In response to a biased statement made by a civil servant of the British government, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) have published an open letter addressed to the Rt Hon. George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs (DEFRA).
The statement in question was given by a DEFRA spokesperson in a recent article in the Independent, entitled “British hunters have killed at least 60 lions since Cecil shot, as ministers delay trophy imports ban again.”
The article details inter alia the current delay in the release of the outcome of DEFRA’s consultation on the controls that govern the import and export of hunting trophies in to and out of the UK.
While the consultation is intended to serve as an opportunity for the British government to come to a fact based decision on the topic of hunting trophies, this statement indicates that DEFRA is not impartial on this issue, which may impact the validity of the consultation itself.
The open letter, addressed from the President of the CIC, George Aman, calls for the statement to be retracted from the article in the Independent, and suggests that measures should be implemented to ensure that the consultation is conducted using an impartial and fact based approach.
The contents of the open letter can be found below.
Subject: DEFRA Spokesperson Gives Biased Statement on Hunting Trophy Consultation
To the attention of the Rt Hon. George Eustice MP, Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural affairs
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to you as President of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC), an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) that advocates for wildlife conservation through the principles of sustainable use.
It has come to our attention that a DEFRA spokesperson has recently made, in our opinion, a biased statement regarding DEFRA’s consultation on the controls that govern the import and export of hunting trophies in to and out of the United Kingdom (UK).
This statement was made in a recent article in the Independent, entitled “British hunters have killed at least 60 lions since Cecil shot, as ministers delay trophy imports ban again,” 1 which details inter alia the current delay in the release of the consultation outcome.
The following is an excerpt from the section of the article that I am referring to in relation to the biased statement:
‘A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “There is a clear manifesto commitment to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals and we continue to work to end this shocking trade.” ’
While the Conservative government did indeed pledge to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered species, this statement clearly indicates that DEFRA is prejudiced on the issue of “trophy hunting” and the import and export of hunting trophies, prior to the publishing of the consultation outcome.
This is concerning, particularly as the hunting trophy consultation is intended to serve as an opportunity for the government of the United Kingdom to come to a decision on this topic, which is achieved by gathering information from all stakeholders and actors that may be affected by the introduction of restrictions on the movement of hunting trophies.
The trade of hunting trophies is a particularly complex issue, as it is known to support and provide benefits to wildlife, economies, and human livelihoods, all across the world. Policy changes on the movement of trophies will undoubtedly have a significant negative impact on both wildlife populations and human livelihoods, regardless of where one stands on the topic of hunting trophies. This is evidenced by a number of recent studies on the impacts that a ban on hunting trophy imports would have on wildlife conservation and human livelihoods.2 The impacts resulting from the Covid-19 are a live, practical example of what would happen.3
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the consultation and subsequent review of consultation materials is conducted using an impartial, fact and science based approach. We are concerned that DEFRA’s stance on hunting trophies may impair their judgement when coming to a final decision on the consultation, as there is a risk that legitimate facts and evidence that demonstrate the benefits associated with the import and export of hunting trophies may be dismissed due to this pre-existing bias.
We would therefore urge DEFRA to retract this statement, which was made by a civil servant of the British government administration, from the aforementioned article in the Independent, and would also strongly recommend that DEFRA implement measures to ensure that the consultation is conducted using a fair and fact-based approach.