Evaluating key evidence and formulating regulatory alternatives regarding the UK’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill

Public policy addressing biodiversity loss is most likely to be effective when it is informed by appropriate evidence and considers potential unintended consequences. We evaluate key evidence relating to the UK’s Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill. We characterize the UK’s role in international hunting trophy trade by analyzing CITES trade data for 2000-2021 and 2015-2021. For CITES-listed species imported to/exported from the UK as hunting trophies in these periods we use data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species to determine whether hunting designated as “trophy hunting” is i) likely a major threat contributing to species being of elevated conservation concern, ii) likely or possibly causing localized declines, or iii) not a threat. We then use the Red List to determine whether legal hunting for trophies provides, or has potential to provide, benefits for species and/or people where it takes place. Finally, we evaluate the UK Government’s impact assessment of the bill. In 2000-2021 an estimated 3494 hunting trophies from 73 CITES-listed species and subspecies were exported to the UK involving an estimated 2549 whole organism equivalents (WOEs), i.e., individual animals. Imports involved 158.86 ± 66.53 (mean ± SD) trophies/year (115.83 ± 32.27 WOEs/year). In 2015-2021, 79% of imports were from countries where populations of the hunted species were stable, increasing, or abundant. Legal hunting for trophies is not a major threat to any of the 73 species or subspecies imported to the UK, but it likely or possibly represents a local threat to 9 species. Conversely, this hunting does, or has potential to, benefit 20 species and subspecies. Among other concerns, the impact assessment fails to adequately consider the costs and benefits to local communities in countries where legal hunting for trophies occurs. Informed by these analyses we discuss more proportionate regulatory options. CLICK HERE