Ahead of the London Summit, MPs demand action against wildlife crime
When you have two former Ministers and the Chair of a Select Committee speaking in a backbench debate, you know it’s going to be well informed. But the parliamentary debate on International Wildlife Crime which took place yesterday (6 February) also showed the genuine passion and commitment that MPs have for the world’s wildlife.
Former Home Office Minister Nick Herbert opened the debate by referring to his visit to India with IFAW where he saw poachers being retrained as wardens and lamented the fact that “iconic species literally face extinction.” He stressed that there should be no return to the misguided policy of stockpile sales.
Joan Walley, the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, referred to the Committee’s detailed report into wildlife crime and welcomed the announcement of two-year funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, but called for the funding to be made permanent. Joan also highlighted the ivory crush in Paris that took place earlier in the day and the need for implementation of the African Elephant Action Plan.
Sir Roger Gale spoke authoritatively of the need not just to preserve habitats, but the animals that roam in them too and said that the London Summit must back “a plan for action with hard cash and ruthless enforcement.”
Richard Benyon, who we worked closely with during his time as Environment Minister, stressed the value of cross-departmental work across the whole Government and described the partnership work he had seen for himself on the ground in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park where IFAW works closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service.
One MP said, “if ever elephants needed a friend” Zac Goldsmith was the one to have. Zac justified the compliment with his informative speech outlining the links between the ivory trade and terrorist organisations.
They didn’t just talk about elephants - Sir John Randall pointed to the other victims of poachers who use poison to kill elephants; Pauline Latham spoke of the human cost and damage to communities; David Amess rightly praised the UK Border Force’s role in combating wildlife crime in this country.
The Government showed its commitment to addressing this matter in a cross-departmental manner by putting up Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin to sum up the debate, with other Ministers also present. He pointed to the very real threat of extinctions in the near future and outlined the Government’s planned activities to try to prevent this. His key word was “enforcement.”
This was no sterile debate – MPs spoke from their own experiences, they quoted the horrendous statistics that we have compiled over recent years and, above all, they called for robust action rather than just warm words.
Zac Goldsmith praised “the magnificent IFAW”, but we couldn’t achieve our aims without the magnificent work of MPs demanding action for animals worldwide.
Several of the MPs who spoke will be joining IFAW for our ‘ivory crush’ next week putting beyond use the tusks and ivory trinkets that our supporters have sent in to show their support for the campaign against the illegal ivory trade. What better way to illustrate the strength of feeling of the British public before the London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade next week?
For more information on IFAW efforts to stem the tide of wildlife trade, visit our campaign page.