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Scots can shoot a lion for £60,000: VisitScotland under fire for backing hunter who organises safaris for millionaire clients

Scottish tourism chiefs came under fire for ­backing a hunter who organises safaris where millionaire clients can shoot a lion for £60,000.

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Highlands-based Peter Swales arranges trips to Africa for big game hunters.

But campaigners are angry that the national tourist board VisitScotland ­promote the 71-year-old’s business through a link on their official website.

Animal rights campaigners called for them to cut ties with Swales.

But he yesterday defended his operation, which also organises shooting parties in Scotland, and distanced himself from the illegal killing of Africa’s most famous lion by US dentist Walter Palmer.

Influential campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) led criticism of VisitScotland.

They said: “Most ­people are appalled by the idea of gunning down sensitive, ­intelligent animals – whether they be stags, lions or elephants – for the sake of a trophy. So it seems almost unthinkable that ­Scotland’s national tourism organisation is promoting a company who profit from exactly that. Smart travel ­agencies are cutting ties with activities that harm animals. Given the Scottish Government’s support for maintaining the Hunting Act, we can assume this promotion is a massive oversight. We’ll be contacting VisitScotland to urge them to remove all such promotions from the website as a matter of urgency.”

Labour’s Highlands and Islands MSP, ­conservationist Rhoda Grant, said she was “appalled” by the ­promotion of Swales’s ­business.

She added: “Hunting ­endangered animals is wrong. I also find it strange that VisitScotland would ­promote a ­business that takes people away from this country.

“VisitScotland should have a long, hard think about their association with this firm and remove the link to the ­website.”

The death of Cecil, who had been tagged by researchers in a Zimbabwe nature reserve, thrust animal conservation to the top of the global news agenda last week.

SolentCecil and Jericho the LionsCecil the lion (right, darker mane) fighting with a male lion called Jericho
Authorities there say the lion was lured from the park and illegally shot by Palmer with a bow and arrow before it was tracked, shot dead and skinned.

It was claimed Palmer paid £32,000 to kill ­13-year-old Cecil on July 1. He has apologised and insisted he didn’t know he had broken any laws.

He went into hiding and closed his ­business in after suffering a backlash which included threats to his life.

Professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and landowner Honest Ndlovu pleaded not guilty to charges they faced over their role in Cecil’s death.

Bronkhorst said the dentist also wanted to hunt a “very large elephant” with tusks weighing more than 60lb.

Cecil, Jericho and Brent StapelkampCecil, Jericho and Brent Stapelkamp
Zimbabwean politicians have called for the Minnesota dentist to be extradited from the US to face trial for the illegal hunt.

He could face a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of £13,000 if convicted.

Swales, who arranges hunting trips to Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Namibia and Central African Republic from his home in Beauly, Inverness-shire, was quick to distance ­himself from Palmer.

He said: “All my hunts are legal and that’s why people come to me. My clients are mainly from overseas who’ve visited Scotland, many are from the United States but Palmer’s not one of my clients. Customers want me to organise hunts for them in Africa because I have a good reputation. Bad publicity won’t harm big game ­hunting. It costs a lot of money and so few people do it. What happened with this lion in Zimbabwe won’t put them off hunting at all. If what’s said about Walter Palmer is true then the man is an idiot. But not all hunters can be tarred with the same brush. It’s like saying all ­footballers go around raping women because Ched Evans raped one.”

Former Sheffield United striker Evans was jailed for five years in 2012 when he was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room.

He was freed last year after serving half his sentence.

Swales also organises hunts in Scotland, in which his clients shoot red stags, grouse and pheasant.

He claims on his website that his firm can also arrange hunts in Russia, Canada, Argentina, Turkey and Hungary.

The site includes images of Swales and his clients posing proudly over dead animals including a lion, a leopard and a buffalo.

The Englishman moved to the Highlands in 1972 and has been arranging hunts since 1976.

The website for Peter Swales International Big Game and Bird Hunting also boasts that the company have “an ever-expanding ­portfolio of locations and species in many other interesting places in the world”.

Swales has a display at this weekend’s CLA Game Fair at Harewood House, Leeds, in a bid to drum up business.

He said: “A lion hunt will cost you a ­minimum of $95,000 – around £60,000 – so it’s very expensive. That covers your fees, taxes and ­three-week safari. Customers also have to pay to have a taxidermist stuff their trophy and transport home – that’s another few thousand on top. I don’t do as many lion hunts as I used to. I probably do about one every five years at the moment. I’ve been to Africa many times but not so much to Zimbabwe these days. I’m more likely to be in Tanzania. The photo of a customer with a lion was taken in Tanzania. Big game hunting is worth millions to Africa but there’s always rogues somewhere. I don’t know any and wouldn’t know where to find them. Everything I do is legitimate and that’s why people trust me.”

