Boris Johnson has broken the whopping promise he made to Brits a year ago today

Boris Johnson
Tracy Keeling

The 2019 Queen’s Speech, which laid out the government’s intentions, took place on 14 October that year. In the speech, the Queen relayed Boris Johnson’s plan to bring forward proposals to ban trophy hunting imports. It’s now a year to the date of that promise.

The government has since carried out a consultation that offered some potential “options” for a ban. But it hasn’t provided any firm proposals on the ban yet, or indeed released the results of its consultation. In short, the UK is hardly any closer to banning trophy hunting imports than it was a year ago.

“Get on with it”

Johnson reiterated his government’s intention to ban trophy imports in February. Responding to comments from fellow Tory Pauline Latham, in which she urged the PM to act ‘decisively’ on the ban, Johnson said:

We mean to end the import into this country of trophies hunted elsewhere.

More recently, Conservative MP Roger Gale urged the government to “get on with it “. Speaking to the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) in its webinar at the Conservative Party Conference, Gale said:

To ban trophy hunting, to ban the import of trophies into the United Kingdom, can almost be done at the stroke of a pen. It doesn’t require a massive bill to do it, it requires the political will, the determination and the decision. And I see absolutely no reason why this government cannot do that tomorrow.

Opposition

As The Canary has previously reported, however, the debate over trophy hunting is a contentious one. It has split the conservation community, with some standing in support of it as a so-called ‘conservation tool’. Others robustly challenge this notion, arguing that it’s deeply damaging to wildlife and offers little to the communities who live alongside targeted species.

Hunting advocacy groups, meanwhile, have managed to embed themselves in global wildlife watchdogs which muddies matters further. Because that means they have the ear of the decision-makers within these bodies. There’s no doubt that such groups have also tried to get the ear of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) during the consultation on the ban. One of the industry’s major players is Safari Club International (SCI). It urged hunters, regardless of their nationality, to tell the UK government that “further restrictions are not needed”. Like SCI, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) opposed any action.

The position of these groups stands in contrast to most of the British public. As the Humane Society International’s Arthur Thomas explained at CBTH’s webinar, the public ‘overwhelmingly’ support a ban. In polling, 80% of people supported such a measure.

Banned

Another ban has been forthcoming recently. Facebook removed a network of accounts, pages, and Instagram accounts due to “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on 6 October. Facebook’s probe into the behaviour was prompted by a Washington Post article on the social media activities of a group called Turning Point Action, an affiliate of the pro-Trump group Turning Point USA. A marketing company called Rally Forge was at the centre of the controversy. As the Washington Post reported, Facebook has since announced that the company will be ‘permanently banned’ from the platform.

This ban, and the removal of the network, was due to Rally Forge-linked accounts, posting commentary or content that “appeared grassroots but was in fact paid commentary”, known as astroturfing, a report from the Stanford Internet Observatory detailed. Alongside Turning Point Action, it appears that Rally Forge also counted a company called the Inclusive Conservation Group (ICG) as one of its clients and some of the now removed accounts were pumping out pro-trophy hunting propaganda on behalf of ICG.

Busted

As the Stanford Internet Observatory noted:

Freelance wildlife conservation writer Jared Kukura posted a series of articles to his site, Wild Things Initiative, documenting what he believed to be suspicious social media activity by the Inclusive Conservation Group.

In his coverage of ICG’s activity, Kukura noted that the “bulk” of its funding comes from Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) and Shikar-Safari Club International Foundation. He also detailed a grant request that ICG made to SCIF for further funding in 2019. As Kukura pointed out, in a tagline featured in the grant request, ICG offered an idea of what its operations entail:

shape, inform, manipulate, mislead, expose, diminish, promote, deceive, coerce, deter, mobilize, convince.

Kukura attributed two Facebook pages to ICG in particular in his articles, which ICG had itself brandished as examples of its work in the 2019 grant request, Proud American Hunter and Let Africa Live. Facebook removed both of these pages in its recent enforcement action.

