British people are calling for an end to lion trophy hunting

We cannot be left behind.

Last week the Netherlands government made a big announcement. Martijn Van Dam, the Dutch Secretary of State for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, stated that the Netherlands will no longer import hunting trophies from lions, rhino, elephant, cheetah, hippo and polar bear. He also called on all EU countries to follow suit. Earlier this year France announced it was going to ban the import of lion hunting trophies. These announcements follow the Australian government confirmation that it would no longer allow the import of lion trophies.

It is time the UK Government joined them and imposed a similar ban, but at the moment Prime Minister Cameron and his Cabinet are embarrassingly silent on this issue.

This is why we felt we needed to make some noise.

Last weekend, the International Fund for Animal Welfare helped organize a big march in London to call for an end to lion trophy hunting imports. The march was led by a coalition of partners who joined voices to ensure the Government could hear us loud and clear: Lion Aid, The Born Free Foundation, Four Paws, Save Me and OneProtest.

About 700 people participated in the march that started at noon at Cavendish Square, and went all the way to Downing Street, where representatives of the organising groups handed over a letter to Number 10, signed by very important people such as Professor Stephen Hawking, Brigitte Bardot, Australian Minister Greg Hunt, Dame Daphne Sheldrick, David Jones MP, Catherine Bearder MEP, New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak and IFAW Honorary Board Member Dr Jane Goodall among others.

The march was very colourful with many imaginative placards and banners, and all sorts of people dressed up as lions. We heard speeches from Virginia McKenna, the actor James Cosmo of Braveheart fame, Jean Lambert MEP and others. IFAW’s Head of Policy and Campaigns, David Cowdrey, also gave a speech and was one of the participants wearing a lion mask who attracted a lot of attention.

David was part of the committee that delivered the letter to the Prime Minister in Downing Street.

There has been a massive decline of wild lion populations in Africa, with current population estimations as low as 15,000 lions, in contrast to 50 years ago when they numbered between 200,000 and 400,000—a decline of between 90 and 93 percent!

And although many factors are contributing to this, one of them is trophy hunting. Every year hundreds of  lions are killed by trophy hunters, which not only depletes struggling populations, but causes a great deal of suffering, as contrary to what many trophy hunters say, clean and quick deaths are very rare.

Remember the famous Cecil the lion killed by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe last year, who suffered in agony for more than 40 hours before he died?

IFAW is opposed to the practice of trophy hunting of any wild animal anywhere, as it raises serious animal welfare and conservation issues. Hunting is often ecologically unsustainable, and can cause tremendous suffering to individual animals and disruption of social groups.

Trophy hunters frequently target the genetic traits of individuals that make them the most successful in the wild, thereby negatively affecting the reproductive success of future generations.

Furthermore, the purported economic benefits from the perceived value of trophy hunts to local communities are often greatly exaggerated, and may in fact deprive local communities of alternative economic revenues (such as eco-tourism) that could be more lucrative in the long term. In addition to the animal welfare, conservation and economic problems trophy hunting can create, there is also a considerable ethical problem in allowing a practice that invariably harms sentient beings for sport or entertainment.

And in the case of lions we have to add the problem of the infamous canned hunting, where trophy hunters kill captive lions that have been bred in South African ranches just for this unethical bloodsport.

This is why IFAW joined this march, because we are not alone in this strong opinion.

We know that the majority of the British people agree with us because in a recent poll 93 percent showed their opposition to lion trophy hunting. As Dr Pieter Kat, Co-Founder of Lion Aid, said in his speech at the march, “There is actually very little doubt that trophy hunting started right here, in Great Britain…trophy hunting started here, and now it must end here.

If the UK is left behind, that would be a great shame for our nation.

We should be leading on this, not catching up.

Let’s be sure the Government hears us.

--JC

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