An End to Canned Hunting in South Africa?

Dear Friends

I have always found it truly impossible to comprehend why anyone would want to hunt and kill a magnificent wild lion and throw its skin on the floor, or stick its head on a wall, as some kind of gruesome trophy.  But the hunting of captive-bred lions in small enclosures (known as ‘canned hunting’) seems even more abhorrent. The animal has no chance at all. In fact I understand some of these ranches advertise on a ‘no kill, no fee’ basis. It’s not ‘sport’ it’s slaughter. For many years the South African government has been subject to international condemnation for allowing this practice which last year saw more than one thousand lions canned hunted. Imagine the carnage.

Recently the authorities finally took note of the criticisms and amended the law to try and bring an end to this dreadful practice.  A legal battle ensued, with lion breeders claiming the new regulations would severely damage their livelihoods.  However, it was announced a few days ago that the lion breeders had lost their court case and so the regulations remain.

Now, in a last desperate throw of the dice, the lion-breeders are trying to force the government to retreat by claiming that the court judgement will result in the euthanasia of the estimated 3,000 lions that are currently housed in these lion ‘farms’.

What to do? To me, the response is very simple.  Although the South African government should be applauded for eventually taking steps to bring an end to canned hunting, they must also take responsibility for allowing the situation to get out of hand in the first place. They must ensure that no more breeding takes place, no imports are permitted and that federal ‘transitional’ funds are provided to adequately house and care for the remaining lions in the best environment possible for the rest of their lives.

No-one is pretending it’s going to be easy or cheap, but in my view, the welfare of these lions is paramount and the government has an obligation to ensure that the threat of mass euthanasia is laid to rest. With millions of people preparing to come to South Africa for the World Cup, the prospect of being known as the country that allowed thousands of lions to be summarily executed would not play at all well with the international community. These lions have suffered enough – I am calling on the government to guarantee them the chance of a better life, as part of the process of bringing the despicable ‘canned hunting’ industry to a speedy and humane end.

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