Sir Mike Penning speaks in favour of the Private Member's Bill to ban the import of hunting trophies and reminds the Government that this was an election manifesto commitment.
I will not delay the House for long, as lots of colleagues want to get in and this Bill needs to be on the statute book, so we need to get it into Committee. As we have heard, this was a manifesto commitment of ours at the last election, as it was for the two main Opposition parties. I do not believe that any political party has opposed it.
For me, this is not just about speaking out on behalf of my constituents, many of whom have written to me; I had the honour and privilege to serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces in parts of the world where this used to take place—I am referring to Kenya. Kenya and that part of the world suffers enough from poaching, and we have heard about the number of species that are endangered, a lot of them because of poaching. This is greatly adding to that risk. I can remember being a young soldier and being lucky enough to go off at the weekend to the Ark, which is in the Aberdare park in Kenya, a most beautiful place to go. As a young soldier, there were lots of places I wanted to go; I never thought that I would want to go to a safari park, but I was truly amazed by what I saw. People wanted to go and have a piece of nature they could take home through photography, not with its head missing or after it had been shot.
The word “hunter” is used, but many of the animals are caged and then released; they are purely bred for someone to shoot them. That is so brave, isn’t it? I am a pretty good shot; I served many years in the armed forces and I shot at Bisley. Is it brave to have someone breed and release something, and then shoot it from just a few feet away? We have heard why some of those animals suffer for so long after they have been shot. Are the “hunters” all bad shots? Not necessarily—some animals are being shot in places where they will not die straight away, simply because people do not want to damage the head, which will be used as a trophy later on. The animal suffers and suffers.
With wildlife under so much pressure, and with the scourge of poaching, why can this House not do what we are entitled to do? I do not mean to tell another country what to do. We can absolutely praise other countries when they are doing the right thing. I should perhaps declare an interest here as the father of a marine biologist daughter; she will be watching me today ensuring I am talking about crocodiles and other things—saltwater crocodiles, in particular.
This is a moral issue for us. It is a moral issue for the countries that are allowing it, and the argument that this is bringing money into those countries is absolutely false. The WWF has been on the record about that; the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) said earlier that the WWF did not support this Bill. That is fundamentally wrong. Anyone who has read the pamphlet that has been sent around today will see that there are definitive quotes in there. It is a lie to say it is creating a safe haven for the animals and protecting those species. They are being driven to the point of extinction in so many different ways.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith), who has done brilliantly well by bringing the Bill forward, alluded to elephants. Elephants have an amazing ability to remember things and hand them down from generation to generation, particularly when it comes to water. I was with a military unit in Kenya, and we were trying to find a suitable water source. We were on exercise, like the British military do, and a herd of elephants decided that they were going to come to the wadi, where we thought there was no water at all. They came right through the middle of the camp—it was quite interesting, to say the least. Because of the memory of the matriarch in that herd, they knew that there was water a few feet down. There had not been water in that wadi for years.
If we destroy, or allow to be destroyed, that innate ability to survive, by not passing this Bill we are just as bad as that man or woman who is shooting those animals. We are as bad as them. They are cowards, and we will be cowards if we do not pass this Bill today.
This is such an important subject, and my hon .Friend is right to highlight at the start of his speech that this is about us in this country banning imports, rather than about telling other countries what they should do. Is he aware that because there is such a shortage of lions in the wild now that captive lions are being bred and released into enclosures for the trophy hunters to shoot them?
My right hon. Friend raises an important and alarming point; the so-called “canned” shooting of lions and other majestic animals bred solely to be shot by trophy hunters in an enclosure is a particularly sickening aspect of this, which this country should have no part in whatsoever.
I apologise to the House, because I probably spoke for too long. These people are not hunters; we are being generous by calling them hunters, yet in this House we continue to call them that. Hunting an animal that cannot get away is not hunting.
My right hon. Friend makes a salient point. Shooting magnificent animals such as rhinos, elephants and lions, and calling it “sport”, is abhorrent.