Conor O'Gorman

Conor O’Gorman has worked in a variety of conservation, policy and campaigning roles at BASC over the last 16 years. A zoology graduate with a PhD awarded for grey partridge research, he has over 25 years’ experience in conservation and land management.

Conor O’Gorman considers what a ban on the import of hunting trophies into the UK could mean for international conservation efforts and recreational shooting much closer to home…

Today, a Defra press release has been published announcing a ban on “imports of hunting trophies from endangered and threatened animals into Great Britain”.

“The ban will be bad for animals, people and the land they live on.” A damning indictment by BASC on an announcement that is illogical, contradictory and light on detail.

Overseas hunting and the import of trophies from such activities is driving species and habitat recovery and ill-conceived bans will do the opposite.

Countries such as Kenya that have banned ‘trophy hunting’ have seen their biodiversity suffer whereas countries such as Namibia that have encouraged well-regulated hunting tourism have seen their biodiversity thrive.

The import of hunting trophies to the UK is well-regulated and based on very well thought out principles agreed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and implemented through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

A cause for concern

The announcement and media coverage today is a cause for concern and whilst there are no legislative proposals on the table as yet BASC is already receiving reports from UK and overseas companies that are now suffering financial losses from cancelled trips and orders due to the uncertainty created. Click here to email us with the impact on your business as we will highlight that directly with Defra.

In November, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee discussed the impacts of a ban on the import of hunting trophies of endangered animals.

The only people invited to speak to MPs at the hearing were representatives from the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, Humane Society International and Born Free Foundation. The lines were blurred between facts and fiction during that session as outlined in a detailed analysis by Fieldsports Britain.

The antis were pressed by MPs on whether a hunting trophy import ban would address biodiversity loss and support conservation of endangered species. They could not give a coherent answer between them and the best they could offer was that “it will send a very important political message”. You can read the transcript here.

It is concerning that today’s Defra press release contains quotes from those very same organisations.

Today’s Defra press release mentions a consultation and call for evidence that took place in 2019 stating that it had “received over 44,000 responses which showed clear public and conservation group support for tighter restrictions with 86% supporting further action.” You can read the analysis here.

We can be certain that the vast majority of those responses were the result of social media campaigns by antis and misguided celebrities whipping up the court of public opinion. And what of the evidence?

Protecting thousands of species - really?

Ministers have made repeated statements in the House of Commons that banning the import of hunting trophies from endangered species will “help protect thousands of species worldwide.”

On 2 July 2021, the government stated that in 2020 there were 12 imports of hunting trophies from species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Yes, that was not a typo, they actually said twelve hunting trophy imports. Not thousands of species. Not even thousands of animals.

Perhaps 2020 was an anomaly and there were hunting trophies imported from thousands of species from across the world in other years?

We don’t need to search too long for an answer.

On 2 July 2021, the government also published a table containing data on the number of hunting trophies imported under CITES for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 for African lion (Panthera leo), tiger (Panthera tigris), African elephant (Loxodonta Africana), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and polar bear (Ursus maritimus).

During that five-year period there were 28 imports for African lion, zero imports for tiger, 24 imports for African elephant, zero imports for cheetah and nine imports for polar bear.

It later transpired that many of these imports were not even hunting related and earlier this week on 7 December 2021 the government stated that “No polar bear hunting trophies were imported under CITES in 2019 or 2020” and that the information given on 2 July 2021 was “based on inaccurately reported data which conflated information on commercial and hunting trophy trade in polar bear parts”.

Yet, today’s Defra press release continues to grossly inflate the number of trophies being imported with the headline statement “Import of hunting trophies from thousands of endangered and threatened species to be banned – including lions, rhinos, elephants, and polar bears”.

Despite clear evidence to the contrary the press release states that the ban will be “supporting long-term species conservation”.

This turn of events is nothing short of contempt for the consultation process that began in 2019 and contempt for the many people and organisations that submitted views and evidence in good faith and whose voices have been ignored.

If legislative proposals follow-on from this announcement the shooting community and the shooting organisations must fight this tooth and nail.

The frontline for recreational shooting

Many might consider this an issue divorced from our shooting interests here in the UK and some might find trophy hunting involving the likes of rhinos, lions and giraffes distasteful.

Make no mistake. The war on ‘trophy hunting’ is the frontline for recreational shooting for us all. The same emotive rhetorical arguments being used by the antis and their celebrity friends to try to undermine overseas hunting, regardless of the consequence for people, wildlife and local communities, are already being used to turn public opinion against recreational shooting in the UK.

BASC will keep briefing MPs and peers with the facts. We will keep lobbying at all levels of government and we will take legal action when all else fails. We will never give up and we will outlast this and future governments that try to damage our way of life and a sustainable future for shooting.

Trophy hunting - scientific research

A study in Zimbabwe concluded that western trophy hunting and trade bans, without an alternative framework providing conservation incentives to countries that are mostly affected, will reverse the gains recorded in wildlife conservation and rural development in southern countries. This is especially the case in southern Africa, where sustainable wildlife conservation is a dominant practice. Read the full paper here.

Funston et al., 2013Gunn, 2001, and Nelson et al., 2013, found that the imposition of bans on the importation of trophies without offering alternative funding for effective wildlife protection and depriving local communities of economic benefits may not be the best option for conservation.

The reason for this is that the practice of sustainable use controls and regulates populations of wild animals whilst generating the financial resources for wildlife management and rural development. 

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