Kill the Canned Hunting Industry (2002)

The canned hunting industry has again been in the news lately. For those readers who have not been following the debate, the State President has before him a policy document that awaits his signature. First drafted in 2002, the document aims at legislating the cowardly and abhorrent practice of shooting captive bred animals, mostly large predators, that are kept in cages and confined areas, sometimes drugged and feeding from a bait. The policy has already been approved at various levels of government, including parliament. As it stands, it should not be allowed to receive his signature. There are obvious loopholes – policing the legislation, it does not provide for exotic species, there are weak definitions of what constitutes human-imprinted animals and the lack of public participation amongst others.

While these oversights are serious, I believe there is a more menacing aspect to the industry that needs to be introduced into the debate, and that is the process of domestication. Are the canned operators not in the process of creating a domesticated version of the wild lion? And for that matter, the same could be asked about a number of the other species being bred by canned operators and wildlife ranchers. Do we understand the biological, behavioural and philosophical implications of what is actually going on behind the fences and cages on these farms? One can distinguish three broad categories of interaction between Humans and wild animals. Habituation occurs when wild animals become familiar with our routine movements, taming occurs when we control their feeding behaviour, and domestication occurs when we control their breeding behaviour. The managed hunting industry is all about supplying animals that offer sufficiently attractive trophies. Larger, heavier, longer and more colourful equates to higher prices paid by the hunter, and in order to achieve this, breeders will control and manipulate the breeding behaviour of animals. With the large predators, one-week old cubs are often removed from their mothers in order to induce another estrus cycle; lions will be mated with their own offspring (particularly in the case of white lions); lions and tigers are being cross-bred producing what are known as ligers. By consistently doing this, the reproductive capacities of the females are placed under stress as they will be reproducing at rates that exceed the normal circumstances in the wild. The cubs on the other hand are being reared outside of their natural social pride dynamic. With plains game species for example, blesbok and bontebok are crossbred to achieve longer horns and springbok and impala are bred for recessive genes. One need only consider the mutations that have occurred in domestic dogs and cats to accept that there will be critical future consequences to this reckless practice.

Controlling the breeders in South Africa is only half the solution as they are only half the problem. The hunters, who come from all over the world, also need to be targeted. Much like the illicit drug industry, effective legislation needs to be aimed as much at the user and abuser as at the dealer. The ultimate control would be to put a blanket ban on the export of all trophies. This would also be an interesting acid test as to why people hunt in general. This measure should not materially affect the overall experience of genuine hunters, who claim that they are primarily involved in conservation and the fair chase!

And while discussing the distinction between wild and domestic animals, the hoary? old story still put forward by hunters and breeders to justify their practices by comparing them with the domesticated animals is simply outlandish. The majority of domesticated animals is the result of a process that has taken place over thousands of years – when Humankind was inexplicably linked to the natural world for food, clothing and survival. Our relationship with the environment has fundamentally and unquestionably changed, and to argue otherwise is both foolish and self-serving. If there is any doubt, lets ask the hunting world a question in a paradigm they will understand. Do they ever come to Africa to shoot our prize cattle and horses to hang these trophies on their walls? Or conversely, when last did they pop down to their local butcher to order a kilogram of prime lion or zebra ribs? The fair treatment and slaughter process of domesticated animals is another issue altogether. Ultimately, by carrying out these practices with wild animals and attempting to link the argument to domestic animals, they defeat the very purpose of what they say is central to their sport – that of the thrill and challenge of pitting ones hunting skills against the instincts and survival strategies of wild animals.

Canned hunting has no conservation status whatsoever! How can we trust canned hunting operators with the gene pool of Africa’s wild species. The canned hunting industry must be completely killed. It has no place in a forward-thinking society.

Back to Media

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