In July 2015, Cecil the Lion - a 13-year-old, black-maned, pride-leader - was killed by American trophy hunter Walter Palmer in Zimbabwe. The incident caused a mass outcry and made clear that many people were unaware of the realities of modern day hunting in Africa. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) published a report in 2016 which states that as many as 1.7 million hunting trophies may have been traded between nations between 2004 and 2014 .
In April 2016, the lion conservation and education charity, LionAid, sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling for a complete ban on the import into the UK of any lion product, including sport hunting trophies. The IFAW campaign notes 'Cecil's 40 hours of agony was just one example of the suffering that many animals, including threatened species, have to endure to satisfy the whims of a few trophy hunters who want to add new trophies to their collections. Sadly, trophy hunting is still legal in many countries.'
I believe we have a moral duty to treat animals in a humane and compassionate way and that national governments must work together to fight animal cruelty. I therefore share your concerns about trophy hunting.
The last Labour Government had a strong record on animal welfare at home, for example by introducing the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and on international animal welfare; including the introduction of the EU trade ban on seal products and banning the use of great apes in animal experiments. The previous Labour Government also established the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which assists with the enforcement of wildlife law. At the last general election, I stood on a manifesto that included a commitment to build on this strong record on animal welfare and prior to the election, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to again lead the fight against global animal cruelty.
The international rules for the import and export of hunting trophies are established under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. A hunting trophy of an endangered species can only be exported if the exporting country is satisfied that the hunt was both legal and sustainable.
The EU has also introduced stricter controls on the import of hunting trophies of six species, including lions and African elephants. These require that both the exporting and importing country must be satisfied that the animal was hunted sustainably. As a result, the import of hunting trophies of certain species from certain countries is currently prohibited by the EU, including lion trophies from Cameroon and Mozambique and elephant trophies from Tanzania. Imports of lion and elephant trophies from Zimbabwe are currently allowed into the EU as they are considered to be sustainable.
The UK Government announced in November 2015 that it would ban lion trophy imports within the next two years unless there are improvements in the way hunting takes place in certain countries. The Government has also moved to take Benin and Ethiopia off the list of countries from which the UK is prepared to import lion trophies, and has said it has plans to move against Zambia and Mozambique.
I support the calls for a complete ban on the importation of any lion product, including sport hunting trophies, into the UK and I hope the Government will listen to the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as IFAW and take urgent action to support lion conservation around the world.