Bill Wiggin MP is leading the opposition to a private members’ bill by MP Henry Smith to ban the import of hunting trophies. It’s not just conservation madness in the name of animal rights, it’s racist, too. He says: “I am very, very sensitive about racism. And I spoke out against this bill because I fundamentally believed that it was a neo colonial attempt to control conservation management programs of African democratic countries.”
Sir Bill says representatives from Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia who are involved with the conservation activities in what’s called Kaza, the Kavango, Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Africa, commented What rights do they have to impose restrictions that will damage all wildlife and people?”
Sir Bill is one a few voices of dissent as MP’s ignore pleas from scientists and from African nations.
He says: “The current system is that the squeaky hinge gets the oil to the people who shot the loudest.”
He says the antis are being listened to and that is a bad way of legislating.
MPs from across the political divide spoke in favour of the bill, including the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
He congratulated the “many campaigners all around the country that have worked so hard to draw attention to the issue of trophy hunting”. he says: “That in itself becomes an education to people to understand that we can play our part in conservation of beautiful and endangered species by passing this bill today.”
DEFRA minister Trudy Harrison says that one of the reasons she is backing the bill is that it sends a “strong message to the rest of the world”.
MP Anna Firth says trophy hunting is a relic of the past and that has no place in modern Britain. MP Margaret Ferrier agrees that trophy hunting is an ugly relic of the colonial era. She wrongly claimed it was illegal for locals to hunt. Locals going hunting is not only not illegal in African countries that rely on hunting to pay for conservation – most hunters in African countries are from those countries.
Following Fieldsports News’ campaign pointing out the lies that MPs told about wildlife during the second reading of the bill, they told far fewer lies at the third reading.
In their fight against the bill, Sir Christopher Chope and Sir Bill Wiggin tabled 30 amendments. The government accepted two of them. An advisory board on hunting trophies will be established, the secretary of state will not be able to add new species to the ban list, and the law will be reviewed after five years, if found wanting, the governmenmt will scrap it, as the US did after its ban on some trophy imports during the 2010s.
Sir Christopher Choke says there are diametrically opposed expert opinions on what will be a good hunting ban of trophies. He says: “I think it’s important that this debate should be informed by the facts and the science.”
Sir Bill says he’s been concerned throughout the progress of the bill that it is not motivated by a desire to see African wildlife flourish and prosper. He says: “If it were, then it would have paid heed to the scientific evidence provided by experts in conservation. British conservationist Professor Amy Dickman and Adam Hart have argued that 90% of protected areas with lions are severely underfunded.
“Removing trophy hunting without providing a suitable alternative of revenue will expose those underfunded, protected areas to further risks such as poaching.”
According to the IUCN, hunting tourism is not considered a threat to species. Sir Bill says: “Instead, trophy hunting generates revenue for anti-poaching and habitat conservation.”
Environmentalists, community leaders and ordinary Africans agree the new law could be a disaster for conservation because landowners will replace wildlife with cattle.
Bongani Mfurneki of the Northern Cape Professional Hunting School says trophy imports to the UK shouldn’t be banned. He says: “If you’re banning trophy hunting, it’s like you’re cutting off the chain of the money that is generated from trophy hunting that goes into local conservation efforts and local communities. And that would be putting a dent in a lifetime of efforts of people who have tried to save endangered species through the funds generated from trophy hunting.”
Sir Bill fears that the UK government wants to set an example. He says: “I think there’s a real danger that the example it will set is that white British people know better about conservation than democratically elected African governments, who are doing a better job than British people did when they were in the colonial age running those countries.
“Africans are doing a brilliant job on conservation. I don’t think it should be for us to tell them how they should do it.”
He says: “I don’t think that many British people understand, because we don’t have lions wandering around near schools. And if we did, I think we would feel very differently about it.”
The bill only bans the import of body parts of animals kept as trophies into mainland Britain, not Northern Ireland, so there is doubt how much of an effect it will have on trophies coming into the UK.
The fear is that it will empower other legislatures to pass similar bans, such as Finland and Belgium, and then habitats will start to suffer. That may open the floodgates to poachers in countries that rely on hunting revenues.
Sir Bill says: “The concern held by both conservationists and African community leaders is that enforcing the removal of the vital source of revenue supplied by trophy hunters to these communities we open the floodgates to poachers who will cause far more cruelty and pain to the animals and will pose a far greater threat to endangered species.”
He says the opinions and evidence from some experts do not fill him with a lot of confidence that the bill will achieve its stated aim.
He says: “Nor does the amount of misinformation that is being touted by the campaign to ban trophy hunting.”
He says the amendments he is supporting will ensure that this bill is not a classic case of virtue signalling at the expense of African wildlife and the conservation efforts of African people.
Sir Bill says: “Five years down the line, if the Act proves to be ineffective, as I suspect it will, at conserving endangered species and has led to an increase in poaching, then it seems right to me that provision should be made for the Act to be withdrawn.”
The bill covers nearly 6,000 species, including scimitar oryx and bontebok, which only exist thanks to hunting. It will now face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before it can become law.
Sir Bill says: “I think in the House of Lords there are more peers who are likely to speak out. I was very sad that in the House of Commons there was very little resistance to this bill. I was the only person who spoke out against it at second reading, and I was very pleased to be joined by one or two colleagues later on and we were able to get amendments to the bill because there is some sympathy in government for the conservation efforts that the UK is making.”
The act will now be considered by the House of Lords. It can only become law if it is approved by both chambers.