27/08/2015 13:20 BST | Updated 27/08/2016 06:59 BST

EU Should Learn From Cecil the Lion Killing and Ban Trophy Imports

The death of Cecil the Lion in July rightly sent shockwaves across the world. Many people who had previously been unaware of trophy hunting have now seen the shocking reality of this 'sport'.

Those who did know about it were equally outraged, as Cecil lived in a protected reserve where hunts were not supposed to have taken place. He was lured out, shot by a crossbow, and then allowed to suffer for some forty hours before finally being killed.

The reason Cecil was hunted? For sport. He was not a danger to the community. If anything he was a significant boost to the local economy - as are the other animals in Hwange National Park.

More alarmingly, photographs of the same hunter have emerged from previous hunts, where he had been allowed to kill an elk (paying £28,000 to do so), a leopard (£13,000), and a rhinoceros (also £13,000).

Over 18,000 tourists go to Africa purely to hunt each year, leading to more than 100,000 animals being killed. The 'Big Five' are the most sought after, despite the endangered nature of some species.

The League Against Cruel Sports has called on all MEPs to take Cecil's death as a watershed moment and act. As the EU cannot directly affect the laws of other countries (big game hunting remains legal in 23 African states) we propose that the best way to address this here is to restrict demand.

As such, MEPs should act urgently to ban the import of trophies into the EU. Without the trophies, hunters from Europe are much less likely to pay significant sums to kill these animals.

There has been some important progress on this - EU Commissioner Vella has confirmed in a letter to the League that a stricter regime is being implemented with regards to lion trophies - but more needs to be done.

The League has received positive responses from MEPs across the EU and across the political spectrum. We will be working closely with these representatives to move the issue forward.

Others are also taking note, particularly airlines. Delta, American, and United have all now stopped shipping lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo trophies. For those carriers that haven't, the League has signed a joint letter alongside The Humane Society and a number of other animal welfare groups calling on them to re-think their position.

Despite progress in some areas, others are moving backwards. Zimbabwe, for example, has now lifted its ban on trophy hunting only ten days after it was put in place. Additionally UPS, the international courier, has stated that it intends to continue shipping these materials.

This shows there is a long way to go and that trophy hunting won't end overnight, but the momentum is on our side. Alongside our partners in the UK and internationally, the League will continue to pressure legislators to reduce demand for these trophies, making it more difficult and more expensive for hunters to kill these animals.

Hunting simply for the thrill is not acceptable in the 21st century. The European Parliament should make clear that trophies from such hunts are not welcome in Europe.