The Power of Educating our Youth

©Stephanie Klarmann

Written by Stephanie Klarmann

Published on 15 Mar, 2019

I believe that educating adolescents and youth is fundamental in changing attitudes and behaviours in any conservation effort. Education not only provides knowledge but also creates a sense of empathy and understanding on a much deeper level. It can also promote activism and justice, particularly in young people who are finding their voices and are so willing to act in ways which may often defy social norms (we often think of these young people as being rebellious; but I like to see them as challenging oppressive existing norms). This is becoming especially true of the captive breeding and hunting industry, which has for many years been covered in a cloak of conservation and good will. Yet, emerging evidence continues to expose an industry characterised by greed, neglect and cruelty.

I must be honest, when I first decided to approach this topic with the students I teach, I was hesitant. I felt they were too young to comprehend the inherent cruelty and I wanted to avoid shattering the commonly held beliefs about something seemingly innocent. And yet the opposite occurred. Whilst the Blood Lions® documentary remains an immense shock to watch, the students took it on with maturity, moving almost immediately towards action with questions like “what can be done to stop it? Why is this allowed in the first place? Surely this is illegal?” These were the hardest questions to answer because such cruelty seems so far-fetched to many of us. The hard-hitting visual elements of the Blood Lions® documentary and its ongoing campaigns illustrate something else I strongly believe in – that video and photography is a powerful means of conveying information and emotion in ways that move people towards change and action.


When it comes to what can be done, I encouraged individual actions – we all have a voice and should not feel that alone we do not have an impact. Being educated also allows students to educate others, like their own friends and family. In fact, I have since heard stories of students who have turned down invitations to lion parks and will speak up in class when cub petting is mentioned by fellow classmates. This is one of the most promising signs that we can make progress through education! My experience has been that the impact is  lasting, with the latest conversation occurring a year after watching the documentary. How incredible to know that we can have a long-term impact on attitudes and behaviour!

Teaching students to think critically is also a vital component of educating them about conservation issues. Providing evidence and solid facts is so necessary in a time when false information abounds and can be shared at the click of a button. Such skills ensure that students are able to think about situations from a variety of perspectives: local, international, economical, and ethical. Through open-minded discussions about welfare, ethical travel and conservation, I sincerely hope to encourage students to be curious and willing to learn, and even more so to empower them to be responsible and ethical citizens who choose to use their voices and challenge deeply unethical activities.

I gathered some quotations from students expressing their thoughts about the following quote describing the South African captive breeding and canned hunting industry:

“Every single day captive bred or tame lions continue to be killed in canned hunts and hundreds more slaughtered.”

“When I read this I stop and think why people find pleasure in seeing these beautiful animals go through torture and pain. If people would just stop and think, what happens if they were in that situation, they wouldn’t want to be forced to breed and neither would you. I just find heartache and sadness, I hate the way society has become by torturing these animals for wealth, where they could easily get a job that has much fewer risks and a job that can give love and happiness around the world. Most people don’t even realise that lions and other cats were not meant to be held or petted, they were meant to lie on the savannah grass maybe enjoy a meal or two, not be locked up in a cage and forced to breed their whole life.” (Katie, 12 years old)

“Blood Lions was very interesting and eye-opening. Lion cub petting and breeding is very upsetting and wrong. It makes me very sad to know that there are many people out there who are okay with this. Lion cubs aren’t trophies and shouldn’t be used as a means of attraction at game lodges and animal parks.” (Kaitlyn, 15)

“Blood Lions is a fascinating documentary that sheds truth on the blood money of captive-bred lions. It is unnerving to see the pure greed and entitlement of canned lion hunters.” (Jordyn, 17)

“Before I watched Blood Lions, to me cub petting was not a bad thing, but after watching the documentary my thoughts changed as I realised that it was actually extremely wrong. All my life I have been against hunting and animals being captive. I am shocked to discover what is really going on. The places we once thought were good are most guilty for killing our wildlife.” (Emma, 16)

©Stephanie Klarmann

It is clear that educating students has the power to change attitudes and behaviour as these students demonstrated that they were not proud of our government’s decision to allow the proliferation of captive-bred lions whilst wild populations remain significantly lower. Whilst this was not an easy topic to approach, I am so proud of the maturity and advocacy expressed by all the students who have watched the documentary and engaged in discussions with me.

