Britons who kill endangered animals abroad for fun will not be able to bring their hunting trophies home, the government has announced.
The proposed law will prevent big game hunters from bringing home body parts of 7,000 species including lions, rhinos, elephants and polar bears. It comes two years after the government pledged to introduce a ban.
The environment secretary, George Eustice, said the measure was expected to be one of the toughest in the world and would go beyond the government’s manifesto commitment by including near-threatened and threatened species as well as endangered ones.
“We will be leading the way in protecting endangered animals and helping to strengthen and support long-term conservation,” he said.
The ban will apply whether or not a trophy has been obtained from a wild animal or one bred in captivity specifically for the purpose of trophy hunting. Breaching the rules could land hunters in prison for up to five years.
In the past two years about 300 trophies from endangered animals have been shipped to the UK, according to the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.
The campaign’s founder, Eduardo Gonçalves, noted that the government had not specified a timetable for implementing the legislation.
He said: “The bill, as far as we’ve seen, looks to be in pretty good shape, but it has been two years since it was originally announced in the Queen’s speech, and many animals have been cruelly and needlessly killed in that time. So it is really imperative for the government to bring the bill to parliament as quickly as possible.”
Gonçalves said ministers had told him the bill could come to parliament next spring or summer, by which time “potentially another 100 or more animals will be killed and their trophies brought back to Britain”.
He said: “Delay costs lives: every week that goes by without this ban means more animals, including endangered species, are being shot by British hunters, and their trophies brought back to the country. Some of these species are careering towards extinction, and certainly the British public are very strongly opposed to trophy hunting.”
Boris Johnson has called trophy hunting a “disgusting trade”, and his father, Stanley Johnson, has campaigned extensively in favour of a ban.
Plans for a law banning hunting trophies were prompted by the shooting of Cecil the lion in 2015 by an American dentist, Walter Palmer, at a reserve in Zimbabwe.
In 2019 the government consulted on plans for a ban, which received overwhelming public support.