England

UKIP lion skin auction 'stupid and insensitive'

The planned auction of a lion skin and head by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has been condemned by conservationists.

The item is being auctioned at UKIP's annual gala dinner in Eastbourne.

Chris MacSween, of Kent-based charity Lion Aid, said it was "stupid and insensitive" and UKIP was effectively "condoning lion trophy hunting".

UKIP said it was donated by a party member and it did not support "modern day hunting of lions for their skins".

'Zimbabwe gift'

The party's website listing of the item says: "Antique skin, with head, of a lioness shot in Zimbabwe. (Reserve £200) Donated by Geoffrey Clark (who did not shoot it!)."

A party spokesman said: "We appreciate that such an item is not to everybody's taste.

"The lion head and skin is an antique which was donated to the party by a member. The member in question originally received it as a gift following a stint working in Zimbabwe.

"It is approximately 45 to 50 years old and came into the country long before modern day legislation was in place to halt such imports."

Ms MacSween expressed "shock and horror" and said the auction was "in the worst possible taste".

"UKIP has not only accepted this trophy in as an auction item, but now they want to earn money from it," she said.

"You don't sell trophies onwards. Secondly, anyone who bids for that trophy is also exhibiting the worst possible taste here. Thirdly, buying trophies stimulates the market for more lions to be hunted."

'Trophy hunting'

She called for UKIP to remove the item from the auction list and for it to be confiscated and a full investigation to be conducted as to how it came into the UK.

"Maybe it did come in through a legal means, but we are working so very, very hard with a lot of politicians both in Europe and in the UK, cross party, to try and get trophy hunting stopped," she said.

Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, also condemned the auction.

"Born Free is not interested in politics. It is interested in animal conservation and animal welfare," he said.

"Selling animal trophies of any kind - whether it be lion, rhino or tiger - draws attention to the trade and may stimulate unscrupulous dealings.

"Therefore we would urge all parties, from whatever persuasion, to abandon ideas of selling wildlife for political gain."

The auction is due to take place on Friday evening during the gala, which is part of the party's annual conference.

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