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Trophy hunting

The barbaric nature of killing wild animals for sport


Witnessing an animal in its natural environment is a breath-taking experience. On ethical safari you can often find elephants, buffalo and giraffe sharing a waterhole in peace, lions basking in the sun whilst a leopard seeks the shade of a nearby tree, and if you’re lucky you may even spot a rhino. Sadly, what sounds like a tranquil once in a lifetime experience for you and I is merely a playing field for hunters to choose their target. 

Each year, hunters from the UK travel to Africa to participate in ‘trophy hunting’, bringing home the dead animals to display as trophies and souvenirs on their walls. Unfortunately, many who partake in this ‘sport’ are inexperienced hunters, and thus cause the animals excruciating pain and an agonizing death through an inaccurate gunshot. For bragging rights, trophy hunters seek to kill the most impressive animals in the group, namely the largest breeding-size males. Bull elephants with the biggest tusks and large lions with dark manes like Cecil are the preferred targets. 

These animals’ deaths create a severe disruption in the social structure and survival of the group, along with the loss of genetic material that's vital to the healthy continuation of the species. As threatened and endangered species, the survival of these individual animals is vital. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), 290,000 trophy items from nearly 300 CITES-listed species were exported across the world between 2008 and 2017. Teeth, claws, pelts, heads or entire bodies of defenceless animals, slaughtered for the thrill of this so-called ‘sport’. 

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Illusion of Conservation 

Supporters of trophy hunting proclaim their activities support conservation. Yet, despite the extravagant fees hunters pay to bring home a prized trophy – with hunts ranging from £17,300 to over £51,250 for an African lion – there is no legitimate evidence that money trickles down past unstable governments or corrupt officials to create viable conservation efforts on the ground. Even without corruption, studies have shown that the amount of money generated by trophy hunting pales in comparison to the amount of money brought into countries through tourism and wildlife watching. 

Missing the Mark, a 2016 report released by the US Democratic staff of the House Committee on Natural Resources, examined the trophy hunting of the ‘Big 5’ in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia. It found “many troubling examples of funds either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation on the first place,” and concluded that “corruption within governments or organizations can prevent trophy hunting revenues from funding conservation activities and can even lead to the mismanagement of hunted populations”. 

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In 2020, we asked the FOUR PAWS community to share their thoughts on trophy hunting with 1,400 responses. Unsurprisingly, 99% of those who voted supported a ban on trophy hunting exports of the UK, and 98% of those who voted view trophy hunting as a sport for human enjoyment, as opposed to a population management technique. 

FOUR PAWS UK is calling for a ban of trophy hunting imports & exports into the UK to help put a stop to this cruel and barbaric practise. Britain is a significant transit point for the shipment of trophies from the country of origin en route to a third country, hence why a ban on imports and exports would be a powerful step to disrupting this trade. 

What's the latest?

In 2021, the Government promised to introduce one of the toughest bans on hunting trophy imports in the world, encompassing nearly 7,000 endangered and threatened species.   

Six months later, Henry Smith MP for Crawley tabled a government-backed Private Member’s Bill: The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill. 

After campaigning for a ban on the import of hunting trophies for years, the Trophy Hunting (Import Prohibition) Bill successfully passed through all stages in the House of Commons, going on to be debated in the House of Lords in late summer 2023. 

However, the Bill was sadly dropped in October 2023 after being held hostage in the House of Lords at Committee Stage by a handful of pro-hunting Peers. 

Thankfully, in December 2023, John Spellar MP introduced a new Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, identical to that of Henry Smith MP. The Second Reading of this Bill will take place on March 22. 

A new report supported by FOUR PAWS has busted 14 of the biggest myths put forward by the trophy hunting industry. The powerful report, which is also supported by Born Free, Jane Goodall Institute, Pro Wildlife and the African Sanctuary Alliance can be read here.

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