Victory! Belgium Announces A Ban On Trophy Hunting Imports To Protect & Save Endangered Species

On Friday, the Belgian Federal government’s Council of Ministers approved a legislative proposal for a ban on the import of hunting trophies of endangered species put forth by Zakia Khattabi, Minister of Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal.

The Minister’s preliminary draft bill follows the Federal Parliament of the Kingdom of Belgium’s unanimous vote in March 2022 in support of a resolution demanding that the government put the brakes on the issuance of trophy import permits for a broad array of threatened and endangered species.

The resolution protects species such as hippopotamus, Southern white rhinos, African savannah elephants, lions, polar bears, and argali sheep, who are sadly killed for so-called sport. The scope of the resolution also extends to all species listed in Annex A, along with certain species in Annex B, of the European Regulation 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora.

“I am glad that this hard work is paying off. Minister Khattabi is now fully translating my proposal into a bill and the entire Council of Ministers approves it,” said Member of Parliament Kris Verduyckt, initiator of the legislative proposal to ban hunting trophy imports in 2020 and proposer of the aforementioned resolution.

“It’s time we really started protecting endangered species, trophy hunters prefer to kill the largest and strongest animals, the loss of which contributes to the disruption and decline of animal populations,” continued Verduyckt.

The European office of animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI), a long-time vocal advocate against the import of endangered species’ trophies, lauded the government’s decision.

“We welcome the fact that the unanimous resolution of Parliament has been translated into a legislative measure and look forward to studying the details of the legislation once published,” said Ruud Tombrock, executive director for HSI/Europe.

“Belgium is leading the way for other countries in Europe already listening to calls from their citizens to consign the import of hunting trophies to history,” continued Tombrock. “The next step should be an EU-wide ban on the import of hunting trophies from endangered and protected species, again reflecting the views of citizens across member states in the European Union.”

Over the past 16 months, HSI/Europe has worked with MPs to ensure that the unanimous resolution of Parliament was translated into legislation and last week’s approval is the culmination of this campaign.

MPs from different political parties have maintained pressure on Environment Minister Khattabi. A recent response to a parliamentary question from MP Jan Briers (CD&V, Flemish Christian democrats) revealed that the Ministry had only stopped issuing permits for importing animal trophies since mid-March 2023, a delay which outraged many MPs.

This landmark decision by the Belgian government echoes the strongly held views of its people. A 2020 survey by Ipsos commissioned by HSI/Europe showed that 91% of Belgians oppose trophy hunting and 88% support a prohibition on importing any kind of hunting trophy at all.

This sentiment is not limited to Belgium but is resonating across the European continent. A 2023 pan-European poll conducted by Savanta in all 27 EU Member States on behalf of HSI/Europe, laid bare the widespread public rejection of trophy hunting. A striking 83% of respondents stood firm against this practice, with just 6% in favor.

The vast majority is expecting strong measures to be taken against trophy hunting, with a compelling 74% rallying behind a national import ban and similar support for an EU-wide ban with 73%. These survey results underscore a profound and growing public concern across Europe, spotlighting the urgency and importance of wildlife conservation and the protection of threatened species.

On Friday, Belgium has echoed the urgent European call to action against trophy hunting. They join the ranks of countries such as the Netherlands, France, and Finland, which have each implemented various degrees of bans and restrictions on the import of hunting trophies.

Momentum against trophy hunting is accelerating across the continent, with nations including the UK, Germany, Italy, and Poland now also involved in active discussions to impose bans on trophy hunting at varying stages of progress.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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