This week, the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife is due to have a hearing over a bill that would effectively end wildlife trafficking into California.
A trophy hunt, wild animal importation ban
Senate Bill 1175, authored by Senator Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), would require the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) to create a list of wild animals that would not be permitted to be imported or transported within the the state. The DFW would also be able to stop transportation of any animal that could be carrying a disease or illness to protect Californian citizens, wildlife, and agriculture and would only allow transport to continue after rigorous testing.
SB 1175, also known as the Iconic African Species Protection Act, would specifically go after African plant and animal importation by banning dead animal parts or products of any African animal from being imported into the state. For those in the live animal business, any animal that is classified as an invasive species or has zoonotic diseases would be illegal to own or sell.
If violated, fines and confiscations would be enacted, with being between $5,000 and $40,000 per violation.
Senator Stern authored the bill to fight against the exotic and wildlife trade, specifically targeting the end of trophy hunting animals such as lions and elephants. Other supporters have also called into reason the cruelty of the trafficking and trophy hunt industries, as well as how fees paid for such hunts or transport costs don’t always g to conservation efforts. The federal government approving trophy hunts and importation of trophies also spurred some support for a state ban.
“It’s time to wake up and realize that we’re in the middle of a mass extinction event,” explained Senator Stern. “We need to stop the brutal trade in exotic and endangered wildlife once and for all. Whether it’s a pangolin being sold for faulty medicine, a white Bengal tiger being enslaved for entertainment, or a black rhino ‘trophy’ used to satisfy some misguided hunter‘s ego, California must put an end to wildlife trafficking.”
Support in the legislature is high, with some Republicans crossing the aisle in support of SB 1175. Tellingly, the Senate vote on the bill in late June passed by a large majority, 29-8 with 3 abstentions.
Opponents of bill note that ban would lead to less conservation funding in Africa
Opponents of the bill have noted that the ban puts a strain on conservation efforts due to extra money paid in hunts to keep hunting areas in Africa open and animals protected by anti-poaching squads. Many also have said that trophy animals such as lions and elephants can also be pests in many African countries, destroying livestock and crops, accelerating the need for paid conservation through hunts and the importation of trophies and other related products from hunts.
“These hunts are 100% legal,” explained Terry Fernandez, a Miami lawyer who has defended two trophy hunters in U.S. courts. “You have the Sierra Club and PETA being 100% against this, but the costs of these hunts go for conservation, preservation, and fueling an industry in Africa.
“If it’s made illegal in California, it won’t change all that much. You can still import everything into the states, you can still do hunts, and if you can’t bring it into California, people can move out.
“What California is doing is trying to legislate people from doing a hobby that supports conservation in Africa. And just like what happened with Walter Palmer killing the lion 5 years ago, it’s being blown up as a moral and ethical issue despite it already being part of the equation.
“Also, don’t forget, lions win some of those hunts too. They’re risking their lives for a sport.”
A similar bill by Senator Stern 2 years ago, SB 1487, was vetoed by former Governor Jerry Brown for “unenforcability” reasoning. A number of successful bills in 2019, including a ban on selling fur, a similar bill in New York meeting success, and the need for zoonotic disease laws following the COVID-19 outbreak, raised the prominence of SB 1175 this year, leading for many supporters to hope for a passage and signing by Governor Newsom this session.
SB 1175 is due to be heard in Assembly Committee hearings this week.