Importing hunting “trophies” into the UK is set to be banned thanks to animal rights legislation that has been in the works for two years.
The bill blocks big game hunters from bringing back the body parts of 7,000 animal species. Elephants, lions, polar bears, leopards, and rhinos are among the animals protected.
This includes wild animals as well as those bred especially for trophy hunting. Additionally, near-threatened and threatened species will be covered, along with endangered animals.
Environment Secretary George Eustice described the bill as one of the toughest in the world. Violations could land hunters in prison for up to five years.
‘Delay costs lives’
The recent announcement, though widely celebrated, has also been criticized by campaigners.
Since 2019, when the government first promised the ban, around 300 trophies have been brought into the UK. That’s according to the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, which has received support from the likes of Judi Dench, Ricky Gervais, Bill Bailey, and Chris Packham.
The campaign’s founder, Eduardo Gonçalves, expressed disappointment at the government’s lengthy deliberation.
Speaking to The Guardian, Gonçalves said, “The bill, as far as we’ve seen, looks to be in pretty good shape, but it has been two years since it was originally announced in the Queen’s speech, and many animals have been cruelly and needlessly killed in that time. So it is really imperative for the government to bring the bill to parliament as quickly as possible.”
“There is sometimes a misperception that trophy hunting is what Americans do. The reality is that British trophy hunters are among the world’s most notorious elephant hunters,” he added.
According to the founder, ministers informed him that the bill could reach parliament as late as next summer. By then, it’s possible that 100 or more animals will be killed for their body parts and brought back to the UK.
“Delay costs lives,” he said. “Every week that goes by without this ban means more animals, including endangered species, are being shot by British hunters, and their trophies brought back to the country. Some of these species are careering towards extinction, and certainly the British public are very strongly opposed to trophy hunting.”
In 2018, researchers discovered humanity had wiped out 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles in the last fifty years.
Species overexploitation, including hunting and poaching, was named a key threat.
“If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done,” Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at the WWF, said at the time.