FAQs on canned hunting
Chris Mercer answers the following frequently-asked questions:
Jenn Koh – Calgary March: What will happen to the thousands of lions currently in captivity once canned hunting is banned?
The SA government would only ban further breeding of lions. Starved of new cubs, the industry will be allowed to decline over a phase-out period of a number of years.
Jenn Koh – Calgary March: Is there a transition plan being discussed or presented?
Yes and No. See above. The possible phasing in of any restrictions on lion farming over a number of years was conceded by the Minister during the Predator Breeders High Court case.
Jenn Koh – Calgary March: How will the ban impact the wild lions in SA and elsewhere in Africa (will we see an increase in poaching & hunting of wild lions)?
Actually, lion farming causes an increase in the poaching of wild lions.
Whistleblowers have come forward in Botswana to relate how, using 4 x 4 vehicles, they have chased down wild lion prides to the point of exhaustion, shot the pride adult lions, and captured the cubs for sale to unscrupulous S.A. lion farmers. The captured cubs are smuggled across S.Africa's porous borders.
We know from anecdotal evidence that the same thing happens in other neighbouring countries. Lion farmers need a constant supply of wild lions to prevent in- breeding and captivity depression in their lion stocks.
So, a ban on canned hunting and captive breeding of lions would actually result in a decrease in wild lion poaching.
Is canned lion hunting legal in SA?
Yes! Most emphatically Yes!
Do not believe the misleading and mischievous statements by pro-hunting orgs that canned hunting is illegal. They are adopting a strained and artificial definition that tries to shoe-horn the definition in to permit conditions, namely:
Canned hunting is thus ultimately when a lion is:
1. drugged, or
2. hunted in a small holding camp or
3. hunted while adjacent to other lions in captivity.
Permits cannot be issued for lion hunts contravening the above regulations. If these regulations are not adhered to, it becomes a canned hunt.
Legal lion hunting is when the regulations are adhered to and a permit is obtained.(sic!)
Surely anyone can see how wrong this definition is.
Let's assume that the ‘hunt’ takes place in North West Province where a tame, hand reared lion is put into a large camp and killed (slowly) by a volley of arrows. On any sensible definition that would be a canned hunt because there is no element of fair chase, and the animal is constrained not only by fencing but also by habituation.
However, on the narrow definition adopted by the hunting fraternity, that hunt would not be considered 'canned' so long as it was 'legal' ie the permit conditions were followed.
The cause of the confusion is that there is no legal definition of canned hunting. The phrase is not even mentioned in the TOPS regulations.
With no legal definition, anyone can claim that canned hunting is banned or permitted, whichever suits his purpose.
Those in favour of hunting say that captive-bred lions are helping to ‘save’ the wild population. How do you respond?
Like all hunting industry propaganda, the claim that every tame lion shot is a wild lion saved rests on false assumptions. The falsity is the notion that every hunter who is prevented from shooting a tame lion will automatically go out and kill a wild lion.
In actual fact, canned hunters have a different mind-set from those who call themselves trophy hunters. Trophy hunters say that they would never kill a captive animal because of the absence of what they call “fair chase.” A key part of how they define themselves is by declaring how hard it was for them to earn their trophy.
It might be by going out to somewhere like Tanzania, spending a week walking for miles through the bush, being bitten by tsetse flies and mosquitoes and tolerating physical discomfort in the hope of being able to kill a wild lion to claim as their “trophy.”
The canned hunters, on the other hand, want a “trophy” too but minus any type of hardship. They want to fly in first class to South Africa, be collected at the airport and driven out to a five star lodge on a game farm near Jo’burg. They want to have their Lion trophy dead by noon, a Rhino by 3pm and to take their family to the nearby casino for an evening of gambling on the roulette table. If prevented from killing tame animals, these canned hunters would be highly unlikely to go out hunting wild lions instead.
The Asian market currently has access to lion bones through canned hunting. What is likely to happen if poachers start targeting wild lions?
There is no doubt that the growing trade in lion bones is going to impact adversely wild lion populations. Unfortunately for lions, the Asian traditional medicine practitioners regard the bones of wild lions a being more “potent” than those of captive – bred ones. So the law of unintended consequences will apply here: as the existing lion bone trade (a spin-off from canned lion hunting) allows more and more Asians to become invested in the growing trade, so the demand for wild lion bones will grow. Prepare for a poaching frenzy of wild lions every bit as egregious as the existing slaughter of rhino.
What are the current figures on lion trophies being exported to EU?
Lion trophy imports from South Africa to the EU Member States from 2007 to 2012 inclusive:
Czech Republic 105
United Kingdom 20
The USA hunters - Merchants of Death
Lion trophy imports in to USA:
That's well over 2,500 dead lions in a period just 6 years. Oh, and more than 450 leopard trophies were also imported by USA in the same period. And leopards are Appendix 1 of CITES.
Is canned hunting likely to be banned anytime in the future?
There is currently no prospect of a ban on canned hunting in S.A. There is no ethic of animal welfare in S.A. Government structures; on the contrary the President himself has stated publicly that “compassion for animals is ‘un-African’”. There is a strong hunting culture at all levels and across the racial divide.
In the absence of any culture of animal welfare there is no constraint on the exploitation of animals. Government believes that lion farming is a form of poverty alleviation, giving employment to trackers, taxidermists etc.
So much so, that the lion farmers are currently pressing government to transfer jurisdiction for lion farming from the Department of the Environment and Conservation to the Department of Agriculture.
This will undoubtedly happen, and landowners will continue to farm with lions and rhino and other erstwhile wildlife, just as if they were chickens, sheep or cattle. Lion and other “game” farming will become even more entrenched.
Lastly, give us a brief overview of Campaign Against Canned Hunting?
Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) is the only NGO in S.A. that focuses on the canned lion hunting issue. For more than ten years, founders Chris Mercer and Bev Pervan have laboured to raise awareness in civil society. Chris has travelled around SA and UK, talking on radio, providing articles to the media and using the internet to best advantage.
For years they worked at a policy level, giving input to government on the TOPS (Threatened and Protected Species) regulations, but the hunting industry has been too strong.
It had become apparent that there is no chance of effecting change from within. CACH has decided that the only way to stop the canned hunting industry is to cut off the sources of funding - all of which come from the developed world. Working with conservation and animal welfare orgs in U.S.A. and Europe, CACH is trying to get the status of lions raised to endangered in U.S.A and to get the import of lion trophies banned in the European Union. This would cut off about 90% of the industry’s income.
And if we can educate volunteers to avoid supporting lion farmers posing as ‘wildlife sanctuaries’ then we can close this dreadful industry down.