Farming Lion

Save the King of the Jungle before it’s too late.

THE captive-bred lion industry shames South Africa – indeed it shames us all.

By allowing such a barbaric practice, the South African government is harming the reputation of a country that treasures its position on the international stage in the aftermath of apartheid.

A country that until 25 years ago tolerated appalling human rights abuses is now turning a blind eye to cruelty towards Africa’s most noble animal on an horrific scale.

Arguments put up by the pro-canned hunting lobby suggesting that captive-lion breeding promotes animal conservation are ludicrous and spurious.

Only a small number of people – the owners of the 200-plus breeding farms and those peddling ‘canned’ lion hunts – benefit from this unethical and, at times, illegal activity. Labourers involved in the whole process are usually paid rock-bottom wages.

The South African government may resent being told they are wrong by an ‘outsider’ like me but I feel that I have a moral duty to bring the growing problem of captive-lion breeding – what I prefer to call ‘lion farming’ – to the attention of the world.

I know that I am far from alone in my concerns over the treatment and hunting of canned lions by trophy hunters. Last month I tweeted a short film of an American ‘hunter’ – I use the word loosely – shooting and killing a sleeping lion, and it was seen by more than two million people in less than a week.

The captive lion industry is truly barbaric: rarely, if ever, has any species of animal been so exploited. All lions, other than arguably a small number in zoos, should be born, reared and die in a natural environment.

I have compiled a substantial dossier on my findings that I will send to the South African authorities. I hope the South Africa government is shocked and embarrassed into action: that it will eventually pass laws to ban captive lion operations that so damage their country’s international reputation.

Today I also call on the UK Government to follow the lead of other nations, notably the US, France and the Netherlands, in banning the importation of captive lion trophies. We must do our bit to stamp out lion farming and show that we are not in any way complicit in it. However, we should go further, and it should become illegal for individuals or companies to trade, ship or be in possession of these body parts, or to be involved in the handling of the finances involved in this trade.

My comprehensive dossier resulting from Operation Simba will also be sent to Cites – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. On May 23, a Cites ‘Conference of the Parties’ meeting begins in Sri Lanka. I would like to see moves that eventually lead to the lion being elevated from Appendix II to the higher Appendix 1 level of protection.

Appendix 1 protection, which allows no trade in such animals or their body parts, is restricted to species threatened with extinction but, with only some 20,000 wild lions left in the world, we should act now to safeguard the King of the Jungle – before it is too late.