We need Cecil’s Law



BRIAN May is calling for a Cecil’s Law to stop hunters importing their gruesome trophies back to Britain.

26 Aug 2015 by Stuart Winter

Brian May speaking on BBC Newsnight

Brian May demands Cecil's Law

The Queen rock legend wants Prime Minister David Cameron to introduce legislation that would make animal heads, skins, claws and teeth effectively contraband.

In the outrage that followed the illegal slaughter of Cecil, it was revealed how Britain has allowed the importation of lion trophies with the correct paperwork. Official figures show that between 2010 and 2013 three skins, seven skulls and 16 “trophies” arrived in the UK. Other “big game” trophies are also brought home from safari holidays costing thousands of pounds.

Some leading airlines have taken a pre-emptive step by banning trophies on their international flights, but the musician and animal welfare campaigner wants trophy prohibition enshrined in law.

Dr May revealed his vision of a Cecil’s Law during a debate about social media on BBC2’s Newsnight.

Obviously still incensed over the “despicable” and illegal killing of Cecil by an American dentist in Zimbabwe earlier this summer, he now believes the tragic incident has become a force for good by highlighting the appalling levels animal abuse around the world.

He said: “Animals everywhere are being abused by people at the moment and this opened it up. We may, thanks to this, have a Cecil’s Law… We should have a Cecil’s Law which forbids the import of any trophies from any country and we should stop trophy hunting in this country, too.”

The rock guitarist appealed to Downing Street to take the lead in the same way that airlines did in the wake of Cecil’s killing.

He added: “I was happy to see some airlines actually took it upon themselves to lead by banning the transport of these trophies. I would like to see the Prime Minister take a lead as well… We could ban it tomorrow… There could be a bill to ban the import of trophies. We need it. The whole country would get behind David Cameron if he decided to… Let’s see it…”

Dr May, who founded Save Me Trust and has campaigned against fox hunting and the badger cull, made his plea for a Cecil’s Law during a discussion about social media and the global frenzy that followed the shooting, beheading and flaying of Cecil after he was lured away from the sanctuary of a Zimbabwean nature reserve.

Brian May Newsnight

He added: “There are so many animals around us being abused at the moment and what’s wrong is the mentality that tells people that animals do not matter: we can abuse them, we can experiment on them, we can kill them for fun, for sport… That’s all despicable. I think what happened with this particular thing was not conscious from any of us but it came, it arrived. There was an animal everyone cared about and he epitomised everything that is wrong with our attitude to animals.”

The rock guitarist also said Cecil’s death has exposed another form of hunting, the so-called sport of “canned” shooting where gunmen can kill iconic animals bred for slaughter.

He said: “People did not know these animals were bred to be taken pots shots at. It’s disgusting. These animals are bred in captivity, they are shot at in the cage, sometimes they are drugged so they cannot get away… It’s the same as some people breed foxes for sport in this country. It’s all despicable; it needs to change.”

Over the past decade, scores of lion, leopard, cheetah, antelope, zebra and hippo trophies have been brought home by hunters from African safaris. Polar bear and American black bear skins have also been imported.

Cecil the lion
Cecil the lion was killed by a hunter GETTY

Details of trophies brought into the UK are contained in statistics kept by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The charity LionAid has studied these figures and says symbolic British links to the so-called King of the Beasts should see the country taking the lead stopping its slide towards extinction. There are fewer than 30,000 lions left in the wild, with some estimates as low as 15,000. Unlike tigers, elephants and rhinos, lions have weaker protection under rules laid down by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the global watchdog set up to monitor the trade in vanishing wildlife. Lions are classed as a Schedule II rather than a Schedule I species, a status which would put them on par with other endangered animals. Today, there are still seven African nations where it is legal to kill lions and export their trophies.

Lion expert Dr Pieter Kat, a trustee of the British-based charity LionAid and who has studied the CITES documentation at length, said: “The UK is not, by far, the largest importer of lion trophies from Africa. The official CITES trade database indicates that between 2010 to 2013, UK citizens imported the following wild lion products: three skins, seven skulls and 10 other trophies. In addition, UK hunters imported six lion trophies from South Africa and it is highly likely that those trophies derived from captive bred lions, so called ‘canned hunting’. This is not only complacent but ignores the huge cultural significance of lions in the UK – look at the coats of arms, statues, sports team badges and company logos. The UK is probably the nation most closely associated with lions in the world. Now is the time to repay the debt of history, wildlife heritage and a responsibility to get greatly involved in ensuring the future of this species so seemingly loved by all those in Great Britain.”