MPs are setting up an All-Party ­Parliamentary Group which will meet this month to highlight the plight of endangered species after Cecil’s death.

Other bodies were more supportive of hunting.

Alex Stoddart, director of the Scottish Association of Country Sports, said: ­“Poaching or illegal hunting is a serious crime and those responsible should be severely dealt with. But it’s a fact that in some parts of Africa there would be no wildlife if there was no hunting. If the killing of a lion is done legally and half of the fee goes to the community, that’s a good thing. I see no reason for VisitScotland to remove their link to Peter Swales.”

Dr Colin Shedden, of the Scottish ­Country Sports Tourism Group, said: “VisitScotland will only be interested in what Peter Swales can generate for the Scottish economy. Like many operators, he may have other interests that lie outside Scotland but he is a responsible agent. Expecting VisitScotland to distance themselves from him is irrational.”

A VisitScotland spokeswoman said: “We work with country sports organisations as they are a major part of the tourism economy but we try to be sensitive with the imagery we use as we understand that there are strong views on this. If anyone has a problem with anything on our website we would be happy to discuss this with them.”

Article taken from: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/scots-can-shoot-lion-60000-6179536

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Take Action: Campaign to end wild animal circuses in Scotland

The analysis of a recent Scottish Government consultation on the use of wild animals in circuses showed 98% support among respondents in favour of a ban.

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Animal charity OneKind are now asking people to keep up the pressure for a ban and to email the Cabinet Secretary and MSPs.

The 98% result is a fantastic one and shows that public opinion is overwhelmingly on our side when it comes to consigning to history the outdated and cruel practice of exploiting wild animals in the name of entertainment.

Whilst there have been no wild animal circuses based in Scotland for a significant time, circuses with wild animals have toured to Scotland in recent years. Then, in late 2014, a big cat circus trainer moved his animals from England to a farm near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire. The move triggered an outcry from members of the public, animal welfare experts and parliamentarians alike and led to demands being made upon the Scottish Government to implement a ban as soon as possible.

In 2012 the UK Government introduced a draft bill to ban wild animals in circuses but since that time there has been no meaningful progress towards implementing the necessary legislation to outlaw the continued use of wild animals in circuses. Scotland now has a unique opportunity to lead the way in ending the exploitation of wild animals in circuses.

OneKind along with the Born Free Foundation want to see the Scottish Government implement an immediate ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. You can help make this a reality by sending an email to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking him to implement legislation to ban wild animals in circuses as soon as possible, and also your own MSP. who can press the Scottish Government to take action.

You can read the full consultation analysis here.

*** Sign the petition here: http://action.onekind.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=75&ea.campaign.id=40006&ea.url.id=427601 ***

Thank you for supporting this campaign and taking action to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

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RSPCA slams circus rebranded as an ‘educational evening’

The RSPCA is calling for swift enactment of a ban after a travelling show using wild animals relabelled itself as an educational performance.

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The Society has long been campaigning for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses and, if introduced, a draft Bill would make it an offence for any circus operator to use a wild animal in performance or exhibition in a travelling circus in England.

Now that one show has rebranded their performance as an educational event, RSPCA officials are calling for the ban to be enacted as quickly as possible to prevent big cats being hauled around the country in the name of entertainment.

RSPCA senior scientific officer Dr Ros Clubb said: “We are deeply concerned about the welfare of lions and tigers involved in this, or any other, travelling training display or show.

“We believe that many animal lovers could be duped into attending the show as they may be under the impression that this show helps the animals in some way when this is actually just a circus by another name. We strongly urge people to vote with their feet, and give this tour a miss.

“The impact of these travelling shows on animal welfare is serious and potentially debilitating for each and every animal involved. Animals are forced to endure the constant travel, cramped temporary cages and noisy conditions in that kind of environment.

“This show is the perfect example of why the ban on wild animals in circuses needs to be introduced quickly and the draft legislation also needs to clearly outline what a circus is.

“This show may be masquerading as an educational event but the simple fact is that it is still a circus and the way these animals are being kept will be exactly the same.

“There is nothing educational about seeing these animals in this kind of environment and there is no justification for keeping wild animals in this way.

“Shows like this will never be able to keep wild animals in a way that provides acceptable standards of welfare and placing an animal in surroundings unsuitable for the species can cause serious stress and behavioural problems.

