Off the Leash

Interview #24 Duncan McNair | Save the Asian Elephants

April 07, 2022 Charlie Moores and Duncan McNair
Off the Leash
Interview #24 Duncan McNair | Save the Asian Elephants
Show Notes

A conversation between Charlie Moores and Duncan McNair, founder of Save the Asian Elephants or STAE.

Duncan is a prominent corporate litigation lawyer and was Chair of the highly-influential 2013 McNair Inquiry and Report which was commissioned by the RSPCA and called for greater commitment to higher welfare standards for farmed animals. Its recommendations were unanimously approved by the Council of Trustees of the RSPCA the month after the Report’s publication and resulted in the RSPCA Assured Scheme. 

More recently Duncan has been regularly invited to address All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Animal Welfare and on Endangered Species regarding the plight of Asian elephants In 2016 he addressed a large audience at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on STAE’s policies, a presentation described by the Chairman as “dramatic and shocking.” 

In 2017 Duncan was part of a small, key group representing 220 charities and MPs in presenting a letter to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street demanding abolition of the UK ivory trade. A proposed ban was announced the same year. In 2018, Duncan and STAE launched a petition on to End the Cruel Treatment of Elephants in India which now has over 1 million signatures and is still being signed today…

All of which might lead to us thinking that the remaining populations of Asian Elephants are now safe, ivory imports are banned, and the cruel ‘breaking’ of these highly intelligent and gentle animals so that tourists can ride them has ended…

The world doesn’t work in such a linear fashion unfortunately, and Asian elephants continue to decline – they are classified as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), have declined by an estimated 50 per cent over the past 75 years, and the remaining 20,000 to 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild are restricted to just 15% of their original range. 

Ivory and elephant welfare are very different issues of course, but again it’s not particularly good news. Here in the UK, the Ivory Bill which received Royal Assent back in 2018 has been held up numerous times and doesn’t come into force until June this year and the government has now paused progress of its much-lauded Animals Abroad Bill which was intended to include both bans on the trade in hunting trophies that threaten the conservation status of species abroad AND the domestic sale and advertising of experiences overseas like elephant rides. Why paused? Well, while the Bill had reached the inquiry stage where it would be scrutinised, the Inquiry Committee has decided that scrutiny cannot continue until the Bill has been published by the Government and the Government are not able to confirm a date of publication. In other words, at the moment it is deadlocked and going nowhere…

Which is incredibly frustrating for STAE, and led to Duncan and a coalition of campaigners including Claire Bass of HSI and Ian Redmond publishing a letter in The Guardian on the 1st of April which began “We are concerned by reports of the government abandoning its manifesto commitments to an Animals Abroad Bill”.