30th April 2016
Jean made the following speech at a demonstration against trophy hunting at Downing Street.
The event was organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare – IFAW, the Born Free Foundation and FourPaws.
A delegation delivered a letter to the Prime Minister on the plight of African lions and the need for urgent and concerted action by the UK government to help prevent their continued disappearance across much of the African continent.
“Thank you for the invitation to be here today at this really important event. Together, we can make a difference.
Back in 2014 the European Parliament debated and passed a resolution on Wildlife Crime.
As we have been hearing, wildlife crime is big criminal-business: up there with drugs and human trafficking and it’s big because it’s seen as comparatively risk-free in terms of being caught and the punishment you might get. That needs to change. We need to put an end to wildlife crime, just as we want to end drugs trafficking and the trafficking of human beings.
That European Parliament resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Parliament – over 600 votes in favour. It recognised the damage that unsustainable and unethical trophy hunting has caused in hastening the decline of species listed as endangered. So we are not only looking at climate change and loss of habitat but trophy hunting as well.
The European Parliament urged national governments to support a review of the legal provisions concerning the import of hunting trophies for these animals and to require permits for others. I think we can do better.
At the request of constituents, my colleague, Keith Taylor and I followed up particularly on the issue of so-called ‘canned hunting’. As you know, canned hunting involves lions bred to be killed: there is not even the alibi of hunting being used to kill an old or diseased animal or to sort out some sort of ecological balance – simply bred to be shot or hit by arrows: it’s not even hunting as a kill is guaranteed. Why can people not be satisfied to hang a picture of such a beautiful animal on their wall, rather than its sad remains? The then Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, said he would be willing to consider tightening the laws but we are waiting for action.
The European Parliament is not letting the subject go. Working with organisations here in the UK we have recently had a Written Declaration – which is like an Early Day Motion in Westminster – put forward on a cross-party basis.
This is a cross-party issue. We gathered over 100 signatures which shows there are many MEPs willing to take action and who are urging national governments to ban trophy imports.
But I want to say something about the gross distortion we have seen about this Declaration. The European Hunters lobby has claimed that, because there was not a majority of Parliamentarians signing up, this means there is a majority in favour of importing hunting trophies. This is simply not true. The Declaration process is not a vote and there are many reasons why members do not sign up to a Declaration. The hunters’ claim is truly outrageous and I note they haven’t dared to try a contrary Declaration because they know they wouldn’t get majority support.
I know all of us here were disappointed – to put it mildly – when the EU’s expert committee decided not to introduce a total ban on trophy hunting imports last year. But we have seen progress in France and, just yesterday, from the Netherlands where they have announced a national ban will be introduced. That is really good news and there’s no reason why the UK could not do the same and add its weight.
The Netherlands currently holds the presidency of Council – the national governments of the EU 28 Member States. It’s in a strong position to lead on a ban across 28 countries, so no loopholes and more joined-up action. The EU is the world’s second largest importer of hunting trophies so that ban would be a great decision to take to the CITES COP17 in South Africa later this year. It would show that the EU is determined to decrease demand for the deaths of species under pressure or endangered. It would also be part of an action plan against Wildlife Crime ahead of the Vietnam Conference – an action plan that the EU can deliver and which shows that cross-border cooperation works to protect the world’s amazing wildlife.
We don’t need the trophies – we need the wildlife.”