Canned hunting is popular, also among inexperienced hunters. In this form of hunting, the animals are bred in captivity, raised by hand, released into fenced enclosures and a little later "served" to the hunter on a silver platter for shooting. In particular, lions are bred and hunted in such farms, but also on offer are tigers, leopards and cheetahs.
Several hundred up to 1.000 lions fall victim to this cruel practice each year. In South Africa live 10.000 to 12.000 lions crammed into up to 350 breeding farms – more than ever before: The number of lions in captivity has increased by more than 50 percent in just seven years. Due to inbreeding, many of the animals suffer from diseases. In freedom there are probably only about 2 lions left in South Africa.000 lions, the trend is strongly decreasing.
Many young animals are initially abused as a tourist attraction: You can pet them, take pictures and walk with them. Unsuspecting tourists even pay farm owners and volunteer agencies a lot of money to bottle-raise predator cubs, taken from their mothers, on lion farms as volunteers. Volunteers are unaware that they are supporting a cruel industry that is increasingly rejected even by hunting associations.
As soon as the lions are older than four to six years, they can be released for shooting. Hunters pay several thousand euros for a lion trophy. Shooting a farmed lion is on average much cheaper and easier than shooting a wild animal. This also explains the booming demand for creel hunting. Almost all of the animals shot by big game hunters in South Africa come from breeding farms. Germany also regularly allows the import of hunting trophies from animals that have been bred and shot in gates. As a rule, the hunt does not take place on the same farm where the animals were bred: The lions are sold to hunting farms in the Free State, North West and Limpopo provinces, where they are shot in fenced hunting enclosures – with no chance of escape.
… and finally cannibalize
With the death of the animal, industrialized exploitation still does not end: While the hunter usually takes home the animal’s skull and hide as a status symbol, the animal’s body continues to be cannibalized and marketed: Since 2008, lion bones have been increasingly used in traditional Asian medicine as a substitute for tiger bones, which are banned in the trade for the production of tiger bone wine. From 2008 to 2015 from Africa the skeletons of more than 6.000 lions with a total weight of a good 70 tons exported to Asia, with a strong upward trend! 99 percent of the bones come from South African breeding farms and were legally exported with government approval. In 2017, the South African government even added legitimacy to the scandalous goings-on by setting an export quota for the skeletons of 800 farmed animals per year. Pro Wildlife fears that the legal trade is also endangering wildlife populations, as wild lions – as well as tigers, leopards and jaguars – are increasingly being poached to smuggle their bones into the trade. Breeding farms are fuelling demand for supposed miracle cures in Asia, contributing to the threat to the big cats.
Is the end coming for South Africa’s lion farms??
In May 2021, South African Environment Minister Barbara Creecy announced her intention to end the breeding and exploitation of lions for hunting and trade. These plans stem from a 600-page report and recommendations from a High Level Panel established by the Ministry of Environment in 2019. A parliamentary committee had already made corresponding demands in 2018. However, the minister’s announcement has yet to be put into action, all stakeholders (including lion breeders) need to be consulted, laws need to be developed and passed. What will become of the farmed animals (and their coveted bones and skins) is as yet unclear. As welcome as the minister’s plans are, it remains to be seen when there will finally be redemption for South Africa’s breeding lions and how consistent the announced regulations will be. For in 2007, the then Minister of the Environment of South Africa had already made an attempt to end the globally criticized creel hunting of breeding lions. But the breeders sued and were able to prevent the planned law in court due to technical errors. Since then, the hunt for bred lions has boomed. When it comes to the rhino trade, private breeders also prevailed against the government and brought down a national trade ban. High time, then, for South Africa to emancipate itself from the breeder and hunting lobby.