Animal cruelty is something that I can’t stand. I spent considerable time raising awareness in the recent past about nature crimes.

Unfair Game was my book last year. This tells of the undercover missions in South Africa that I funded in 2018, and 2019, respectively. These undercover missions exposed the horrendous abuses of lions in South Africa. They have been so commoditized over the past 30 years that an entirely new captive-bred species was created.

Heartbreaking is the life cycle of captive-bred lions. It’s born to live. Cubs are taken from their mothers when just days old and used to lure naïve tourists into paying to cuddle and pet them.

When deemed too dangerous to interact with humans, they are killed in a ‘canned hunt’ — a charade in which people pay thousands to gun down an animal in an enclosed space from which it cannot escape — or slaughtered at an abattoir.

Animal cruelty is something which I simply cannot abide and I have spent a significant amount of time in recent years raising awareness of crimes against nature, writes Lord Ashcroft

Lord Ashcroft: I can’t stand animal cruelty and have dedicated a lot of my time to raising awareness in recent years. 

Regardless of the type or severity of their deaths, they are still worth a lot. For friends to admire, canned hunters will often take home a trophy like a head or hide. These hunters will often pay more for these items.

After these mementoes are taken, all lions can be stripped of their bones and body parts. They then go to Asian dealers. These lions are highly valued, particularly when they are used in traditional Chinese medicine. This industry is controlled internationally by wildlife smugglers and criminal syndicates.

Ex-British Army, security personnel and I carried out investigations to uncover the dark truth and generate crucial new evidence.

It was discovered that there were 333 South African farms breeding lions for this horrible industry.

It is estimated that there are 12,000 captive-bred African lions living in this country. That number surpasses South Africa’s wild lion population which is only 3000 strong.

South Africa’s government deserves credit for the outstanding campaigning work done by me and activists groups such as Blood Lions.

My investigations into this murky world, carried out with the help of ex-British Army and security services personnel, exposed the grim truth about the abuse of lions there and generated crucial new evidence. Pictured: Lord Ashcroft in Birmingham (file image)

With the assistance of former British Army personnel and security service personnel, I conducted investigations into this dark world. They revealed the terrible truth about the abuse of Lions in that country and provided crucial evidence. Pictured in Birmingham by Lord Ashcroft (file image).

Barbara Creecy (South Africa’s environment minister) announced in May that she would follow the advice of an independent panel. The committee spent many months studying the management, trading, hunting and handling of lions.

South Africa is set to ban captive-lion hunting and breeding, and all tourism interactions with captive lions.

South Africa’s legislation is not a fast-moving machine. However, my South African contacts tell me that things are moving forward. They expect firm action to be taken by 2022.

Let me now turn my attention to Britain. Labour MP John Spellar will introduce in Parliament the Hunting Trophy Prohibition Bill on Friday, December 10.

This Private Members’ Bill would criminalize the import of trophies from threatened or endangered species to the UK. The punishment could be up to seven years imprisonment. All owners of existing hunting trophies — such as lion skins, tusks, antlers, heads and other macabre souvenirs — would have to register them.

His motivation is explained by Mr Spellar, who says that he doesn’t enjoy gratuitous cruelty. I’m against both properly controlled shooting and angling. This is a terrible, shameful trade. The illegal trade in wildlife smuggling has become a huge business.

It is clear that his view is widely supported. Famous personalities such as Ricky Gervais (Dame Judi Dench), Peter Egan, and Ricky Gervais have been following the ban on trophy imports.

It is also supported by the House of Commons as a non-party issue. With the exception of research licensing, I support it.

However, I find it very surprising that Mr. Spellar has to introduce his bill.

On Friday, December 10, Labour MP John Spellar (pictured) is scheduled to introduce the Hunting Trophy (Prohibition) Bill in Parliament (file image)

Thursday, December 10th is the scheduled date for Labour MP John Spellar to present in Parliament the Hunting Trophy Prohibition Bill (file image).

In the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto, the party pledged that it would bring an ivory ban into effect and expand it to include other ivory-bearing animals. It also promised to ban trophy hunting and imports of endangered wildlife.

But, two years after the initial launch of a public consult, very little has changed. It is hard to believe that anyone in Government actually takes this topic seriously.

After Spellar’s bill was raised in the House of Commons over the past few weeks, it has been dismissed with incoherent remarks about the government’s intention to ban imports of hunting trophies. This complacency is troubling to me. Although I know that the Covid-19 pandemic has derail many plans and causes in Westminster and elsewhere, it is not surprising to me that Mr Spellar would have very limited time for fulfilling this manifesto pledge.

Boris Johnson’s manifesto from the Conservatives is not enough to remind him that action is needed. His wife Carrie is an experienced campaigner who has probably discussed this with him. Stanley is the same. This is also true for his friend Lord Goldsmith who serves as the Environment Minister.

If the Conservatives' own manifesto isn't a sufficient reminder to Boris Johnson that action must be taken, his wife, Carrie, is a doughty campaigner in this field who must surely have discussed it with him. So too is Lord Goldsmith (pictured)

Boris Johnson’s manifesto from the Conservatives is not enough to remind him that action is needed. His wife Carrie is an experienced campaigner who has probably discussed this with him. Lord Goldsmith is also shown (pictured). 

So, what’s the deal?

John Spellar (whose Commons career dates back to 1982) tells me that he’s confused. While he believes he’s continuing to work as pressure agent and in hope instead of expectation, Spellar says he wishes that the Government introduces its own legislation. It would be much easier.

Yes. The United Kingdom must follow the lead of France, America, the Netherlands, and Australia in banning the importation of liontrophies. South Africa’s measures must be supported by Britain.

The world would hear this powerful message.

Environmental issues of every kind are now at the forefront of Government’s attention. It is time for the government to tackle animal cruelty as well as the threat posed by international criminal syndicates. These urgent problems require an immediate response.

With environmental matters of all kinds now sitting at the top of the Government's agenda, the time has come for it to address animal cruelty and confront the terrible menace of international crime syndicates. Pictured: British trophy hunters (file image)

The Government is now focusing its attention on environmental issues. This means that it must address cruelty to animals and combat international crime syndicates. Pictured are British trophy hunters (file photo)

  • Lord Ashcroft is an internationally renowned businessman, author, philanthropist and pollster. For information about his work, visit and for more information on his wildlife work, visit Follow him on Twitter @LordAshcroft
  • Unfair Game: An Expose Of South Africa’s Captive-Bred Lion Industry by Michael Ashcroft is published by Biteback, £14.99. To order, visit books/unfair-game. All royalties will go towards South African wildlife charities