Cecil the lion “has not died in vain”, a minister said, as proposals to ban trophy hunting imports cleared the House of Commons.
Environment minister Trudy Harrison made the claim as the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill was given an unopposed third reading by MPs.
Clashes were expected in the Commons after Tory backbenchers Sir Bill Wiggin and Sir Christopher Chope tabled a series of amendments to the proposals, which animal rights campaigners had claimed would weaken the Bill.
But neither of the senior Tories moved their significant changes to the Bill.
The Government accepted two of their amendments aimed at establishing an advisory board on hunting trophies, and at limiting the power of the Secretary of State to add new species to the list the ban would apply to.
In an emotional moment, Ms Harrison told the Commons: “Actually, dare I say that Cecil the lion has not died in vain.
“It is an emotional day for all of us for very many reasons.”
Cecil was a 13-year-old male African lion living in a national park in Zimbabwe, who was killed in 2015 by an American big game hunter.
The killing resulted in international outrage, with criticism from UK MPs at the time from across the political spectrum.
Sir Bill explained his motivation for proposing changes to the Bill, telling the Commons: “I’ve been concerned throughout the progress of this Bill, however, that it is not motivated by a desire to see African wildlife flourish and prosper.
“If it were, then it would have paid heed to the scientific evidence provided by experts in conservation. British conservationists Professor Amy Dickman and Adam Hart have argued that 90% of protected areas with lions are severely underfunded.
“Removing trophy hunting without providing a suitable alternative of revenue will expose those underfunded protected areas to further risks such as poaching.”
He later said he believed the Bill was “a neo-colonial attempt to control conservation management programmes of African democratic countries”.
The North Herefordshire MP said: “I know that not one of us here today is a racist or has that really nasty streak of wanting to judge people by the colour of their skin, but we have to be desperately careful that we don’t signal that we know best to countries that are emerging.”
The Conservative MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, disagreed with Sir Bill’s assessment, telling the Commons: “To be clear, the territorial extent of this Bill is Great Britain.”
He added: “This is about the values that we in Britain have, that we do not want to be part of a trade in endangered species’ body parts.
“We are not telling other countries how to run their trade, or their conservation or hunting policies, although we may have a range of personal opinions on this, and it is important to remember that.”
Elsewhere in the debate, DUP Sammy Wilson raised concerns that the Bill would not apply in Northern Ireland due to the UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangements with the EU.
The East Antrim MP said: “The one disappointment that I do have is that because of the existing arrangement which the Government has with the EU, where past EU law and future EU law will apply to Northern Ireland, where Northern Ireland remains part of the EU single market, that this Bill cannot apply to Northern Ireland.”
He claimed that Northern Ireland could be used as a “back door” for hunting imports, adding: “Those who wish to go trophy hunting and reside in Northern Ireland can bring their trophies back.
“I think that that, to be part of the Untied Kingdom but yet to find that a law that is supported by over 86% of the UK population cannot apply in one part of the United Kingdom is an offence.”
Celebrities including BBC football presenter Gary Lineker signed a letter to the Times backing the ban ahead of the Commons debate.
Actor Charles Dance and explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes were among other stars who urged MPs to back the Bill, and warned against what they claimed was a “wrecking amendment” from Tory MP Sir Bill.
The Bill will now face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before it can become law.
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