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The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill - Third Time Lucky?

The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill (the “Bill”), introduced by Labour MP John Spellar, passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 22 March 2024 and had the full support of the Government. This is the third attempt in passing the Bill into law, which aims to protect endangered species abroad. If successful, the Bill will ban the importation into the UK of hunting trophies from animals of conservation concern. 

 

What does the Bill prohibit and why is it necessary?

Currently, British people can bring hunting trophies such as ivory horns and stuffed lion heads into the UK as long as they have the correct import and export permits. According to a report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group, since the 1980s, approximately 25,000 hunting trophies have been brought into the UK by British hunters. 

 

The Bill proposed prohibiting the importation of hunting trophies from animal species listed in Annexes A and B of the ‘Principal Wildlife Trade Regulation’ (a retained EU law), which are either threatened with extinction or overly exploited and require trade control. Establishing a ban on the importation into the UK of hunting trophies of these endangered and exploited species is one way the UK can play its part in putting a stop to the killing of these species in the name of sport. 


What happened with the previous attempts? 

The Government first introduced the banning of trophy hunting as part of its Animals Abroad Bill but unfortunately, this commitment was abandoned in 2022. 


Last year, Conservative MP Henry Smith also attempted to get an earlier version of the Bill through Parliament (the “2023 Bill”). Despite the 2023 Bill having the support of over 80% of the British public and the support of the UK Government (having already passed through the House of Commons with only minor amendments), the 2023 Bill was allowed to be frustrated by a small group of pro-hunting members of the House of Lords. This is because the Bill was a Private Member’s Bill (“PMB”), as opposed to a Government Bill. PMBs require approval from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords before the end of a parliamentary session to become law. With the timing restrictions in mind, the pro-hunting members tabled over 60 amendments at the Committee Stage. They flagged that the profits from trophy hunting are essential to fund conservation projects ultimately protecting endangered species and that the Bill “may be misconceived as some form of neocolonialism” by attempting to strip communities of their right to independently govern their wildlife management practices. The Lords requested for each amendment to be debated individually causing time to run out and the Bill to fail at the end of the parliamentary session on 7 November 2023. 


What’s next?



The Bill is still at an early stage and will be subject to further scrutiny. Given that the Bill was not re-introduced as a Government Bill, it is still subject to processes and timings associated with a PMB. That is, to become law, the Bill will have to clear its remaining parliamentary stages before a general election expected later this year. It is hopeful that the House of Lords will not take advantage of the timing restrictions to frustrate the Bill, as they had done last year.



This article was re-published with kind permission of the UK Centre for Animal Law

 

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