Blood Lions follows acclaimed environmental journalist and safari operator Ian Michler, and American hunter, Rick Swazey, on their journey to uncover the realities of the multi-million dollar predator breeding and canned lion hunting industries in South Africa.
The story blows the lid off claims made by these hunting operators in attempting to justify what they do. Last year alone over 800 captive lions were shot in South Africa, mostly by wealthy international hunters under conditions that are considered anything but sporting.
Ian has been following this story since 1999, and the film shows him going onto these breeding farms to witness the impact that decades of intensive breeding is having on captive lions and other predators.
Aggressive farmers and many others within the professional hunting community resent his questioning, but the highly profitable commercialization of lions is plain to see – cub petting, volunteer recruitment, lion walking, canned hunting, trading and the new lion bone trade are on the increase. And all are being justified under the guise of conservation, research and education.
In parallel the film follows Rick, who purchases a South African lion online from his home in Hawaii. He then travels to South Africa to follow the path paved by many canned hunters.
We also speak to trophy hunters, operators and breeders, as well as recognized lion ecologists, conservationists and animal welfare experts about the predator hunting industry.
The film shows in intimate detail how lucrative it is to breed lions, and how the authorities and most professional hunting and tourism bodies have become complicit in allowing the industries to flourish.
There is also hope in our story as we cover the latest developments with the Australian government announcing a complete ban on the importation of all African lion trophies into Australia.
Blood Lions is a compelling call to action and shows how you can get involved in a global campaign to stop lions being bred for the bullet.
In 2011 Pippa Hankinson visited a private lion breeding farm for the first time where she found close on 100 lions held captive in small enclosures, many visibly inbred and clearly stressed. She was deeply disturbed by her experience.
Determined to find out more, she learnt that there were between 6000 and 8000 lions living in similar conditions on other breeding farms around South Africa – part of a multimillion-dollar industry – where the majority are sold into the captive/canned lion hunting industry or to Asia to supplement the “tiger bone” trade. Most shocking of all was not only that the industry was legal, but how few people seemed to know anything about it.
She often quotes Martin Luther King Jr. when he said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. Animals have always mattered a great deal to Pippa, but Africa’s wildlife and particularly lions, are very close to her heart.
A documentary seemed the most effective way to raise awareness around the exploitation of these captive-bred lions, but never having made a film before, Pippa set about gathering a proficient and committed team of professionals around her. Along with the extraordinary generosity and support of individuals and organisations from around the world, they helped her make this film.
The award winning Blood Lions® feature documentary premiered in 2015. At the same time the Blood Lions Campaign was launched to create global awareness around the captive predator breeding, canned hunting and lion bone industries as well as the related exploitative wildlife interactive tourism practices.
Furthermore, the campaign encourages viewers of the film, visitors to Africa and followers on social media to make responsible choices about visiting or supporting wildlife interactive tourism facilities and activities. Through awareness and by reducing demand for exploitative products, the campaign aims to bring an end to the exploitation of captive-bred wild animals.
The Campaign is anchored by the Blood Lions® film, a strong and active digital media platform, and various specific campaigns with key international partners.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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