A Derbyshire MP is calling for the UK to take a moral lead to end the 'desperately cruel industry' of 'canned' lion hunting.
Pauline Latham, Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, led a debate in Parliament on Wednesday about the practice which has seen 10,000 lions killed as 'trophies' by 'blood-thirsty tourists' in South Africa.
Writing in Politics Home ahead of the debate, she revealed how it 'beggars belief' that British hunters are 'among those who are propping up this desperately cruel industry'.
"There are more than 300 farms in South Africa where lions are bred in cages for the ‘canned’ hunting industry," she wrote. "There will be no chase, no escape, no mercy.
"The lions are reared in cages, forced to breed too young and their cubs taken from them soon after birth so that the mothers can breed again too quickly.
"The cubs are taken to petting zoos where tourists, possibly unaware of their past and future, are able to bottle feed them. Some are even able to walk with the young lions until they are about nine months old when they become harder to control.
"From then on, these immature lions are kept in small pens until they are about two years old.
"These animals have trusted humans because they know no different, having been bred in captivity."
"This trust is tragically misplaced. They are either let out of the cages and are shot at almost point-blank range by the trophy hunter, or they are taken by truck out into the bush to make it look more like a kill of a wild animal. In this instance, they are allowed out of the truck are shot again at almost point-blank range, although some are never let out of the cages and are shot whilst in captivity.
"Let me emphasise that they are no challenge to the hunter because they have been bred to be more docile towards humans.
"These magnificent animals have had no freedom to roam and live as nature intended thanks to an ‘industry’ which is, believe it or not, illegal in South Africa."
Mrs Latham says this kind of hunting is often given a licence due to the authorities 'turning a blind eye' because farm owners are telling them it is 'being done in the name of conservation'.
"Every time a trophy-hunter shoots a lion they are paying many thousands of dollars," she said. "These lions are farmed in great secrecy to produce cheap, quick trophies for hunters. In some cases the breeders shoot them to sell lion bones for sale to the Far East for ritual medicines.
"There are now fewer than 20,000 lions left in the wild across the world and, over the past decade, 10,000 lion trophies have been killed. It is easy to see that it is only a matter of time before the only lions we will see are in zoos.
"Shamefully, Britain still allows so-called hunter trophies to be brought into the country."
The Tory MP says the UK should make it clear that it 'condemns the killing of lions and other threatened species'.
"This should start with legislation preventing hunters from bringing back the heads, tails, feet, skins and other body parts of these animals to the UK," she wrote.
"We need a clear moral response. The government should impose an immediate moratorium on the importation of trophies until legislation is made. There is no reason why this can’t be done immediately."