US hunting lobby spent £1m to delay UK trophy import ban | Hunt

The US hunting lobby has spent £1million lobbying the government to delay a ban on importing trophies, according to a new report by MPs.

Boris Johnson promised to ban imports of these trophies three years ago, but the legislation has still not passed parliament. Due to the delay, Tory MP and animal welfare campaigner Henry Smith introduced his own private member’s bill to ban imports of hunting trophies.

A new report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on banning trophy hunting has detailed the lobbying efforts of international hunting groups.

The report revealed that US-based pressure group Safari Club International (SCI) had spent £1million on a campaign to change the minds of MPs and the British public on the import ban body parts of endangered species.

SCI is the largest group of trophy hunters in the world. It awards prizes to its members for killing large numbers of endangered animals. Founded in the 1970s, it is one of the largest corporate donors to political campaigns in the United States and bills itself as “the leading advocate for the freedom to hunt.”

The APPG report revealed that SCI had funded a Facebook page called Let Africa Live, which posted claims such as: “The UK is about to destroy local economies in Africa”. Although the page insinuated that it was created by local groups in African countries, an investigation revealed that it had been funded by SCI from a kitty called the Hunter Legacy 100 Fund. The campaign eventually had its page taken down by Facebook, whose security official said, “The people behind this network attempted to conceal their identity and coordination.”

Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, chairman of the APPG, said fierce lobbying had alerted the government that it could be a “contentious” issue.

He added: “The government, if something is contentious, always pleads for more time, but we have to keep going. The US gun lobby is lobbying like crazy…Safari Club International has exerted considerable pressure on the government.

“I have my own calls with the Prime Minister. I think he is largely determined to get this legislation passed, but it must be done without worrying about this lobbying.

Earlier this year there was a fierce row within the Conservative Party, with ministers claiming Johnson was set to scrap the ban after campaigning with the shooting and hunting lobby. At the time, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation welcomed the news, saying a ban would harm conservation. Proponents of trophy hunting say the funds raised through the practice are needed to fund conservation efforts and support local economies.

The APPG report says lion, elephant and rhino numbers have increased in Kenya, where trophy hunting is banned, while lion numbers have also rebounded strongly in Zambia and Zimbabwe after temporary bans on trophy hunting.

Primate expert Jane Goodall told the APPG: “Trophy hunters kill for fun. They destroy animals for boast, to demonstrate their supposed fearlessness and courage. The hunting lobby will work hard to preserve the status quo. If we want to maintain our reputation as an animal-loving nation, all hunting trophies should be banned. Hurry up. Many species killed by trophy hunters are close to extinction.

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A Defra spokesman said: ‘We are committed to banning the import of hunting trophies of thousands of endangered and threatened species. This ban will be among the strictest in the world, paving the way for the protection of endangered animals. And we welcome the private member’s bill, led by MP Henry Smith.

An SCI spokesperson said the deleted Facebook page was created by an entrepreneur, not club management. They said: “The truth is that, in a misguided effort and unbeknownst to SCI, a sub-contractor took unauthorized action using falsified social media accounts. While it is unfortunate that they have betrayed the trust of the hunting community by resorting to dubious tactics unnecessarily, the information that the vendor has provided regarding hunting and conservation is true and nonetheless relevant to misguided methods of dissemination.

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