By Michael Gove, Secretary Of State For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs For The Daily Mail 21:04 14 Jul 2019, updated 22:01 14 Jul 2019
During the passionate debates inspired by Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, one churchman sceptical of evolution asked his contemporaries, ‘are we the relatives of apes or angels?’
We know now, of course, that we are indeed related genetically to our primate cousins. Indeed, more than that, we are connected by the process of evolution to all the other species with which we share this planet.
That knowledge should incline us to treat animals with thought and care. Not least because we know they are, like us, sentient beings who can experience fear and pain alongside contentment and comfort. If we abuse and mistreat animals we are diminishing our own humanity. To accord them the dignity they deserve is to be true to what Abraham Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature’.
One of the practices we must look to tackle is the phenomenon called trophy hunting – whereby tourists pay huge sums to kill some of our planet’s most iconic species and then bring home parts of the animal’s corpse to decorate their homes. Pictured: Michael Gove with Tusk Trust rhino art statues outside the Foreign Office
Improving the welfare of animals, both domestic pets and farm livestock, has been one of the missions of this Government. And we have also been determined to do all in our power to protect wildlife from exploitation and cruelty.
That is why we have taken steps to end puppy farming, ban wild animals in circuses, increase sentences for those who abuse animals, protect service animals, invested in higher standards of animal welfare in our farms, installed CCTV in abattoirs to eliminate cruel practices, and will restrict the live export of animals for slaughter when we leave the EU.
We have also introduced one of the toughest bans on ivory sales in the world. But there is still more to do. And one of the practices we must look to tackle is the phenomenon called trophy hunting – whereby tourists pay huge sums to kill some of our planet’s most iconic species and then bring home parts of the animal’s corpse to decorate their homes.
This practice raises profound ethical concerns for me. Trophy hunting involves pursuing another animal in conditions which cause it stress, fear and pain. Trophy hunters do not kill for food, to control pests or to protect other species. For them it is a form of entertainment.
This practice raises profound ethical concerns for me. Trophy hunting involves pursuing another animal in conditions which cause it stress, fear and pain. Trophy hunters do not kill for food, to control pests or to protect other species. For them it is a form of entertainment. Pictured: Outrage – Hunter Larysa Switlyk (far right) posted this picture after shooting an alligator
And what often makes this practice worse is when these hunters glory in the animal’s death with pictures of its slaughtered body by their side on social media. But we must ensure we proceed on the basis of evidence and respect for others. There are thoughtful voices and concerned organisations who do make the case for some measure of ‘conservation hunting’ as a way of bringing income into countries with rich wildlife populations but poor economies.
They argue that commercial hunting provides a strong incentive for those nations to manage and safeguard their wildlife populations. It is said that without income from hunting, the countries would be under pressure to replace wildlife-rich habitats with farmland or other economically productive land uses – which would mean the precious species were without a home. And many say the money raised can be used to safeguard other valuable natural resources from exploitation.
I appreciate the sincerity with which those arguments are made. And I recognise that there must always be, from time to time, the culling of some species to keep nature in balance and the control of predators to protect other species.
And what often makes this practice worse is when these hunters glory in the animal’s death with pictures of its slaughtered body by their side on social media. But we must ensure we proceed on the basis of evidence and respect for others. Pictured: Gove (right) and Zac Goldsmith with Tusk Trust rhino art statues outside the Foreign Office
But I find it hard to see how those justifications can be used to defend those who ‘hunt’ animals which have been bred in captivity for the specific purpose of dying for others’ entertainment. We need to act to stop this sort of exploitation, and because we need to establish just how defensible the arguments for ‘conservation hunting’ are, I plan to issue a call for evidence on trophy hunting overall.
I want to know whether countries with rich wildlife populations couldn’t make just as much, if not more, income from wildlife tourism than from hunting. I want to establish what we can learn from other nations, such as Australia and the Netherlands, which have much tighter restrictions on importing these ‘trophies’.
I hope that as we gather the evidence, we also gather the momentum for action.
And we ensure that this Parliament is remembered for what we did for nature.
Michael Gove aims to crackdown on big-game hunters by banning them from bringing trophies from their kills back to the UK
by Claire Ellicott and Jack Doyle
Michael Gove will take the first steps towards banning imports from trophy hunting, he tells the Mail today.
The Environment Secretary will issue a call for evidence to decide whether to outlaw hunters bringing the souvenirs into the country.
He will also consult on what the UK can do to end its role in the rearing of animals in fenced reserves where they are shot by trophy hunters.
Trophy hunting is the shooting of certain animals – usually big game such as rhinos, elephants, lions, pumas and bears – for pleasure.
The trophy is any part of the animal – its head, skin or any other body part – that the hunter keeps as a souvenir.
Mr Gove said there was an important debate about whether trophy hunting in poorer countries could be used to enhance their economies.
But he added that it was important to explore whether these countries would not benefit more from wildlife tourism.
He also criticised the practice of ‘lion canning’ which involves thousands of lions in South Africa being bred and kept in fenced areas to be shot by wealthy travellers.
He said: ‘I find it hard to see how those justifications can be used to defend those who ‘hunt’ animals, who have been bred in captivity for the specific purpose of dying for others’ entertainment.’
Trophy hunting is rife in certain parts of the world, with 1.7 million trophies legally traded between 2004 and 2014. About 200,000 were from threatened species.
Of those, 2,500 were brought home by British hunters, including hundreds of heads, feet, tails, hides, tusks and horns from some of the most endangered species, including rhinos and elephants.
Lions were hit with the biggest increase in trophy hunting among the big five – despite their numbers decreasing by 43 per cent between 1993 and 2014.
Quite often, hunters cause outrage by showing off their prizes in pictures on social media.
And not all have to travel to far-flung plains to satisfy their blood lust.
Last year, a self-styled ‘Hardcore Huntress’ proudly posted pictures of herself beside the carcasses of sheep and goats she had shot on a trip to Scotland.
American television host Larysa Switlyk had been on a two-week hunting trip to Islay, a remote Scottish island, when she tweeted the images.
The 33-year-old labelled one picture of a dead goat ‘such fun’, prompting a furious online backlash.
Mr Gove has already banned ivory to prevent its trade in the UK and protect threatened species.