A BILL that would ban the importation of wildlife hunting trophies was deemed “racist” by a Tory backbench MP.

Since 2015, around 5000 endangered species' animal body parts have been brought into the UK by trophy hunters, an All-Parliamentary Group previously found.

Both the UK Government and Labour backed the proposed ban after it was debated in the House of Commons on Friday as a Private Members Bill.

Henry Smith, Tory MP for Crawley, is sponsoring the bill, which passed its first hurdle and will cover 7000 species, but one of his party colleagues claimed it was “racist”.

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Sir Bill Wiggin, Tory MP for North Herefordshire, told the Commons: “We cannot expect people in rural Africa to have the same views on this subject as the voters in say, Crawley.

“That is why telling Africans – however you choose to cushion a message – how to manage their wildlife seems to me to be fundamentally wrong, post-colonial, and possibly racist. I cannot stand by and allow this to go uncriticised.

“In fairness to my honourable friends, my unhappiness with the racist elements in this message are not a reflection on their views or the views of any colleagues, and we have heard that today.

“Of course no one wants to encourage illegal hunting, but by withdrawing our support for legal and well-regulated hunting in these countries we are in effect removing the financial incentives that encourage African people to protect their local wildlife and habitats.

“So that is why I support the current licensing system for listed species, to protect vulnerable species and regulate imports to the UK.

“I wish the minister had used her comments to explain why she isn’t using that licensing regime to stop the imports of the various trophies that people object to.”

Laura Farris, Tory MP for Newbury, disputed Wiggin's claim, telling the Commons: "I didn’t recognise the characterisation of … criticism of trophy hunting as somehow being racist or patronising to certain communities.

“I don’t think that’s a true characterisation.”

While Tory MP Selaine Saxby, North Devon, said that Wiggin's suggestion is untrue, as only 16% of South Africans are in favour of trophy hunting.

She added: “A study that covered multiple African countries found that the dominant pattern was resentment to what was viewed as the neo-colonial character of trophy hunting in the way it privileges western elites in accessing Africa’s wildlife resources.”

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Meanwhile, trophy hunting was compared to paedophilia by Tory MP Sir Roger Gale.

The MP for North Thanet told the Commons the proceeds of trophy hunting do not contribute to conservation.

He said: “The money – and it’s large sums of money, it’s big business – goes into the pockets of corrupt people, and very, very little, if any, of the funds finds its way into the pockets of the ordinary people of Africa or indeed any other country.

“What we’re talking about is gratification of the most revolting kind, that I would compare with paedophilia. If you are rich enough you can go anywhere in the world and buy anything you want.

“And this is just another form of vile gratification.”

Smith, sponsoring the bill, cited research that he said showed “the most popular trophies brought back from Africa into the UK are those of elephants, hippos, leopards, zebras and lions”.

The National: Smith was unimpressed by his colleagues intervention in the debateSmith was unimpressed by his colleagues intervention in the debate (Image: House of Commons)

He added: “British trophy hunters are amongst the world’s most active killers of endangered species. In recent years, British trophy hunters have imported thousands of body parts as macabre souvenirs into the UK.”

Labour’s shadow environment minister Ruth Jones said: “[Smith]… has the support of these benches. Like so many of my constituents in Newport West, and I know thousands of others across the country, I am disgusted by the cruel, damaging and outdated practice of trophy hunting.”

Environment minister Rebecca Pow told the Commons: “I am pleased to confirm that the Government is supporting this bill and that we are determined to fulfil our manifesto commitment to ban imports of trophies from endangered animals.

“It is something we have committed to working internationally on endangered species in our 25-year plan to protect and improve international biodiversity, and this is very much demonstrating that we mean business.”

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The Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill received an unopposed second reading and will now be subject to further parliamentary scrutiny.

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns at the Humane Society, said: "We're delighted that this extremely popular Bill has passed its second reading, with almost 20 MPs taking the floor to share their strong support.

"Over and again in this well-informed debate MPs used the words 'disgusting', 'abhorrent' and 'barbaric' to describe trophy hunting, and we share in their ambition to ensure the UK is not complicit in such colonialist cruelties.

"We welcomed the Minister's important confirmation that secondary legislation will provide protection for all species in the hunters' cross-hairs, including 'the big 5'."