Please be assured that I understand the strength of feeling around this issue. The Government is committed to doing all it can to support wildlife and the environment, both in the UK and internationally, and I welcome ministers’ plans to deliver one of the toughest bans in the world on the import of hunting trophies from nearly seven thousand endangered and threatened species, including lions, rhinos, elephants, and polar bears.
Climate change and global biodiversity decline are interlinked threats for wildlife and people. Biodiversity is declining at a dangerous and unprecedented speed, and species extinction rates are accelerating, with up to a million species threatened. Overexploitation is one of the drivers of species extinction and additional pressures on vulnerable species can result from unsustainable or inappropriately managed activity.
In the 25 Year Environment Plan, the Government committed to providing international leadership in protecting biodiversity and endangered species. This is underpinned by a strong commitment to ensuring that the UK’s domestic policy does not threaten the conservation of species abroad. The proposed ban on imports of hunting trophies goes beyond the manifesto commitment and, with no exemptions, means that the UK will be leading the way in protecting endangered animals and helping to strengthen and support long-term conservation.
While I recognise that some conservationists believe trophy hunting can be an effective conservation tool, it is also important to acknowledge concerns around the practice of trophy hunting. I welcome that the Government is firmly committed to introducing the ban on hunting trophies, and I am assured that this will be brought forward as soon as parliamentary time allows. Ministers are also looking at further measures to protect animals abroad, including banning the import and export of detached fins, and taking action against low welfare animal experiences.
Finally, the consultation on controls on the import and export of hunting trophies, which closed in February 2020, allowed respondents to offer views on which species they considered needed further restrictions. I understand that the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the publication of the Government response to this consultation and accompanying call for evidence. However, I would like to assure you that the approach on hunting trophies will be comprehensive, robust and effective and will deliver the change promised to help protect thousands of species worldwide.