Social media star punches lion cub prompting animal welfare investigation

Dean Schneider and lion
Dean Schneider and lion. Video screenshot. See video below.
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NEWS/VIEWS – SOUTH AFRICA – PRIVATE ZOO: Dean Schneider is being investigated for alleged animal cruelty after being filmed punching one of his lion cubs. This video was or still is on his Instagram page but I can’t find it. It may have been removed because of the controversy surrounding it. However, you can see it on the Daily Mail website and I’m publishing the video below.

Dean Schneider has a massively successful Instagram account with 6.9 million followers and he reportedly spends seven hours a day dealing with it and replying to comments from the public. He styles himself “a Swiss boy living in Africa” and is a former Swiss financier turned safari park owner in South Africa.

Dean Schneider hits lion cub
Dean Schneider hits lion cub. Screenshot.

It appears that the lion cub against whom he was resting inadvertently snagged his shoulder with a claw while stretching. It certainly wasn’t deliberate but it hurt Mr Schneider who struck back by punching the lion cub’s thigh several times quite hard. The video clip cuts out immediately after he began striking the cub. Comment: it won’t be assessed as animal cruelty in my view as it is not abusive enough bearing in mind the lions size and strength.

Note: videos on this site are typically made by people other than me and held on YouTube servers or the servers of other businesses (not the server storing this website). Sometimes the videos are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. It that has happened I apologise but I have no control over it.


South Africa is a place where there is arguably a certain laxity with regards to lion welfare. The government sanctions the captive lion breeding industry. There is a lot of canned lion hunting which is cruel and they provide lion bone I guess for the Chinese market. Lack of supervision leads to crossbreeding of lions and imported tigers. South Africa has a patchy history of regulation of the contentious captive lion industry to put it mildly.

South Africa’s national animal welfare agency reported that it had been inundated with complaints about the video. It has been shared by animal advocates and activists.

It is reported in The Times that efforts to investigate the matter have been hampered by the secrecy surrounding his safari park. There appears to be a lack of transparency about Mr Schneider’s operation.

In defence, Mr Schneider’s spokesperson said that he has a deep love for his animals and wildlife in general and that he would never use force against his animals unnecessarily.

Mr Schneider says that his animals regard him as a brother and as part of their family. He has learned to use their language and communicate with them. He clearly has a very close relationship with his animals as his videos attest. The reserve is said to be 890 acres in size but it is not open to the public. The high cost of running it comes from donations and I am going to speculate other business dealings such as providing tiger bone and lions for questionable commercial activities.

Mr Schneider says he does not breed animals but recently revealed that he had allowed one of his lionesses to become pregnant. There are 200 lion farms in South Africa with a total of 12,000 lions in captivity which is about four times the number that roam in the wild in that country.

South Africa also has a questionable attitude towards big-game hunting of lions in their country. It appears that they have commercialised the lion rather than protect it.

Mr Schneider has been likened to the anti-hero, Joe Exotic, of the Netflix documentary series ‘Tiger King’. He appears to be South Africa’s version of Joe exotic.

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