“The circus is not the greatest show on earth, it is the saddest show on earth for the wild animals used and it is a practice that needs to be abolished.”

The RSPCA is urging people in England to contact their MP to help bring about a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses to help these long forgotten animals.

Article taken from: http://media.rspca.org.uk/media/pressreleases/details/-/articleName/PressRSPCASlamsCircusRebrandedAsAnEducationalEvening7Jul15

http://www.rspca.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/bigstop/takeaction

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Law to ban wild animals in UK circuses being blocked by three Tory MPs

A new law to ban the use of wild animals in circuses is being repeatedly blocked by a trio of Tory backbenchers, despite the personal support of David Cameron, the government, Labour and over 90% of the British public.

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The bill was blocked for the seventh time on Friday afternoon, a move its supporters called a “travesty” and an “outrage”. Dozens of lions, tigers, zebras and camels are still used in travelling circuses and in 2012 the government pledged to outlaw what Cameron called the “outdated practice”. But despite publishing the draft law in 2013, it has since failed to pass it.

Former environment minister Jim Fitzpatrick, a Labour MP, took the government’s bill and presented it as a private members bill, with support from MPs from all main parties. But it has been repeatedly blocked by circus-supporter Andrew Rosindell, along with Christopher Chope and Philip Davies, all Conservative MPs.

“It is very much a matter of a tiny number of Tory backwoodsmen preventing this from happening,” Fitzpatrick told the Guardian. “It is frustrating, but we are keeping the issue alive – it won’t go away.”

“The days of transporting wild animals in the back of lorries around towns and cities to show them off to people are long gone,” he said, noting that many nations, from Bosnia to Bolivia, already have bans and that safari parks and zoos provided alternatives. “We think Britain should join the 21st century.”

“It is a travesty that the actions of just three MPs are preventing legislation to end animal suffering from being passed,” said Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International. In April, Cameron told ADI: “Yes, we are going to do it.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the government bill would be passed “when parliamentary time allows”. However, the current parliamentary programme has the smallest number of bills for 20 years. Fitzpatrick said there clearly was time and he had “no idea” why ministers will not fulfil their pledge.

The British Veterinary Association backs the ban, stating: “The welfare needs of wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus, in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour.” The RSPCA said: “Cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are often unavoidable realities for the animals.”

But Rosindell, who has blocked the bill twice said: “The circus is a Great British institution, which has proved that it has the high standards of welfare which are rightly expected of it, and I strongly believe that it deserves to be defended against the propaganda and exaggerations.”

He added: “None have been taken from their natural habitat; all are from several generations of animals born in captivity. I believe it would be much more cruel to remove them from the life they have always known in living and performing with their loving owners in the environment they are accustomed to.”

Neither Chope, who has blocked the law four times, or Davies responded to requests for comment. Chope said in the Commons that the government should present the bill, not a backbencher. Davies, who blocked the bill in October, said he wanted to clear the way for a backbench bill on an EU referendum, which has since been killed off.

Creamer said: “By blocking the bill they are defying not only the wishes of their own party and their constituents, but also the British public and Parliament. There is also clearly time to pass a ban and the government needs to act now.” A 2010 government consultation found 94% of the British public supported a ban on wild animal acts.

Maria Eagle, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said: “The British public will be outraged that, when given the opportunity, a determined group of Tories have repeatedly dug their heels in. The next Labour government will ban wild animals in circuses.”

Fitzpatrick said: “I think a ban on wild animals will come in sooner rather than later, but I have severe reservations about whether we get it in before the election next May.”

Article taken from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/05/law-to-ban-wild-animals-in-uk-circuses-being-blocked-by-three-tory-mps

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Happy World Lion Day!

Today we celebrate World Lion Day; an international day to mark the majesty and plight of our incredible yet vanishing lions.

Lions are a truly global symbol – everyone instantly recognises and understands their unmistakeable features. On one hand a playful and misunderstood cat, on the other a renowned and revered killer. Say what you like about lions, they’re diminishing fast. Only somewhere between 16,500 and 47,000 African lions still live in the wild, while the Asiatic lion is now classed as officially endangered.

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Today is our chance to commemorate and celebrate these majestic, magical big cats. Whether it’s pledging to march for their survival, or to donate time or money to help safeguard their existence on our fragile planet, why not play your part and take action for lions today? None of us want to see a day where the only lions in existence are those in zoos. Let’s all join together to do what we can, while we can.

Happy Lion Day, everyone.

For a full list of global animal events taking place throughout the year please visit our Calendar

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