Defra's trophy-worthy blunder

13 December 2021

6:55 PM

13 December 2021

6:55 PM

The Sunday People is not normally top of Steerpike’s reading list but Mr S was intrigued to see it yesterday trumpeting an exclusive. The newspaper has declared victory in its long-running campaign for an end to the import of hunting trophies. For George Eustice is now backing its bid to end the trade in such objects, with the Environment Secretary quoted as promising ‘one of the toughest bans in the world.’

It breathlessly reports that there will be up to seven years in jail for those caught smuggling skins, heads and other body part ‘souvenirs’ to Britain, with the ban to cover some 6,000 animals deemed under threat from the trade, including the ‘big five’ of lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo. Reindeer will also now be included – happy Christmas Rudolph.

All this of course comes, er, a mere two years after Boris Johnson vowed to ‘end this vile trade’ amid warnings that ‘every day of delay’ means ‘more lives of vulnerable and threatened species lost.’ And, perhaps more noticeably, the announcement came in the same week that Defra quietly corrected its figures as to the number of trophies brought into the country.

Junior minister Rebecca Pow has been forced to admit that the number of lions, tigers, African elephants, cheetahs and polar bear trophies brought into the UK in the last five years was nearly 230 per cent high than previously feared, with the actual number being 143 and not the original 61 she claimed in July.

It also transpires that more than double the number of previously-estimated species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species were recorded in the UK in 2020, having been revised upwards from 12 to 26. And on top of this the total number of hunting trophies of animals born or bred in captivity has jumped from 19 to 36 – despite Pow originally insisting that not a single animal had been born in captivity when there were, in fact, eight.

And the Ministry of Defence is little better for animal-rights lovers. Asked last week as to whether the Queen’s Guard’s caps would switch from real bear fur to a faux version, minister Jeremy Quin reported that the material met just one of the five requirements to be considered as a viable alternative for ceremonial caps. In a victory for traditionalists, Quin noted that the version commissioned by PETA ‘sadly’ showed unacceptable rates of water shedding and performed poorly on the visual assessment. As the MoD will not be taking it forward as the cap is required to be worn throughout the year and in all weathers.

So much for it being the Carrie Johnson government, eh?

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