Tiger-Bone Wine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has an ancient and multifaceted heritage that goes back thousands of years and is linked to Taoist and Buddhist philosophies.

Practices such as acupuncture, massage, dietary plans, and breathing and meditation regimes are integral to TCM, and it also comprises over 800 recognised herbal and other medicinal treatments. Based on the holistic notion that humans are intimately linked to their surroundings, these treatments are traditionally mixed from natural components − plant, mineral and animal products.

In many instances, the cures and remedies are made from animal body parts and require that the animal be killed. A number of the species used to make these medicines are now listed as threatened or endangered and, in the case of the most high-profile animals, they have become major international conservation issues.

Rhinos, tigers, sharks, musk deer, bears, buffaloes and seahorses are all well-known examples of animals that are killed for such purposes. It is in this context that TCM has acquired its somewhat tarnished reputation, particularly as the efficacy of many of its treatments is in doubt or has been disproved.

In fact, some of the medicines are based on nothing more than spurious assumptions of a link between a human ailment or dysfunction and a behavioural characteristic of the animal. One of the more obscure tonics is a ‘wine’ that has tiger bones as its crucial ingredient. Apart from its novelty value for Westerners, this product is of interest because it may be linked to two other factors at play in southern Africa at the moment: the substantial increase in the number of rhinos being killed and the meteoric rise in the price of lion bones.

Because the tiger is seen as an agile, strong and energetic animal, tiger-bone wine is advocated as a stimulant for those suffering from fatigue or bone-related ailments, such as arthritis and rheumatism.

It is made by soaking tiger bones in rice wine for lengthy periods. In some instances, whole carcasses may be left in the wine for years at a time. The belief is that by absorbing nutrients from the bones, the wine will pass on the animal’s strength and vitality to the drinker.

Since the trade in tiger body parts was banned in the early 1990s, the production and availability of tiger wine has fallen.

While a small amount of wine comes illegally from farms that are allowed to breed tigers for circus performances, this is insufficient to meet the demand, which appears to be increasing. Commercial producers in China are looking for other options.

Lobbying to have the trading ban on tiger body parts lifted is one way to increase production; another way involves a possible link with South Africa. Over the past two years, the price of lion bones has leapt from less than US$10 per kilogram to more than US$300 per kilogram. Word in the murky underworld where these markets exist is that prices will continue to increase and that large syndicates are placing orders for more than 30 lionesses to be shot in cages at one time.

Traditionally, lionesses are not sought after as trophies, so why are people paying to shoot such large numbers of them? At present prices, the bones of one lioness are worth more than the average asking price to shoot one − US$4 000. It is plausible that merchants for tiger-bone wine in the Far East may have found a substitute for tiger bones.

And, what about the link to rhinos? Since the South African government again legalised trophy hunting for white rhinos, the number of animals killed has risen substantially. In 2007, 157 hunting permits were issued for rhino, with the vast majority going to Chinese and Vietnamese nationals. Rhino poaching levels have also increased dramatically in the past 18 months. Since the beginning of 2008, at least 48 carcasses have been found.

We also know that Far Eastern nationals are heavily involved in syndicate poaching.

If you are a syndicate trader in South Africa on business to buy up rhino horn, why not have a look around for other profitable commodities? Anyone for some lion bones?

I believe the authorities must investigate the possibility of a criminal element in the links between rhino trophy hunting in South Africa, the increase in rhino poaching, the rapid rise in the price of lion bones and the number of Far East-based animal-trading syndicates operating in southern Africa.

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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