Credibility hit

Speaking to The Canary, Kukura said he was “happy” Facebook has removed the accounts and that his “research helped their investigation”. But he said:

I raised these concerns with Facebook back in June and received no response. It wasn’t until the Washington Post started investigating disinformation spread by Turning Point USA that Facebook really took the initiative to do something.

Although Kukura expressed doubt that Facebook’s action would affect the trophy hunting industry’s behaviour overall, he said:

this does significantly hurt the trophy hunting industry’s credibility and I personally don’t understand how anyone would be willing to work in good faith with organizations like Safari Club International in light of these recent events.

Indeed, the industry’s credibility has taken a hit. Because it’s shown that it has to fund ‘inauthentic’ information ops in order to make it look like it has substantial public support. As the polls show, support FOR trophy hunting among the UK public is, in reality, in very short supply. But the public needs Johnson to fulfil his promise in order for a trophy hunting import ban to come into force.

Featured image via the Independent / YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. You are a card, Tracy. Top marks for persistence.
      It was the govt intention to ban trophy hunting and so it called for evidence. Poor Boris appears to be under the influence of his partner, Carrie, whose only claim to wildlife fame was her Puffingate fiasco, when she publicly urged the government to take immediate action along the lines of “to stop British trophy hunters who are going to Iceland to slaughter puffins by the hundred and bring their sad little trophies home”. It turned out that no British hunter ever has, and in any case, a puffin’s head on the wall would make a pretty poor trophy. Apparently they sustainably eat puffins in Iceland, a traditional harvest. It also turned out the Puffingate evidence given to the UK papers were pictures of a couple of Maltese hunters on safari with a defunct company ten years ago. Terminological inexactitude from an eco-fundamentalist spouse is not a very good basis for establishing the law of the land, Tracy.

      You are right – trophy hunting has split the conservation world. There are the realists on one side, led by facts and science, trying to help wildlife. Then there are the propagandists on the other side, running apparent eco-Ponzi schemes to help themselves to public money that would be better spent actually helping conservation.

      Although more than a million square kilometres of Africa is wholly or partly supported by hunting revenue, most trophy hunters go to South Africa, where (irrefutable fact) trophy hunting and the meat industry support forty million acres of game farms – former farms and ranches that have been re-wilded back into natural African bush in order to raise the animals that hunters and the meat industry want. You may think that forty million acres of conserved bush, home to trillions of African animals, birds, insects, reptiles, plants and trees is only a mere “so-called conservation tool” but the “mere” reality is forty million acres of ACTUAL conserved Africa that help the habitat and its wonderful creatures – a damn sight better than the all-mouth-and-no-trousers wokery champions you promote. If you can’t see that……

      You quote the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) in support of your plea for a UK law banning trophy imports. They are a very poor choice of champions. They don’t stack up too well against forty million acres of living breathing African animals supported by hunters, do they? Let’s have a look at them….

      Humanewatch recently reported that HSUS spends only 1% of its $150 million in donations actually helping pets in the US, while squirrelling $50 million away in its Caribbean Tax Shelter and paying its CEO the best part of half a million dollars. Let’s not mention the alleged sex scandals. They have no expertise in the management of African Wildlife and are apparently unable to even help abandoned American pets. Why should they be advising the UK government on trophy hunting and why should the UK government listen to them?

      Your other great saviour, the CBTH, is not an animal charity, Tracy. It is a private company selling T-shirts and collecting donations but doesn’t appear to help anything except its founder, Mr Gonçalves, although it is his wife listed as the only company officer the last time I looked. It also sells “books” described as exposés, but in fact they are a collection of misleading rubbish built on carefully selected bits of public information quoted out of context. The books are written by him and the publishing house is also him. He magnanimously says that all the profits on his sales will be donated to the CBTH, which is actually him, too. He has no expertise in trophy hunting, clearly doesn’t understand it, and doesn’t appear to understand anything about modern wildlife management and funding in Africa either. He does have qualifications in politics and a tame herd of celebs who he feeds with cheap, undeserved publicity as “saviours of animals”.

