Unsavoury practices in canned hunting industry prompt government concern
Andreas Wilson-Späth
21 JULY 2015

Government appears intent on reforming and sanitising the business of breeding and hunting lions. Critics want to see it dismantled altogether

Minister Edna Molewa has just met with stakeholders “to address widespread and mounting public concern” about the controversial practice of canned lion hunting.

The meeting comes at a time when a new documentary film called ‘Blood Lions’ exposes some shocking practices of this industry, and a new international report by TRAFFIC throws light on the growing trade in lion bones, involving hundreds of South African lion carcasses exported annually to supply the traditional Asian medicine market.

The DEA’s official statement about the meeting reveals a fundamental disagreement over what constitutes ‘canned hunting’ in South Africa.

Only organisations supportive of lion breeding and hunting, including the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) and the South African Predator Association (SAPA), appear to have been invited to the meeting. No critics of the industry or conservation NGO’s mentioned in the list of stakeholders involved.

Government and the industry insist that hunting of captive-bred lions represents the legitimate and sustainable use of a wildlife species which they see as “a key driver of economic growth, skill development and job creation in the sector”. While they acknowledge that “rogue elements” and “criminality operating at the fringe of the legal” industry have to be rooted out, they believe that all that is necessary to rectify the poor public perception of the lion breeding business is to improve and clarify the regulations which govern it.

In stark contrast, opponents claim that factory farming lions in stressful, unnatural and unhealthy breeding farms for the sole purpose of supplying the lucrative trophy hunting industry (with a secondary income stream from the trade in lion bones) represents a violation of wildlife conservation principles and animal welfare standards, and has no conservation value.

Around 6000 lions are currently confined in about 150 South African breeding facilities.

While government appears intent on reforming and sanitising the business of breeding and hunting lions, critics want to see it dismantled altogether.

At the meeting of stakeholders it was decided to establish “a forum to investigate a number of issues related to the lion industry in South Africa”. Given its pro-breeding composition it is highly unlikely that this forum will be in a position to resolve these deep-seated differences.

photo credit: Arno Meintjes Wildlife via photopin cc