UK ministers accused of ‘dithering’ as trophy hunting law delayed again


Aubrey Allegretti & Helena Horton, The Guardian 

Date Published
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A law that will clamp down on trophy hunting and prevent people buying harmful animal experiences such as elephant tours meant to be introduced in parliament this autumn been delayed, the Guardian has learned.

The measures should be contained in the animals abroad bill – one of several new pieces of legislation the government has planned to improve animal welfare standards.

However the start of its passage through parliament has been postponed, with ministers accused of “dithering”. The bill was first hoped to be published before the summer recess in July, but has since been pushed back repeatedly.

Frustration at the delay has further been compounded given a public consultation on restricting the import of hunting trophies closed in February 2020, and sources said it was unlikely the government’s response and the bill being published would happen before February 2022.

The hold up was blamed on the pandemic by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which said the final bill would be informed by “continued discussions” with experts.

There are understood to be technical rather than fundamental policy disagreements remaining.

Eduardo Goncalves, founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting group, said he had been assured the bill is “still alive” but expressed concern there appeared to be “no timetable or target date for bringing it to parliament”.

He said: “The pledge has been in every Queen’s speech since 2019, the prime minister confirmed it at the dispatch box, there’s been an extended public consultation, so the question is how much longer is this going to take?

“Every week that goes by means more animals being senselessly slaughtered for a sick souvenir. There’s a feeling of deja vu among the more sceptical observers. They point to the fact that the government said it would ban lion trophies after the Cecil furore, and then quietly dropped it …

“The government has put in a lot of work to develop appealing policies on conservation and animal welfare, and deserves to get the credit for it. There’s a risk, though, that its reputation could take a hit if it’s seen to be dithering without clear cause.”

Luke Pollard, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, called the delay “another broken promise from this government” and warned it would mean more endangered lions, tigers and other precious wild animals would die.

He said ministers were “failing to deliver” having “abandoned” their initial timetable for passing the bill, and added: “Labour would consign trophy hunting to the history books.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “Our recently published action plan for animal welfare sets out the government’s vision to introduce a range of world-leading reforms to improve the welfare and conservation of animals at home and abroad.

“This year we have already introduced our animal sentience and kept animals bills to parliament and we intend to legislate further to protect animals abroad as soon as parliamentary time allows.”