UK Government fails to meet its nature and animal welfare commitments in King’s Speech

On 7th November, King Charles III delivered the King’s Speech, which outlines the UK Government’s legislative and policy agenda for the new Parliamentary Session.

King Charles III delivers his speech in the House of Lords on Tuesday © Leon Neal Getty Images

King Charles III delivers his speech in the House of Lords © Leon Neal/Getty Images

Disappointingly, the first King’s Speech since 1951 failed to contain any concrete commitments to kickstart nature’s recovery, and failed to fulfil longstanding government promises on key issues such as banning hunting trophy imports and reforming zoo legislation and standards.

While the Government isn’t restricted to only delivering those measures included in the Speech and the accompanying documentation providing more details of the proposed legislative agenda, the glaring lack of focus on nature and wildlife reflects the serious recent downplaying by government of its intentions in relation to these critical issues which, if not addressed, can have a major and negative impact on the prospects for sustaining life on earth.

In response to the speech, Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones said:

“At a time of crisis for wildlife and biodiversity, we were hopeful to see an ambitious agenda from the UK Government in the King’s Speech. Instead, there is very little to suggest the Government will be focused on these issues and in recent months has watered down critically important, nature-friendly timetables and targets. While we try to draw some encouragement from the stated commitment to “continue to lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, support developing countries with their energy transition, and hold other countries to their environmental commitments”, the UK Government needs to focus urgently on measures here at home to transform and heal our wildlife-depleted landscape.”

The longstanding commitment to introduce a ban on the import of hunting trophies from threatened species appears to have dropped off the Government’s radar completely. Henry Smith MP’s Private Member’s Bill, was derailed and ultimately lost in the previous parliamentary session at the hands of a few hunting proponents in the House of Lords in spite of enjoying overwhelming public support and the backing of MPs of all parties. This highlights the need for this measure to be brought back as Government-sponsored legislation in order to guarantee that parliamentary time is made available to see it pass into law, and resist ill-considered opposition from a few of its own back bench peers.

Proposals to tighten regulations on zoo licencing also appear to have been dropped.

Dr Jones continued:

“The failure of the Government to make good on commitments on hunting trophies and zoos represent a major failure, one which will dismay the many members of the public who have lent their support to the proposed measures. Born Free will continue to urge the Government to reconsider and introduce legislation on these issues without delay.”