Boris Johnson urged to revive ban on fur, foie gras and hunt trophies

Exclusive: Nearly 40 leading animal welfare charities write to PM in last-ditch bid to ‘stop Britain propping up animal cruelty’

Jane Dalton
Saturday 07 May 2022 19:19
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Investigators have found animals on fur farms abroad deformed and subjected to extreme physical and mental suffering

Dozens of the UK’s leading animal charities have written to Boris Johnson asking him to include in the Queen’s speech an earlier promise to ban imports of hunting trophies, fur, foie gras and shark fins.

The measures were in the Animals Abroad Bill, which the government dropped earlier this year in a dramatic U-turn to the anger of campaigners who have devoted years fighting for the changes.

The bill also included a ban on the advertising of cruel tourism activities abroad, such as elephant rides and elephant entertainment venues.

The heads of 38 organisations have joined forces to back the letter, including the RSPCA, the Born Free Foundation, Peta, World Animal Protection, World Horse Welfare, Compassion in World Farming, and Whale & Dolphin Conservation.

The sister of a woman killed at an elephant theme park in Thailand last month told The Independent of her bitter disappointment that the government was shying away from a ban, instead stating it expected tourists to do their own research.

“How do holidaymakers know if you don’t tell them?” asked Helen Costigan.

The Independent previously reported that the various measures were agreed at cabinet level, before Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brandon Lewis and Mark Spencer are thought to have vetoed them – even though the changes were promised in the government’s action plan for animal welfare published last year.

Every year, hunters from the UK travel abroad, often to southern Africa, and pay thousands of pounds to legally shoot animals, such as lions, elephants and even baboons.

They are allowed to bring back body parts such as stuffed heads, paws and horns in a grisly trade that critics say is driving wildlife populations towards extinction.

The last Conservative Party election manifesto included a pledge to ban trophy hunt imports. But according to The Times, Mr Johnson has indeed dropped plans to ban the import and sale of foie gras and fur.

Conservationists have made repeated trips to Westminster to hand in petitions and have meetings with government representatives over the issues of the imports and adverts.

The charities’ latest letter tells the prime minister: “We would welcome the opportunity to meet with your office and discuss the government’s plans and ambitions for animals in the next session and look forward to hearing from you.”

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, said: “Boris Johnson made a promise to the people that after Brexit, Britain would become world leaders in animal welfare.

“He can keep that promise by ensuring that the Animals Abroad Bill with proposed bans on cruel fur, foie gras, shark fins and other horrors, is in the Queen’s speech next week.

Protests outside parliament against the dropping of the bill

“These bans would stop Britain propping up animal cruelty that is already banned from happening here, such as killing animals for fur fashion, cutting off the fins of sharks for shark fin soup, or force-feeding ducks to the point of morbid obesity to produce a pate.

“We urge the prime minister to stop hesitating on a Bill of which Britain should be proud, and for which Britain would be applauded around the world.”

More than 200,000 people have signed a petition started by television presenter Chris Packham calling for the government to uphold its pledge to ban fur and foie gras, while a separate campaign petition to end fur imports has gathered more than a million signatures.

A crackdown on foie gras was promised in the Queen’s speech this time last year.

The Kept Animals Bill, which bans live exports, keeping primates as pets and tackles puppy smuggling, was postponed in the last parliamentary session and is due to continue its passage into law via a carryover motion in the next.

The government refused to comment on what would be in next week’s Queen’s speech.

A spokesperson said: “This government is firm in its commitment to upholding its world leading standards in animal welfare.

“The Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill, Glue Traps (Offences) Bill and Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill have now received royal assent, further strengthening the UK’s position as a world leader for animal health and welfare now that we have left the EU.”

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