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Almost a decade has passed since the horrors of canned hunting were first exposed to the world. Brought to our attention with shocking images of caged lions being shot from close range by shameless hunters and their clients, few could have imagined back then that these scenes were in fact not an isolated incident, but rather the beginning of a dark and disgraceful period for South Africa’s wildlife industry. I for one expected these scenes to galvanize the wildlife community, hunting bodies and the authorities to act. Instead, an apparent lack of will (or was it tacit approval in some quarters?) during the ensuing years brought indecision and no clampdown of any sort. Yes, there were official statements of disapproval from DEAT and various hunting bodies, but nothing concrete and constructive to stop the industry flourishing into a multi million dollar one. Emboldened by this display of inertia, a second horror began unfolding. Those involved began establishing large breeding facilities and farms, predominately in the provinces of Free State, Limpopo, North West and Gauteng, to supply the trophy hunters and the animal traders with a sufficient number of captive bred predators.

I have been closely monitoring these industries over the last five years, much of which has been reported through this magazine. It has been an awful task, made all the worse by nagging doubts of whether it would ever be possible to have these practices stopped. Without fail, after leaving every property, my mind would swirl with images of caged predators pacing a maze of wire fencing, and the pack of lies I had just been fed by the owner or guide. The result would be wild swings of reason between absolute outrage and an attempt to understand a chosen livelihood based on an entrenched hunting culture justified by perverse borrowings from the language of conservation and sustainable utilization. Inevitably, I was always left with same conclusion; that of doubting the possibility of any change.

But I now find myself thinking and believing differently. For the first time, and based on the actions and words of Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, I firmly believe there is hope for a full ban on canned hunting and major restrictions to be placed on those wanting to breed large predators. These measures are also likely to be accompanied by stricter regulations governing the hunting industry and the wildlife management industries in general. Why my change in heart? Firstly, Van Schalkwyk has seemingly recognized these industries for what they are, secondly he has accepted that there are major structural, operational and regulatory deficiencies in the hunting industry in general and thirdly, he appointed a ‘Panel of Experts’ earlier this year to review all of the above.

The Minister must be applauded for taking such a proactive stance, but more importantly, he and the Panel of Experts should now be given full support during this period when the laws and regulations are being formulated. The Panel has completed their work and these findings have been delivered to the Minister for review. With regards to canned hunting and the captive breeding of wildlife, the main recommendations of the panel are as follows:

  • “In general, the practice of hunting captive bred animals should not be allowed”.
  • “The Panel recommends that the Minister place a ban on the import of all alien species for hunting purposes”.
  • “The Panel recommends the prohibition of the translocation of species outside their range zones”.
  • With regards to put-and-take hunting and canned hunting, “the Panel recommends that both these practices should be prohibited as they compromise the principle of fair chase and the humane treatment of animals”.

It needs to be stressed that at this stage these are merely recommendations, and any changes to the law are unlikely until mid year sometime at the earliest. In the interim, there is no doubt that the industry heavyweights will be lobbying government against any bans, and if their activities are heavily curtailed, one can expect a full array of legal threats to be introduced.

While the legal challenges are pressures the government should be able to deal with, there are more serious concerns to begin pondering if an outright ban is to be implemented. What do we do with approximately 3 000 human imprinted lions, 500 cheetah, 250 wild dog, 60 tigers and countless other predators that breeders will surely look to abandon?

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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