Pressure mounts for strong draft Bill to prohibit trophy hunting imports

One year on from a unanimous parliamentary resolution, what is next for Belgium?

Humane Society International / Europe

Lion rug

BRUSSELS—One year ago to the day, the Belgian Federal Parliament unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the government immediately halt the authorisation of hunting trophy import permits for certain threatened and endangered species. The vote was the culmination of an extensive process of debate over a full legislative bill that included readings, a hearing with experts, and lengthy discussions among MPs in Parliament.

The resounding political support for the resolution was welcomed by conservationists and animal protection NGOs and is also supported by wider public opinion in Belgium. According to the results of a survey by Ipsos, commissioned by Humane Society International/Europe, 91% of Belgians oppose trophy hunting and 88% support a prohibition on importing any kind of hunting trophy at all. Shortly before the vote last year, Animal Rights Belgium delivered a petition with 37,000 signatures supporting the ban to the Federal Environment Minister, Zakia Khattabi.

The resolution specifically calls for trophy import prohibitions for species listed in Annex A of the EU’s regulation on trade in plants and animals, including rhinoceros, African elephant, lion, polar bear and argali sheep, as well as certain animal species listed in Annex B of the same regulation. This resolution follows the example of the Netherlands, which banned the import of trophies of over 200 species in 2016, and France, which instituted a Ministerial decree to halt authorising trophy import permits for lions in 2015.

Reacting to the one-year anniversary, , co-author of the legislative report and sponsor of the resolution, Kris Verduyckt (Vooruit, Flemish Socialists) said: “Our country is a real hub when it comes to imports of hunting trophies of endangered species. That is why the Parliament unanimously voted in favour of a ban, back in March 2022. Now, the ball is in Minister Khattabi’s court. She promised to work towards this ban, and last week, she reiterated that commitment. The draft bill is ready to be discussed in the Federal Council of Ministers.”

Ruud Tombrock, executive director of HSI/Europe, adds: “Trophy hunting is a known factor in driving species to extinction. Trophy hunters prefer to kill the largest, strongest animals, whose loss contributes to social disruption and declines in animal populations. The Belgian resolution is a clear statement that killing cannot be conservation. We call on the Minister to implement the resolution now.”

It is unclear whether the ministry, against the stated will of the Parliament, has continued to approve permits for the import of hunting trophies from imperilled species since March 2022. Joffrey Legon, ‘Ban hunting’ campaign coordinator at Animal Rights Belgium, says: “We hope this is not the case, as having prohibited the import of these hunting trophies would have saved countless lives. We NGOs are asking the ministry (for an appointment) to clarify future plans on the subject and (to) offer our assistance if needed.”

Belgium is the 13th largest hunting trophy importer of internationally protected species Europewide, ranking immediately after Italy. Other European countries are in the process of instituting bans—Finland has already passed a similar law that will come into force this summer and last week the UK’s House of Commons approved a Bill to ban hunting trophy imports.

Further delay in implementing the Belgian resolution will set back the fight to protect our world’s most imperilled species from this wholly avoidable form of direct exploitation.

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