Proroguing of UK Parliament fails to stop a full house gathering for wildlife crime event
This week, I learned a new word – prorogue.
It’s what the UK Parliament does when it shuts down. Once in a blue moon, it prorogues early and that’s what it did last week. Maybe the Government had run out of business or maybe the MPs wanted to be back in their constituencies canvassing for the local elections, or, who knows, maybe the Government preferred not to be around when yet another austerity measure went live?
But, for whatever reason, prorogue it did. Normally, this wouldn’t be of much interest to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It would just mean that an MP meeting or two would have to be put off for when they were back. This time, however, the highly unusual early prorogue produced loud groans from our parliamentary staff.
This was because we had planned a parliamentary reception in what was to be the last week the House was sitting. The reception included an international IFAW guest, Kelvin Alie, Global Wildlife Crime Programme Director, and the UK Environment Minister, Richard Benyon MP, and it was to be on the terrace of the House of Commons – a House which was now to have no MPs in it. The horror!
Quickly regrouping and getting over our shock, we realised that the event might still work. We had already invited around 50 supporters and it transpired that the Minister still had business in London and was happy to attend.
It was all systems go again.
The reception went ahead and was a great success. Nine MPs and Peers attended, including Neil Parish who had sponsored the event and drove four hours from his constituency to open the proceedings. I chaired and presented a short IFAW video on Operation Worthy – a joint IFAW/Interpol project to tackle wildlife crime in East, Southern and West Africa.
I then introduced Kelvin Alie who outlined the immense and critical threats to both animal welfare and conservation that the illegal trade in wildlife items can have on endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.
The large crowd (phew!) were visibly moved by what they heard.
They were impressed with IFAW’s efforts in the field to train and equip national park rangers who are at the frontline of a war for animal survival across Africa. They were equally impressed by IFAW’s international efforts with coalitions including the UN, Interpol, World Customs, World Bank and CITES.
I was personally very pleased Kelvin ended by describing how Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State, had cited international wildlife crime as a global threat to human security in the way it was run by organised crime syndicates, terrorists and armed militia from failed states.
I was pleased because this gave me the opportunity in between thanking Kelvin and introducing the Minister to say that I was glad the USA was tackling this endemic problem from the top down and to call for a similar amount of “joined up Government” in the UK.
The UK Government, in the form of the DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Minister, Richard Benyon, has always been supportive of our calls for more to be done to tackle international wildlife crime.
However, for many months now we had been making the point that there’s a limit to how much just one (financially stretched) small Government department like DEFRA can do on its own.
So, I was delighted to see the Minister come to the podium and, after making some very kind remarks about IFAW, say that he completely agreed with the need for joined up Government and was happy to announce that he was in the middle of extended talks with colleagues from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development about collaboration on tackling international wildlife crime - music to our ears.
After the speeches and presentations - supporters, IFAW staff, MPs and the Minister then spent a very pleasant time chatting and sharing ideas on what they had all seen and heard.
Feedback on the night was all very positive.
All in all, the prorogue wasn’t such a pariah and a good (and effective) night was had by one and all.