If people knew the truth about what happens in lion farming and canned lion hunting, most would want it stopped immediately. I believe it is a case of getting the word out there, so everyone knows. If it can be made unacceptable to be seen or heard to be petting or walking with lion cubs due to its direct and close connection to trophy hunting – then the battle will be all but won.
Lion farming is an un-policed industry and lion farmers are notorious for their deviousness, frequently telling half-truths and out and out lies. These are people who choose to make money out of a whole lifetime of misery for lions in captivity only to end their life early as fodder for psychopathic “trophy hunters”, people who choose to spend tens of thousands this way rather than help animals or people they choose to kill.
Lion farming – or canned hunting – starts with taking the cubs from their mothers a few hours after birth and keeping them separate in spite of their cries. As there is only a small window of time where cubs can be petted of about three months so there needs to be a constant supply of cubs and the lionesses are used as breeding machines. What happens to those lions once they are too old to breed, or the cubs when they are too old to be petted, and too old to be walked with at only one year old? Cubs are often declawed at least on the front paws which is an extremely painful process akin to amputation.
Canned hunting is a brutal practice where on the surface of it, outfits under various guises of safari parks, farms, lodges, reserves and retreats, appear to love and care for lions – often stated to be orphaned lions – are in fact lion farms. Tourists pay large sums of money to visit and extra to pet cubs and ‘walk with lions’ as if it were a Butlins or Pontins holiday camp. The reality behind the scenes is something far different. These places are more like concentration camps for the lions.
Also deceived are volunteers from all over the world who come from all the world and often pay thousands for the privilege of being able to help care for the so-called ‘orphaned’ lion cubs. These places are set up in such a way that even the volunteers who work there can be deceived as to what is really going on. The volunteers may stay there for week and not realize that the place where they have volunteered is far from what they thought, a place to help animals but rather it is a place where they are mercilessly tortured and used, locked up and forced to walk with tourists like a dog instead of roaming free.
Lion cubs are often used in various publicity campaigns, including being hired out for weddings or other events. For example, he ‘psychic’ ‘spiritualist medium’ John Edward claims to know about canned hunting, but nevertheless posted pictures of himself petting cubs and walking with young lions on his Facebook page. He says he did the research and the place he visited, Ukutula, are known to be involved in canned hunting and supply trophy hunters. The truth is that probably John Edward’s ‘research’ amounted to a single question during a telephone call. [Let’s leave this unspoken but you know that I know but it’s OK.]
No matter what they say, the vast majority of the outfits that provide cub petting and walks with lions DO provide lions for canned hunting. It is only extremely rarely that lions are genuinely orphaned. Or else what do they do with them? Lion cubs can no longer be petted with after only four months old, and no longer walked with after they are a year old.
The demand from zoos or circuses is now very much reduced due to the ever increasing legislation against animals being used in this way, but the demand for lion parts especially lion bones for so-called tiger bone wine along with people who want to eat lion meat, means that a dead lion is worth a lot of money.
It is not surprising the people who do these horrible things for profit tell lies about it. Just like the puppy mill breeders don’t want people to know or see the truth about the dogs they breed. On the face of it, it looks innocent. The terrible cruelty is carried on behind the scenes.
There are hundreds of game farms in South Africa alone with many thousands of lions who were taken from their mothers shortly after birth and hand-reared, destined for a short life to be ended in a horrible way when they are often drugged taken to fenced off enclosure – the reason it is called ‘canned’ hunting – to be killed by a trophy hunter. Anyone can go on the internet and buy a lion for this purpose from any number of establishments and suppliers.
As many as half the lions killed in canned trophy hunting are killed by bow and arrow as the preferred weapon. It is more difficult to kill an animal with a bow and arrow and can be very distressing and painful. Many bowhunters are in fact sadists who enjoy the extra pain and distress that being killed this way usually causes. In order to preserve the head intact for the taxidermist often the animals are not shot in the head and whether shot by gun or by bow, often it takes several attempts to kill. In addition to this, many hunters are bad shots so it takes several attempts to kill the animal.
In the wild, lion cubs stay with their mother for two years where they learn how to hunt along with various social behaviours. In the natural state, lionesses have a litter about once every three years, but in lion farming, lionesses are forced to give birth over and over again, but are never allowed to keep the cubs. They grieve and mourn terribly for cubs that are taken away from them. This is cruelty beyond belief.
The truth is that while humans enjoy petting and walking with cubs, it is not enjoyable for the cubs to be mauled by humans in that way and being made to walk like a dog. Having been taken away from their mother and hand-reared in a completely unnatural situation, the cubs simply don’t know any different.
Once reared in this way, the lions can never be released into the wild, as they have never learnt from their mother how to hunt and so they will always be magnetized to return to humans to supply their food. So the same people that hand-rear them in a false unnatural world, betray them to be sold to die an often painful death at the hands of an often amateur hunter. The lions cannot fail but understand that something is terribly wrong but there is no way for them to understand what that is.
There are pictures of lions at these farms showing that they are far too thin and clearly underfed and undernourished. Photographs also show that these animals look bored and unhappy and frustrated with their lives, as they are deprived of a natural life in the wild and all that would normally comprise. They are forced to do things that are unnatural, like walk with people as if they were dogs, and live in a unnatural way.
Often tourists are lied to, and unaware that the same lions they are petting and walking with will – at the end of their short and miserable life – be put in a field to be shot by someone who can’t think of anything better to do with thousands of pounds than kill for fun and bragging rights. Some will end up as part of a trophy room collection that can cost many millions as hunters fulfill hit-lists for various Safari Club International awards that involve travelling around the world to kill certain specific sub-species of animals.
Can you imagine the shock and horror for some people when they realize that the same cub they petted or walked with on their South African safari holiday had such a horrible life, with a future mapped out for them with an early death at the hands of despicable trophy hunters?
There are various indications that the true number of lions killed each year in Africa is far higher than we are led to believe and is possibly as high as 4,000 or even more. Many hunters from the US and elsewhere ‘dream’ of killing a male lion and see killing a lion – like some do an elephant – as a pinnacle of achievement. The fact that most of the lions ‘hunted’ will in fact be canned lions, does not bother them. They lie about it to themselves and others.
The sordid truth about canned hunting would offend the vast majority of people so the canned hunting operators take steps to deceive in order to pander to the pride and vanity of people that pay to kill animals, so they can boast about how they were the ‘great white hunter’.
They proudly tell their ