Opponents of the Mirror-backed legislation held a briefing in a Palace of Westminster committee room where they outlined why they believed the plan would not work.
Campaigners fear Tory peers are plotting to derail a law banning “sick” trophy hunting imports.
Members of the House of Lords, which is considering the Mirror-backed Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, were briefed this week by senior officials from Botswana and Zambia, where “vile” trophy hunting takes place, we can reveal.
Peers were told the Bill going through Parliament is “misinformed” and heard claims the bloodsport leads to “successful conservation” in Africa.
The revelation of the briefing comes on the eighth anniversary of the killing of Cecil the Lion on Sunday, which triggered international outrage and prompted calls for a crackdown on trophy hunting.
Shadow Environment Minister Baroness Sue Hayman said: “It’s concerning that a small number of peers are attempting to derail this Bill when it has clear government and cross-party support – and the support of the majority of the public in this country.”
The legislation, which has cleared all its hurdles in the Commons and is currently going through the committee stage in the Lords, aims to stop hunters bringing their souvenirs home to Britain.
The Bill, led by Conservative backbench MP Henry Smith, would block hunting tourists importing animal skins, severed heads and carcasses after shoots abroad.
MP Henry Smith is leading the Bill’s parliamentary progress(
But supporters fear it could be amended in Lords – and say they have uncovered a Tory-led plot to hamper the Bill’s progress.
The Mirror was tipped off about an email sent on Monday by Conservative aristocrat Lord Mancroft, 66, to handpicked peers, including many who are known to shoot or have hunting backgrounds.
The Eton-educated, hereditary peer was Joint Master of the Vale of the White Horse Hunt, known as the VWH, in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire for 11 years between 1987 and 1998.
He has been chairman of the Standing Conference on Countryside Sports and Wildlife Management since 2009 and chairman of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association since 2014.
Lord Mancroft invited colleagues to a briefing with African officials opposed to the legislation.
He told peers: “Ahead of the Committee Stage of the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, I will be hosting a meeting to allow Peers the opportunity of listening to, and asking questions of a number of representatives from Botswana, Zambia and Mexico, with direct responsibility for the management of wildlife in those countries, along with a representative of the UK Deer Management industry.”
Conservative peer Lord Mancroft
Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting acting chief executive Adam Cruise(
Trophy hunting supporters believe the pastime helps fund schemes to protect other wildlife by funding conservation schemes – and want to amend the Bill.
Just before 6pm on Wednesday, 22 peers filed past a portrait of former Tory PM the Earl of Guildford and into Parliament’s red-carpeted, wallpapered Committee Room 3A for an hour-long briefing.
Inside, they heard from Botswana’s Minister for Environment and Tourism, Philda Nani Kereng; the ministry’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Thato Y Raphaka; Dr Kabelo Senyatso, the director Wildlife and National Parks of Botswana; and Bupe Banda from Zambia’s Natural Resources Board Management Organisation.
Botswana’s High Commissioner to Britain, John Ndebele Seakgosing, was also there but did not address peers.
The Mirror understands peers were told countries involved in trophy hunting have safeguards to bolster conservation, with one official insisting they “have a controlled hunting system”.
One source inside the room said: “It was very much the Botswana show.”
Supporters of the Bill fear some peers will be inspired to try and block or overhaul the legislation after hearing from the representatives.
Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting acting chief executive Adam Cruise said: “There is overwhelming public support for a ban on trophy hunting imports to curb these vile expeditions.
“No amount of lobbying by opponents of the Bill should be allowed to overturn the will of the elected Commons, which has backed this vital legislation.
“Peers are perfectly entitled to hear from whomever they want.
“But we hope that when it comes to it they vote to protect wildlife and crack down on this sick sport.
“The real reason hunters kill endangered animals is to bring their prized trophy home to hang on a wall or display as an ornament in their living room.
“Trophy hunters are not interested in communities or conservation.”
The 2019 Conservative election manifesto vowed to “ban imports from trophy hunting of endangered animals”.
Animal rights campaigners want the Government to take over the legislation, which began its parliamentary journey as a Private Member’s Bill, to ensure it becomes law.
Activist Jane Washington-Evans said: “It is eight years since the brutal death of Cecil the Lion.
“I am askingRishi Sunakto do the right thing – make it a Government Bill and ban trophy hunting imports before this bill falls.
“If the Government fails to deliver on this key manifesto pledge – even if it is because of some unelected peers – voters won’t forgive them.”
Lord Mancroft told the Mirror he invited “anyone who I thought might be interested … on all sides of the argument” to the briefing.
“The purpose of the meeting was to brief about the Bill,” he said.
“There is an argument being put forward that using trophy hunting to manage wildlife does not positively impact on local communities.
“The argument for what they were telling us is actually it’s a vitally important part of their conservation programme.”
He confirmed all the speakers invited were against the Bill, adding: “It was not a secret meeting – anybody could have come who wanted to.”
He wants to amend the Bill to allow trophy imports “if you can demonstrate that the hunting took place in an area which was properly regulated” and can be proved to the UK body which grants licences.