      Real wildlife charities and NGO’s are quite separate from “animal advocacy” organisations. The former are concerned with animal welfare in the real world, while the latter peddle the fairy tale of animal rights dressed up as animal welfare in order to confuse the public and their own disciples. No sane wild animal welfare or management expert would be seen dead in an animal advocacy organisation because the whole philosophical foundation of animal rights, unlike animal welfare, is a nonsense.

      By the same measure, organisations that actually serve the interests of wildlife usually have, among their advisers or members (quite apart from the scientists, vets and others) a number of game farmers, conservancy owners, hunting organisations and others who actually know what they are talking about. Wildlife is a modern industry, a huge modern industry, and hunters (and the farmers who raise the hunted animals) are part of that industry. The industry is run by people who have practical and scientific knowledge of Africa and its animals.

      The CBTH and HSUS are, in my opinion, merely parasites upon that industry, not champions of the animals. Their idiotic ideas sound wonderful but are demonstrated well in Kenya where trophy hunting has been banned for a generation and in that time the country has lost more than 70% of its wildlife. Or perhaps Costa Rica, where hunting is banned and they have lost 80% of their forests since WW2. In the same time period, in the hunting grounds of South Africa, where trophy hunting is carefully controlled and encouraged by the government, the wildlife has increased by 12000%, thanks to the game farmers and fees from hunting. Trophy hunting is good for conservation.

      You may dream, but the wildlife of Africa will never be safe while it is subject to the campaigns of suspected skimmers and metropolitan bubble-dwellers in the UK. Hopefully, the government recognises this, but it probably doesn’t make Boris’ breakfast conversations with his missus any easier.

      1. So, hunting preserves wild life? Despite the tendency toward corruption that characterises ‘charitable foundations’ the idea that small-minded men with control issues need to mount dead animals is sad and creepy. By the same logic the Gates’ charity must be preserving child poverty and associated diseases. Now I’m not convinced by Bill. He was and probably still is the same person who bucked the trend for designing free software in those early days and his current charity now has more money than it had in the beginning. That’s weird, but your preoccupation with justifying ‘killing for fun’ is sad and pathetic.

        1. You simply don’t get it, do you? Hunters pay to shoot animals. Because hunters pay, farmers raise animals (forty million acres of them in South Africa) and thousands of square miles of community conservancies in Namibia and elsewhere. Wherever hunters pay and the hunting is controlled, the animals are increasing in number because hunters and venison contractors in places like South Africa hunt sustainably and don’t take more than 70% of the progeny every year, so the populations increase steadily.. These are facts. In Africa, where hunting is banned, the animals are disappearing. This is also fact, and why there is such a fuss about endangered animals – but blaming hunters just because they are an easy target is stupid, unless of course, you are tapping the public for money like HSUS and the CBTH.
          Raising wild animals in natural habitat conserves the natural habitat. Forty million acres gives a home to trillions of other animals, birds, insects plants and trees that are not hunted – hence the term “conservation farming”. The farmers have to make a living, and hunting is the best thing for Africa. If they turned it all back into cattle ranches, the wildlife would have to be removed. If it was ploughed up for crops, then all the animals and all the plants would have to be removed.
          So, hunting allows farmers to conserve natural habitat, it increases wild animal numbers and since the animals are all eaten afterwards, it feeds lots of Africans and a huge venison industry. These are facts, and nothing to do with “justifying killing”, an infantile term used by people who don’t know their humerus from their fundament when it comes to modern animal management.
          So, if you don’t like hunting, don’t go hunting, but unless you can come up with a better idea for supporting about a quarter of a million square miles of wild Africa, you are just another eco-colonialist.

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