In 2007, Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister for South Africa Marthinus van Schalkwyk instituted rules to restrict the practice of captive or “canned” hunting. The rules were already seen as a cowardly compromise by animal rights activists who hoped to see the practice abolished entirely.
Under the 2007 rules, animals must be allowed to roam free for at least 24 months before they are fair game for hunters, contrasted with the previous practice of setting animals loose from their cages to be immediately killed by hunters. After two years in the wild, the animals were no longer considered tame and were eligible for hunting.
Minister Van Schalkwyk originally proposed an even shorter time of six months before the animals could be hunted. A confusing position from someone who has spoken out so vehemently against the practice of canned hunting.
Animal rights activists at the time accused the government of caving to pressure in 2007 from the captive breeders who bring over $450 million. And now the threat from the breeders has proven quite real as the high court upheld their appeal of Van Schalkwyk’s rules, saying the rules were not rational.
Jason Bell-Leask of the International Fund for Animal Welfare says that the most rational decision would have been to ban the practice of breeding lions in captivity for hunting.
It seems likely that the judge’s decision had as much to do with the big coffers of the South African Predator Breeder’s Association as with the admittedly arbitrary standard set by Van Schalkwyk. Abolishing the practice of breeding captive lions may have outraged the breeders even more, but it would have presented a more rational and easily defensible standard.
Hunting wild animals is already an example of the worst in human arrogance and irresponsibility. We disguise cold-blooded murder as “sport” or hide it under the deceptive veil of a bucolic appreciation of the outdoors.
But canned hunting represents the absolute height of hubris and laziness. It’s hard to imagine how someone could view proud and powerful animals as products out of a factory, bred for immediate release and slaughtered moments after taking their first breaths outside of a cage.
Canned hunting is to wild hunting what factory farming is to family farms, and both of those former examples have been able to show us the horrifying lengths of cruelty humanity will go to when we view animals as nothing more than objects, property to be used for whatever profit we can gain from their exploitation.
Minister Van Schalkwyk’s mistake was to trying to regulate canned hunting instead of abolishing it outright. A mistake that we see all too often in animal advocacy.
If we seek to help animals, if we seek to make the world a better place for them, if we seek to end their torture, exploitation, captivity, slavery, and murder, then we have no alternative but veganism.
We must refuse to eat, use, wear, or exploit animals in any way and we must advocate for an absolute end to all industries that profit from animals’ misery.
Photo: Sheep purple