South African animal welfare chief accused of animal cruelty

This is a case of horrendous hypocrisy and equally horrendous animal neglect, abuse and cruelty. The story also highlights, once again, the state of disarray, corruption and animal exploitation that takes place in South Africa with respect to lions. It is a great shame and a travesty of animal rights that the lion, one of the world’s iconic animals, happens to live in South Africa where businesses regard this majestic animal as a commercial asset to be exploited to destruction. They demean this proud animal. It’s a demonstration of the arrogance and ignorance the dangerous human.

Lions with total mange on John Steinman's farm in SA
Lions with total mange on John Steinman’s farm in SA. Photo: Conservation Action Trust.
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Jan Steinman, the owner of Pienika farm, is facing animal cruelty charges after inspectors, from the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, visited his property. He keeps a large number of lions, leopards, tigers and other animals. Mr Steinman is also a senior member of the body which was set up to ensure high animal welfare standards. Steinman is listed on the South African Predators Association (Sapa) website as being a council member. His farm is a sponsor of Sapa which makes regulations regarding lion welfare including minimum enclosure size.

On Mr Steinman’s farm the enclosures was small with inadequate provision of water. The conditions were filthy and overcrowded, the inspectors said.

Pictures from the farm showed dozens of lions practically bald with mange in these overcrowded pens without proper shelter or water.

The inspectors reported:

“Parasitic conditions were noted in the camps that contain the lions, tigers and leopards. Twenty-seven of the lions had mange. The caracals were obese and couldn’t groom themselves properly.”

Three lion cubs were found both of whom were suffering from neurological conditions and unable to walk. One of them was put down. The other two are being treated by veterinarians.

The problem goes well beyond Mr Steinman’s farm. The South African government sanctions captive lion breeding. Captive lions are killed to provide bones to Asia where they are popular in remedies and as ornaments. There is lack of oversight and crossbreeding takes place between imported lions and tigers to produce hybrids.

There are about 200 farms contain 12,000 captive lions in South Africa. This is four times the number that remain in the wild on the continent.

Audrey Delsink, the wildlife director of Humane Society International/Africa said that South Africa’s captain line breeding industry was “exploitation, from cradle to grave”.

Lion cubs are taken from their mothers at a few days of age. There are exploited all their lives as props in photos for paying tourists. They are used on walking with lion safaris and when they’re too big and dangerous for these tourist activities they are killed for their bones to supply the insatiable Asian traditional medicine market which is frankly disgusting.

This story is yet another example of the unsatisfactory relationship between humans and animals on the planet. It simply isn’t good enough. It is a tragedy that South Africa happens by pure chance to contain this wonderful iconic wildlife species. Their survival is in jeopardy because of corruption and lack of commitment towards their conservation.

My thanks to The Times newspaper (hard copy).

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