The NSPCA has huge animal welfare concerns for the animals exploited in the captive predator and canned hunting industry in South Africa. This industry is unregulated, uncontrolled and is responsible for untold cruelty. It is a tragedy that our wild animals are reduced to profit making machines. Coupled with this members of public are unwittingly encouraging and supporting this cruelty, so it is vital that the public are aware of the truth behind the industry so they can make informed decisions and hopefully choose not to support such an unethical industry.

Sr.Ainsley Hay, Manager, NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit

Breeding magnificent wild creatures like lions in camps so that they can be slaughtered for ego and money is unconscionable and should be outlawed.  Lions have the right to live in the wild and to continue playing their unique role within the ecological communities of Africa.  The continued existence of the canned hunting industry is a moral outrage that diminishes us all.  This important film shines a light into the dark corners of this ugly business.

Cormac Cullinan, Cullinan & Associates Incorporated

Cruel, barbaric, macabre – all words used by Australian MPs about lion farming and the canned lion hunting industry in SA.  Our campaign was glad to be able to assist and participate in a full length documentary that aims to expose a brutal industry whose whole business model is routine, egregious cruelty to helpless animals – for fun.

Chris Mercer, Founder, CACH (Campaign Against Canned Hunting)

Captive lions have long been a blemish on South Africa’s wildlife and tourism landscape and their tragic story needed to be exposed before these practices negatively impacted on Brand South Africa. Congratulations to all involved in taking the time and making this happen.

Colin Bell, Tourism consultant and author of “Africa’s Finest”

“As a travel and conservation based organization, we find the “Blood Lions” documentary deeply disturbing. Despite being hard to watch, we urge people to get out there and see it. It is important to shed light on the dark and corrupt business of rearing lions for the purposes of hunting, in hopes of making a positive change. As we polled our membership, we found that individually each of our companies have chosen to stop booking all activities that contribute to this industry.”

The Safari Professionals – 30 Tour Operators based in the US and Canada

South Africa’s failure to address the canned hunting industry has emboldened those who make a living out of the death of lions bred, raised and slaughtered on a ‘no kill, no fee’ basis. The canned hunting industry is unnatural, unethical and unacceptable. It delivers compromised animal welfare and zero education. It undermines conservation and creates a moral vacuum now inhabited by the greed and grotesque self-importance of those who derive pleasure in the taking of life.

Blood Lions lays bare the truth behind the canned hunting industry that, far from contributing to the future survival of the species, may, in fact, accelerate extinction in the wild, leaving behind a trail  littered with rotting corpses of its helpless and hopeless victims.

Will Travers OBE, President Born Free Foundation

The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust, in providing support for the making of this Documentary, does so in the firm belief that it is important that the true facts behind captive lion breeding and canned lion hunting in South Africa, is brought to the attention of a global audience in order to create awareness which in turn will lead to much needed change.

Les Ward MBE, Chairman, The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust

This is a timely, courageous as well as a deeply disturbing documentary. It is at the same time, a voice for the wild and the voiceless … of saying “NO MORE!” to that terrible triad of financial opportunism, deceit and indifference to the non-human animal by those claiming to be conservationists.

Ian McCallum – Author, poet, psychiatrist and naturalist

With the constant pressure on wildlife, every effort must be made to keep our last vestiges of natural fauna and flora protected.    Canned hunting of any kind, along with the related consequences, must be condemned by humanity as not only a travesty of nature but also an utterly inhumane practise.   Taming lion cubs only to later hunt them is an utterly inhumane practice.   It is pseudo-hunting, a complete sham and does not even qualify as hunting on a sustainable use basis.   Wildlife conservation has to evolve into practices that are ethical, humanitarian and sustainable. This will not be achieved if there is not real and fair community involvement which has not been part of the hunting fraternity’s evolution.

Yvette Taylor, Executive Director, The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation

“Canned lion ‘hunting’ is nothing less than a bargain basement opportunity for foreign hunters to engage in one of South Africa’s most sordid practices. Hunting of captive bred lions entirely dependent on human fingerprints from cub to trophy is immoral, unethical and against all animal welfare concerns. The fact that it still continues as profitable commerce is a damning statement against all of us who have not properly engaged to snuff it out. Blood Lions is a good start to bring change.”

Dr Pieter Kat – Director: LionAid

Canned Lion