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Former Botswana president urges ‘unethical’ Lords to back trophy hunting import ban

Ian Khama said Lords are 'easily lobbied by the pro-hunting cartel'
Ian Khama said Lords are 'easily lobbied by the pro-hunting cartel' - WIKUS DE WET/AFP via Getty Images

The former president of Botswana has called on the “unethical” House of Lords to back a new ban on trophy hunting imports.

Ian Khama, who imposed a ban on trophy hunting during his time in office, hit out at the small group of peers who blocked similar legislation in the autumn and urged them to take a stand against the “selfish” industry.

The latest bill, brought by John Spellar, the Labour backbencher, would stop British hunters bringing back keepsakes such as elephant tusks or lion pelts from expeditions.

However, the former president’s intervention prompted a backlash from community groups in Botswana who claim “sustainable” hunting is needed to safeguard their livelihoods.

Mr Khama told The Telegraph: “The House of Lords is not like the House of Commons. Because they are appointed, they’re not elected. They don’t have a constituency.

“It’s not like they say: ‘I’m representing people. And if I don’t do this, I’ll be out at the next election.’

“So they are easily lobbied by the pro-hunting cartel… it may be part of the democratic system, but it’s also undemocratic.”

He continued: “It’s very unethical. They are not looking at the bigger picture when it comes to animal welfare and the survival of the species.”

‘Corruption from the very top’

The first bill to crack down on trophy hunting passed through the Commons last year with Government backing. Hunting groups spent more than £1 million “lobbying like mad” against the legislation, MPs later claimed.

Referring to an African lion killed in 2015 by an American big game hunter, Trudy Harrison, parliamentary under-secretary for environment, declared: “Cecil the Lion has not died in vain.”

However, the legislation was blocked in September when a group of 11 peers tabled dozens of amendments to make it run out of time.

Mr Khama urged Parliament to back the replacement bill on a visit to London. He also hit out at political leaders in Botswana who repealed his hunting ban, claiming it had been driven by “corruption from the very top”.

“During my time we lost, I think, one or two rhinos in 10 years; they’ve lost a couple of hundred in four years,” he said.

Several African high commissioners, including those from Botswana, have argued that hunting is needed to fund anti-poaching squads and conservation efforts.

‘Ridiculous statements’

However, Mr Khama said the policy was a self-serving justification which had caused the populations of endangered species to collapse.

“It suits them to do so,” he said. “If you follow what some politicians say in trying to sell something they can come up with some of the most ridiculous statements and reasons for something.

“If they – in some cases, I’m not saying in all – think they are benefitting personally, then they will come up and say hunting promotes conservation. Well if it does, why are we still seeing the decline?”

Following Mr Khama’s visit, a group of 18 Botswana community groups criticised the former president’s “lobbying efforts”.

“Enforcing a blanket ban on trophy hunting is not a panacea for conservation but rather a threat to the sustainable benefits [we] derive from wildlife,” they said in a joint letter.