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'Cecil didn't die in vain': Emotions rise as Trophy Hunting Bill passes

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Environment minister hails 'emotional day' as Tory MP says proposal to ban trade in endangered species' body parts represents British values

Amy Gibbons, Political Correspondent 17 March 2023 • 10:00pm

Trudy Harrison appeared close to tears when announcing the Bill's success

The environment minister declared that "Cecil the lion has not died in vain" as proposals to ban trophy hunting imports cleared the Commons.

Trudy Harrison said the milestone marked an "emotional day" for "very many reasons", crediting the move to the big cat's legacy.

The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill - backed by celebrities including Gary Lineker - would block British hunters from bringing home game souvenirs such as heads and pelts.

Clashes were expected in the chamber after Sir Bill Wiggin and Sir Christopher Chope, senior Tory backbenchers, tabled a string of amendments to the proposals, including an exemption for certain so-called "trophies".

But neither moved their significant changes to the Bill, and it was given an unopposed third reading by MPs on Friday - meaning it will now progress to the Lords.

Appearing close to tears, Ms Harrison told the Commons: "Dare I say that Cecil the lion has not died in vain. It is an emotional day for all of us for very many reasons."

Cecil was a 13-year-old male African lion living in a national park in Zimbabwe, who was killed in 2015 by an American big game hunter.

The incident prompted international outrage, with criticism from UK MPs at the time from across the political spectrum.

Cecil's death in 2015 angered conservationists around the world

Critics of the Bill say the profits from blood sports are used to pay for conservation projects in African countries where hunting is widespread, and ultimately help to protect wildlife.

Sir Bill, who had tabled the exemption for select "trophies", argued that failing to provide a "suitable alternative of revenue" for "underfunded" protected areas would only increase the risk of poaching.

He went on to brand the proposals "a neo-colonial attempt to control conservation management programmes of African democratic countries."

But Henry Smith, the Tory MP for Crawley who introduced the Private Members' Bill, stressed that "the territorial extent of this Bill is Great Britain".

He added: "This is about the values that we in Britain have, that we do not want to be part of a trade in endangered species' body parts."

The import ban has received high-profile backing from stars including actor Dame Judi Dench, musician Liam Gallagher and comedian Ricky Gervais.

The import ban has received wide-ranging support Credit: Paul Nicholls

But the Bill has angered governments in southern Africa, who have written to Andrew Mitchell, the minister for Africa and Development, complaining about a lack of consultation.

Elsewhere in the debate, Sammy Wilson, the DUP's chief whip in the Commons, raised concerns that the proposals would not apply in Northern Ireland due to the UK's post-Brexit trade arrangements with the EU.

The Government accepted two of the senior Tories' amendments, aimed at establishing an advisory board on hunting trophies and at limiting the power of the Secretary of State to add new species to the banned list.

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