In South Africa, lion cubs are being removed from their mothers within an hour of being born and reared in captivity. Once fully grown, they are released into fenced enclosures where they are promptly killed by wealthy foreign trophy-hunters.
This sport is entirely legal, and it is known as canned hunting.
Canned hunting is a fast-growing business in South Africa: thousands of lions are being bred on ranches for the sole purpose of being murdered.
It hasn’t always been like this. Five years ago, the South African government effectively banned canned hunting by requiring an animal to roam free for two years before it could be hunted. But that resulted in breeders and hunters losing a lot of money, so lion breeders, and particularly the South African Predator Breeder’s Association, challenged the policy in South Africa’s courts. A high court judge eventually ruled that such restrictions were “not rational.”
Since then, the number of trophy hunted animals has soared. Between 2001 and 2006, 1,830 lion trophies were exported from South Africa; between 2006 to 2011, 4,062 were exported, making a 122 percent increase. Most of these were captive-bred animals.
The population of lions in Africa overall is in steep decline. In South Africa, there are a mere 2,000 wild ones, and around 5,000 captive ones, animals reared specifically to be shot and owned by tourists from Europe and North America.
This is essentially the factory-farming of lions, and just like in factory-farming, it reveals the shocking lengths of cruelty humanity will go to when they see nature and animals as objects to be controlled, property to be used for whatever profit they can get out of them.
Sadly, this isn’t just happening in South Africa. Care2′s Alicia Graef reported earlier this year about various locations in the U.S. where hunters enjoy the “privilege” of hunting fenced-in animals, and are fighting to keep that right.
In northwestern Colorado, you can visit fishing ranches that cater to wealthy U.S. clients, mostly from the East Coast, who are guaranteed to come away with a trophy fish. That’s because the ranch owners create giant, artificial ponds that they stock with trout, so any fisherman with a fly rod and the ability to cast will be able to catch something. Not exactly a challenge.
Same thing with these lions.
How Canned Hunting Works
Here’s how The Guardian describes it:
The easy slaughter of animals in fenced areas is called “canned hunting”, perhaps because it’s rather like shooting fish in a barrel. A fully-grown, captive-bred lion is taken from its pen to an enclosed area where it wanders listlessly for some hours before being shot dead by a man with a shotgun, hand-gun or even a crossbow, standing safely on the back of a truck. He pays anything from £5,000 to £25,000, and it is all completely legal.
Actually, it’s not just about lions. Here’s what you can find on the website for South Africa’s Moreson Ranch, described as “A holiday and game farm:”
Moreson Ranch has had a 100% success rate over the years, from the smallest adventurer to the mature hunter. Many satisfied customers return year after year.
A variety of game species are available, like Zebra, Eland, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, White Blesbok, Springbuck, Steenbok, Mountain Reedbuck, Common Duiker, Ostrich, Fallow Deer and Impala.
Lion Bones For Asian Medicine
Another alarming aspect of this “sport” is the use of lion bones in Chinese and Southeast Asian medicine. The powdered bones of tigers have been credited with all sorts of miracle cures, but now that the tiger population is in a serious decline, the demand for lion bones has increased.
In South Africa, lion bones are selling for around $165 per kilo (2.2 pounds). That’s about $5,000 for a full skeleton. The skull is worth another $1,100, the Guardian reports. As a result, South African officials have recently reported an increase in the number of permits they’re issuing for export of lion bones from certified trophy dealers.
Canned hunting has to be one of the most egregious crimes visited on animals by humanity. The proud king of the jungle is reduced to a commodity, just another object to be bought and sold.
It is still legal to bring a lion carcass back to Europe or North America as a trophy. Addressing this issue, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last December that African lions may deserve protected status under the Endangered Species Act.
Let’s hope this comes to pass.
Photo Credit: thinkstock