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Beginning of the end canned lion hunting


Staff member
Dec 14, 2023
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South Africa’s Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, spelled out a new direction for the country and its efforts to conserve some of the world’s most iconic species this past weekend, by tackling the controversial issue of captive-lion breeding for canned hunting.

There are an estimated 300 lion-breeding facilities in South Africa holding perhaps 10,000 captive-bred lions — nearly all of which are destined to by shot for profit in a practise known as ‘canned hunting’.

‘Canned hunting’ or ‘bred for bullet’ refers to lions born and raised in captivity for the sole purpose of being shot for large sums of money. The lions involved are killed within an enclosed area, or whilst sedated, meaning the kill is guaranteed – the lions literally have no escape (hence ‘in the can’). Prices for these canned hunts start at about $17,500 and go as high as $50,000.

The recent Ministerial Statement set out a road map for change in the years ahead, which would appear to signal the beginning of the end for the globally condemned practice of canned lion hunting.

Lions Canned Hunting Africa
Lions in an overcrowded lion farm in South Africa

The road map is based on the conclusions of a 600-page High Level Panel Report, which took on board wide stakeholder evidence and the views of national and international experts who participated in the 2018 Parliamentary Colloquium on lion farming.

Minister Creecy stated that the High-Level Panel identified that the captive lion breeding industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from:

  • the negative impact on ecotourism, which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly
  • the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry
  • the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade.

“South Africa may be standing on the verge of a new, more wildlife-friendly future,” comments Will Travers OBE, co-founder and Executive President at International wildlife charity, the Born Free Foundation.

Though while many applaud the Panel and the Minister for seeking to draw a line under an issue that has for so long blighted South Africa’s reputation, organisations such as Blood Lions are urging the Minister and her Department to be abreast of potential loopholes that could be utilised by the commercial captive lion breeding industry in continuing the various spin-off activities. Take a look here for a comprehensive overview of lions in captivity and the practices surrounding canned hunting and trophy hunting.

Literature handed out at the Global March for Lions
Literature handed out at the Global March for Lions

Dr Mark Jones, Born Free’s Head of Policy, stated: “For many years we have called for an end to
South Africa’s cruel and cynical predator breeding industry, which breeds thousands of lions and
other predators for the sole purpose of generating profits through bogus tourist activities, canned
hunting, and the export of lion bones and other products.”

“Our award-winning animation The Bitter Bond, seen by over 11 million people worldwide, helped bring lion breeding and canned hunting to international attention, and resulted in nearly a quarter of a million people signing our petition, calling on the South African authorities to bring a humane end to the industry. It seems the authorities have listened to us and the many others who have campaigned on this issue.”

So, what’s next in the fight to end canned hunting once and for all?​

The Minister’s progressive stance to lion breeding, is perhaps in response to not only national but international pressure, informed by films such as the multi-award-winning Blood Lions.

The Blood Lions team released an official statement noting that “This announcement by Minister Barbara Creecy is highly significant and we commend the Minister in her decisive leadership to bringing an end to the commercial captive lion breeding industry. [We] welcome the chance to play a role in assisting her, the various Departments and entities in the phasing out process to come.”

Blood Lions film Poster

“By implementing a ban on the use of captive lions and their derivatives, in conjunction with an immediate breeding ban and end to all activities involving captive bred lions, DFFE (Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment) will effectively take the lead towards a more ethical and responsible South Africa. These are the first steps in shifting away from commodifying our wildlife, while moving towards a true “ecologically sustainable…use of natural resources”, as described in Section 24 in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.

Will Travers, Born Free’s co-founder and Executive President, concluded: “While the issue of
trophy hunting remains highly contentious, Minister Creecy has made some brave decisions, but it
is important that she is not alone.”

“Born Free and others, with decades of experience in captive animal care and international wildlife trade, stand ready to engage with her directly to offer advice and insights as to how to take matters forward and, in particular, bring the dreadful canned lion hunting industry to a compassionate and humane end,” he added.

The evidence provided for the High Level Report by Born Free, amongst others, has made the despicable practice of breeding lions in captivity by the thousand for exploitation and inevitable execution, as part of the
canned hunting industry, a truly toxic activity.

More information about Born Free’s campaign to end canned hunting can be found here:

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Learn more about canned hunting…​

Want to know more about the lion hunting industry?

The post Beginning of the end canned lion hunting appeared first on Kate on Conservation.
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