A staggering 60 amendments, clearly designed to undermine or wreck the Bill, were tabled by pro-hunting members for the consideration of the Committee of the Whole House. Those opposing the Bill also refused to ‘group’ their amendments, meaning each and every one has to be debated, in spite of a number being very similar in nature. As a consequence, and with very limited time allocated to Private Members Bills, the draft legislation inevitably ran out of parliamentary time, which means it is now unlikely to pass into law.
A ban on the import of hunting trophies enjoys the overwhelming support of British citizens – public polling commissioned by Born Free in 2022 revealed that 85% of the public backed such a ban, with such support being consistent across regions, political persuasions and age groups. It was a Conservative Party manifesto commitment before the 2019 General Election, and a commitment repeated in DEFRA’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021. However, the government failed to introduce its own legislation, instead relying on a Private Members Bill tabled by Henry Smith, the MP for Crawley, in June last year. The Bill subsequently sailed through the House of Commons with cross-party support.
However, a small number of unelected Members of the House of Lords, some with a long history of involvement in hunting, chose to use cynical tactics in their efforts to ‘talk the Bill out’, with several quoting highly controversial and contested information provided by hunting advocates from within the scientific community.
Reacting to the news, Born Free’s Head of Policy, Dr Mark Jones, said: “Millions of people will be devastated should this Bill fall. The cynical tactics employed by a small minority of unelected Peers with clear hunting interests, in spite of the proposed legislation enjoying overwhelming support from both the public and our elected MPs, reflects badly on the parliamentary process. While Mr Smith deserves great credit for tabling his Bill, Private Members Bills are always in danger of being undermined by a small number of parliamentarians. This issue should have been tabled as a government Bill in the first place which would have made it far more difficult for those wishing to wreck it and perpetuate the importation of wild animal trophies – magnificent animals killed for ‘fun’.
“We will continue to call on the current and any future UK government to introduce a ban on trophy imports. Trophy hunting is a colonial relic; it damages threatened wildlife populations and causes immeasurable suffering to individual animals, while providing, at best, meagre financial handouts to local people. At a time when we face a global wildlife and biodiversity crisis, we surely cannot continue tolerating the ‘kill to conserve’ mentality of those who, for their own perverse reasons, choose to kill wild animals for pleasure.”
Should the Bill fail, Born Free urges the government to reaffirm its promise to the British people, and reintroduce its promised ban as a government Bill in the next parliamentary session, which begins in early November.