Michael Gove tells BBC he is ‘cautious’ over trophy hunting ban

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has told BBC Radio 5 Live that the UK will not be banning trophy hunting imports yet.

Speaking to ex cricketer Kevin Pietersen, Mr Gove says it is a “delicate political balancing act”.

Pietersen was talking to the Minister for his new BBC Radio 5 Live podcast Beast of Man, in which he looks at the hunting of endangered species, especially the rhino, in his native South Africa.

Michael Gove says that he had been advised by charities to “be cautious” in following other countries and outlawing the controversial practice of importing animal parts resulting from the hunts of rare, often endangered, animals.

Former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen has left his batting career behind to pursue a new passion for conservation.

He has vowed to try to get the UK government to change its stance on allowing trophy hunters to import goods.

He was born in South Africa and filmed a documentary about trophy hunting after Cecil the lion was killed in Zimbabwe in 2015.

Pietersen asks Gove why the UK has not followed other countries including Australia, France and the Netherlands and enforced a ban on trophies.

Mr Gove responds that he has been advised by conservationists and charities to proceed with caution. He says:  “Don’t come in, you know, with your clod-hopping boots from the UK and necessarily tell people in each of these countries exactly how they should regulate their own wildlife,” he said.

“On an emotional level and on a personal level, I find difficult to understand. But you know I also recognise that I’ve got to respect if there is expertise, which says that being done in a managed way can help wildlife overall, then let’s just test that.”

Currently, if a trophy hunter wanted to bring a souvenir from their hunt back into the UK, they could do so, with a special permit.

A cross-party Early Day Motion, signed by more than 159 MPs, has also called on the UK government to stop trophy hunting imports of endangered species.

Mr Gove adds: “I think that there is growing momentum for the law to change. But what I don’t want to do is to get ahead.”

“I don’t want to be in a position where am I running so far in advance of what other charities and other leaders want, that we risk the good relationship that’s been built up over time.

“Like so many areas of campaigning, it’s partly a process of education and it’s partly a process of dialogue.

He said he was aware that some communities had got used to an income from trophy hunting: “We’ve got to make sure that there is a clear alternative that they know that their livelihoods and their lifestyle are going to be respected and not patronised before they will feel comfortable about moving.”

One trophy hunter has told the Kevin Pietersen: Beast of Man podcast that the sport is thrilling and helped conservation: “To shoot an elephant is an awesome thing to do, it is a stunningly, stunningly awesome thing to do, which is why I did it.

“I want to try and preserve those wild places in Africa. But the only way they get preserved is if there’s money. If it doesn’t pay it doesn’t stay. It’s as simple as that.”

Clients, mainly from Europe or the US, pay often thousands of pounds to take part in a hunt, and keep a ‘trophy’ – usually the head or skin, or another body part.

In 2018, more than 50 celebrities – including singers Ed Sheeran and Liam Gallagher – signed an open letter in support of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, urging the Government to ban trophy hunters from importing body parts into Britain.

BBC Radio 5 Live podcast Kevin Pietersen: Beast of Man is available on BBC Sounds, subscribe here:

Press Release Credit: BBC 5 Live.