Zac Goldsmith’s back-door ban on hunting trophies

by Deborah Hadfield

Shooters say Boris Johnson and Lord Zac Goldsmith are being sneaky about trying to introduce a ban on the import and export of hunting trophies to the UK. They claim the politicians are stalking hunting trophies from two different directions. Boris and Zac are  trying to get the animals abroad bill through the Westminster Parliament, which would restrict the import of hunting trophies. This looks like it’s on hold now. So, now shooters fear that Zac and Boris may be trying to get their ban through the back door.

Diggory Hadoke, of Vintage Guns in Shropshire, says the government is fixated on banning the import of trophies. He says: ”It’s because they can’t go to another country like Namibia, which has decided that the most effective way of managing its wild animals is to do it through licensed sport hunting. And they’ve demonstrated that it’s absolutely successful.

“So, they can’t go out there in a colonialist attitude and say, you will not do this anymore because it’s none of their business that the government of Namibia is in a much better position to decide whether or not this is good or not.”

Instead, DEFRA has made changes to the rules on exporting trophies. Taxidermists say the government department made the rules without consultation, and it’s an example of how the politicians are playing fast and loose with their business. Tom Douglas and his father Sean, have a taxidermy company in Wiltshire. Tom wheelchair. Tom says it is now very difficult. He says: “Since Brexit cannot ship to Europe easily at all. So, any deer you hunt here, we have to get a vet check and license to get it to Europe. At the moment that is a real problem for us. It’s all loopholes. If you send just taxidermy, that’s not a trophy you can send it with just a customs declaration. But legally if it was hunted it has to go through the vet check process.”

Tom also hunts. He says: “We’re losing our European clients because a lot of them don’t want to come to hunt and get the taxidermy done. It’s affecting the industry quite hard, and it will get worse.”

Veterinary certificates for what is essentially leather and horn seem extreme. Carol Gritt imported a zebra skin from her trip to Africa. She used it to cover an armchair. She is concerned about making another trip as she fears she may not be able to bring back the skins. She say: “I don’t actually consider them as trophies. I think trophies is not a very good word. When we shoot out there, we do it ethically and it’s for culling and it’s all about conservation and management.

“But it is nice to bring something back as a memento rather than a trophy of the experience that we’ve had over there. Carol wants to return to Africa. She said ’We’re looking to do some more animals and actually even donate and harvest them for the orphanage. Or for any areas where they’ve need of food. But I’d like to bring some of the skins back, but I’m not sure whether I can actually do that. I don’t really want to spend the money getting it all prepared properly, legally, and getting imported, if at the end of the day, all of a sudden this ban comes in place, and it doesn’t come home.”

Shooters say politicians are not listening to them. Fieldsports Channel viewer Simon Smith from Worcester wrote to his MP Harriet Baldwin. He queried why the government wants to ban more than 7000 species when since 1975 only 73 different species have been imported to the UK as hunting trophies. In a written reply, Zac Goldsmith admitted a blanket ban may not be the most appropriate approach. He said the UK doesn’t want to put extra pressure on additional species. The letter doesn’t fully explain why it’s necessary to ban more than 7000 species.

Carol Gritt is upset by the proposed changes. She says: “We’ve never had problems before, so I don’t understand why all of a sudden it’s all becoming an issue. I think it’s more that people don’t understand what’s behind it. Why we actually shoot the animals and why we want to bring the skins back.”

Carol contacted her MP to raise the issue. She says: “I told him our views about it,  but we just got a standard response. And I even put in the letter that we’re bringing back skins that we’re going to keep in the house. But how many people out there are going on holidays and buying lots of souvenirs that actually end up in the recycle or in the dumps because it’s plastic, or they’re just of no use at all as they deteriorate. But we’ve got something we’ll keep for life.”

Conservationists also accuse the government of ignoring the African perspective. More than 100 leading scientists and community leaders signed an open letter to Boris Johnson saying the proposed UK ban risks undermining the conservation of rhinos, elephants, and other endangered wildlife. The letter says no alternative land use has yet been developed, which equally protects the wildlife and habitats found in these vital landscapes, while also generating valuable revenues for local communities.

Diggory Hadoke says the government should take a more grown-up approach. He says: “We need look at what works and what doesn’t. Look at the scientific evidence. Understand that sovereign governments in their own countries know better how to manage their resources than we do here and let them get on with it. British sport hunters are contributing to conservation not taking away from it.”

James Moore, of Mitchells Auctions in Cumbria, sells all kinds of hunting trophies. His latest is an antique snow leopard. He is concerned any ban would damage his business. He says: “I’m sure it will have an effect at some point. Hopefully they will not consider banning trophies full stop. That would be absolutely terrible for the business.

“It would just drive these things the ground. I think prices would still go up and a lot of revenue would be lost for us and the government too. It would just ruin these things.”

Shooters says Boris and Zac are taking a two-pronged approach to their hatred of hunting trophies. They’re trying to ban them through an act of parliament. And if that doesn’t work, they’re trying to ban them by enforcing existing rules to the point where they’re unworkable.

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