Michael Gove has invited trophy hunting campaigners and conservationists to meet with him today as concern mounts over the impact of British hunters on endangered wildlife.
Later in the day, MPs will debate whether to ban hunting trophy imports into Britain. Over 160 MPs from across all parties have signed a motion in support of a ban.
A new report published today by the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting shows that the number of hunting trophies being brought back to Britain has risen more than 10-fold since the 1980s.
An investigation by the group reveals that the government has given permits to British hunters to bring home hunting trophies of tigers, black rhinos, and a rare sea turtle.
UK trophy hunters have also been allowed by Defra to shoot scimitar-horned oryxes, which are classed as extinct in the wild; the Addax, of which just 30-90 survive in the wild; and the dama gazelle, reduced to just 100-200 animals.
Defra has also given the green light to hunters wanting to shoot the Arabian Oryx, which went extinct in the wild in the 1970s when the last surviving animal was killed by a hunter.
An intensive breeding programme using animals in zoos and private collections has led to some recently being reintroduced back into the wild.
However records held by CITES - the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora - show that Arabian oryxes are once again being shot by British hunters.
Britain is among the world’s worst countries when it comes to hunting elephants for ivory and other trophies, as well as for shooting ‘canned lions’ - lions that have been bred in captivity and killed in enclosures for low-cost trophies.
Records show that UK hunters are also killing large numbers of primates including several species of monkey and baboon, as well as wild sheep and goats for ‘sport’.
Last week, a global report warned that 1 million species face possible extinction. Up to 1.7 million trophies were taken by sport hunters over the last decade alone, including over 200,000 from threatened species.
Eduardo Gonçalves, the founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting who has been invited to meet Mr Gove on Wednesday, said: “The trophy hunting industry is using ludicrous arguments to try to convince politicians that this colonial-era sport is now being done for ‘conservation’.
“A major US Congressional study contradicts the industry’s claims that trophy hunting can benefit wildlife. The IUCN says that big game hunting ‘does not work’ when it comes to conservation."
Gonçalves continued: "Andrew Loveridge, the British scientist who famously studied Cecil the lion until his death, has told of the devastating impact of trophy hunting on protected lions in his new book.
“I very much hope Michael Gove listens to the evidence and acts swiftly not just to ban trophies from coming into Britain, but also to help bring an end to this archaic, cruel and devastating industry.
“Trophy hunting is one of the last remaining great social evils. It should follow legal slavery and apartheid into the history books.”
Dozens of leading public figures and wildlife groups from around the world including Africa have written to the government in support of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting’s call for a UK ban on hunting trophies.
This article is based on a press release from the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.