21 MAR 2019

Speech on wildlife crime

John Howell (Henley) (Con)

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson). I agree with everything he said. I want to widen the debate on to an international stage.

I hold a programme in my constituency called "Conversations in the street", where I go around the villages and people tell me what is on their mind. One lady came up to me and said, "I want to discuss elephants with you." I posted the issues that were raised on my Twitter account, and what was said about that topic on my Twitter feed was utterly pathetic. The lady had genuinely raised a question about what we were doing to protect elephants and wanted an answer. Our attitude towards elephants and elephant crime is shaming for our generation. Illegal trafficking of both live and dead animals is the fourth largest illegal international trade, after those in drugs, people smuggling and counterfeiting, and it is worth something like £15 billion a year.

The Government have done a tremendous amount to ban the sale of ivory, which I very much welcome, and to protect elephants, but there is a growing threat from the illegal trade in live animals. That trade occurs for a number of reasons, but principally to try to improve tourism and to make entertainment better. The UK has been working through a number of organisations to prevent the trade—many aspects of it are illegal—but it presents a growing threat, particularly to the Asian elephant.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) mentioned birds in the Mediterranean. I highlight the enormous difficulty we have in trying to control the killing of birds, particularly in Malta. We ought to concentrate on the annual spring hunt in Malta—it is still legal—which leads to the deaths of an enormous number of birds. We ought to do all we can to stamp that out.

We had a very successful international conference in the UK on this subject in 2014 and another, I think, in 2018. I commend the Government for their stance. Members have spoken about the crimes that take place in the UK, but we should not forget the global nature of such crimes. If we are protecting animals—our hearts ​ go out to everyone who protects animals—we need to look at that from an international perspective. I hope the hon. Member for City of Chester will accept my remarks in the spirit that I give them.

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