Hunting Trophies Bill report cover

Policy Brief: The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill

Risks to Conservation, Rights and Livelihoods – Executive Summary

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  • The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, currently before the Lords, is intended to ban the import of hunting trophies from a list of around 6000 species (as listed in a European Council Regulation now referred to in the Bill as the Principal Wildlife Trade Regulation), although the vast majority of species on this list are not subject to trophy hunting (many are corals and jellyfish).
  • Over the last 22 years, the UK has imported hunting trophies from only 73 animal species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – and thus covered by the Principal Regulation. Trophy hunting does not pose a major threat to any of these species.
  • The Bill is problematic for a number of reasons. Key amongst these problems – given that the Bill is intended to support conservation – is that it is likely to undermine conservation success in many countries across Africa and elsewhere.
  • Trophy hunting is not a key threat to ANY species, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) “Red List of Threatened Species” (the globally recognised authority on the conservation status of the world’s wild species).
  • For multiple hunted species, even threatened ones, trophy hunting has proven conservation benefits (by reducing far greater threats such as habitat loss and poaching).
  • Land on which hunting takes place not only provides habitat for the hunted species, but also for countless animals and plants not subject to hunting. In fact, in Africa there is more land on which trophy hunting is used as a conservation tool than there is for National Parks.
  • Undermining the viability of the hunting industry through an import ban, reduces the incentives for Governments, landowners and local communities to:
    1. keep land as wildlife habitat rather than converting it to uses such as agriculture;
    2. invest in anti-poaching activities;
    3. tolerate dangerous wildlife.
  • There are currently no feasible alternative wildlife-based land uses for most trophy hunting areas. Photo-tourism is only viable in select ‘scenic’ areas, where good transport and infrastructure links support a high volume of visitors. The majority of hunting areas will never be viable for photo-tourism. However, hunting can and does in many places coexist with photo-tourism by providing an additional revenue stream.
  • The Parliamentary debate surrounding the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill has been driven by extensive misinformation from animal rights activists, backed up by celebrities and social media. In the second reading, for example, over 70% of MPs’ statements were found to be false or misleading. The debate has ignored conservation expertise – even that provided by the UK Government’s own scientific advisory body.
  • The UK aiming to ban hunting imports is hypocritical, given that:
    1. the UK exports many thousands of hunting trophies every year
      (particularly from red deer in Scotland) and
    2. the UK languishes far, far behind those Southern African countries who will be most affected by this Bill, on conservation performance. The UK is in fact one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
  • The UK Government has suggested that local communities substitute the income lost as a result of a ban on trophy hunting imports by applying for UK aid grants. But encouraging greater aid-dependency demeans the recipients and contradicts the Government’s own Minister for Development and Africa, who said: “international development is not about charity, handouts and dependency.”
  • Rather than apply a blanket ban on the imports of all hunting trophies, a better way forward would be to allow the imports of trophies where it can be demonstrated that hunting makes a positive contribution to conservation and local livelihoods. Imports that do not meet these criteria would be banned, thus rightly disenfranchising poorly managed trophy hunting operations without undermining those which have demonstrable benefits.
  • Such an approach is already used by other importing countries, e.g the USA, and is in line with the approach that the UK is already able to take under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • Many Britons dislike trophy hunting, but fewer than half want a ban if that would harm people or conservation. Allowing an amendment would fulfill the Government’s pledge, restrict harmful hunting, but limit the potential risks to livelihoods and conservation.