SOUTH AFRICA-NEWS AND VIEWS: The South African government has realised that public opinion is turning against one of their major businesses: the captive breeding, captive hunting, captive petting (of cubs) and captive use and abuse of lions. In that vein they want to provide tourists, which has to include trophy and sport hunters, with a more authentic experience.
So, they are not going to ban hunting of this iconic species but they are going to try and make the process more authentic. Canned lion hunting is decidedly inauthentic. The poor lion is bred on a lion farm and then taken to a large field with a fence around it where the poor creature is hunted by a delusional American who desires, above all else, to pretend that he is a great white hunter in the old tradition. The man is ushered around the enclosure by a South African guide who tells him where to point the rifle and, at reasonably close range, together they kill the animal to their great delight. That’s inauthentic lion hunting which is little better than the authentic variety.
All lion hunting should be banned but it won’t because it is too commercially advantageous to South Africa and in any case the lion breeding industry is too vocal and too expert at lobbying government ministers to let any ban take place. So it might happen.
The lion breeding industry is worth millions of dollars. So the South African government have to find a middle path where they can still make money out of killing lions for the fun of it while presenting a more natural hunting environment. There is no discussion that I can discern on the topic of animal welfare. And there is no discussion on the topic of conservation either. Neither seem to feature in this argument but I confess that I have not seen the government study which contained a recommendation that this captive lion breeding should stop.
The environment minister Barbara Creecy made it clear that the recommendations were not aimed at stifling the hunting industry. Legal, regulated hunting will continue.
I suppose that it is a small step in the right direction because canned lion hunting is obnoxious. One issue that I can perceive which has not been mentioned in the news media articles that I have read is that the lion breeding programmes in South Africa are linked to China and their desire to eat the body parts of lions such as their bones. There may be some resistance from the Chinese because they have an insatiable appetite to eat iconic big cat species. And if they are not bred in captivity there will be less of them.
There are 350 farms in South Africa where lion breeding takes place. The numbers are enormous. It is reported that there are between 8,000 and 12,000 lions on these farms. In stark contrast, it is estimated that there are around 3,500 lions living in the wild in South Africa according to the South African-based Endangered Wildlife Trust.
Despite the negative way that the idea of banning breeding has been pitched by the government, the global animal charity World Animal Protection has decided that the decision is ‘courageous’.
And they agreed that it is a step in the right direction of animal welfare because: “Thousands of farmed lions are born into a life of misery in South Africa every year in cruel commercial breeding facilities” said Edith Kabesiime, World Animal Protection’s campaign manager for Africa.
The government panel recommending the ban also recommended the phasing out of captive rhino breeding and to look at the future use of rhino horn stockpiles. There are apparently 300 private rhino breeders in South Africa.