Last month the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill entered Committee Stage in the House of Lords led by Conservative Peer and former MP Baroness Fookes.
In the weeks preceding the Committee Stage, the Bill which I have led for over a year encountered more than 60 amendments by peers designed to render it useless.
With a general election on the horizon this Conservative manifesto commitment now faces a real threat; one which has grave implications for the UK’s role in international wildlife conservation.
Ending the import of hunting trophies is not a new policy proposal. Countless leading scientists, academics, charities and NGOs have recommended such a Bill for years.
By enacting the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, we can support African leaders in their efforts to conserve wildlife for future generations.
Last year in a joint position paper hundreds of conservation and animal protection organisations from all around the world, including 45 NGOs from African countries, spoke out against trophy hunting and called for lawmakers to enact a ban on imports.
One of these leaders is the former President of Botswana Ian Khama, who considers trophy hunting to be “the most colonial thing you can possibly imagine”.
In a recent media interview, he cited images of predominantly white hunters who have flown to Africa and killed endangered animals, only to pose next to the carcass for a photograph.
I know I am not alone in feeling deeply troubled by the colonial undertones of trophy hunting.
Having begun as an empire-era hobby for the rich and influential, there is simply no place for this trade into Great Britain anymore.
Khama also remains concerned about the impact trophy hunting has on the gene pool of animals hunted.
Since hunters typically favour killing the best male species for their trophy, over time we risk irreversible damage to the gene pool of wild, endangered animals.
Instead, we must actively support alternatives to trophy hunting which allow tourists to enjoy African wildlife while leaving it unharmed.
Such activities allow communities to generate revenue from tourism without depleting local wildlife.
The Conservatives made history by including it in their 2019 party manifesto. This was, of course, the same Manifesto that prompted almost 14 million people to vote the Conservatives into power with its highest percentage of the popular vote since 1979.
Needless to say, this Bill clearly accords very much with public opinion. Polling shows 86 percent of voters would like to see an end to hunting trophy imports, and this opinion is even stronger amongst Conservative voters, 92 percent of whom would like to see the Government enact a ban.
These are not isolated polls – a more recent survey suggests at least 80 percent of Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats voters collectively support the Bill.
We should, therefore, be seriously concerned by such aggressive attempts to disrupt the Bill’s progress in the elected chamber.
Few Bills could conceivably have a greater democratic mandate than this one, which delivers an important Manifesto commitment and has already completed its passage through the elected chamber of Parliament.
The Government has been clear that it supports the Bill, but over the coming months actions will speak louder than words.
For now, the Bill remains paralyzed by amendments tabled by a minority of parliamentarians with thinly veiled vested interests in the hunting sector.
I urge the Government to ensure this critical legislation is delivered before the next general election.
Animals on the brink of extinction are worth more than a place on the mantelpiece.
Only once this Bill is signed into law can we truly take a stand against the horrors of trophy hunting.
Henry Smith MP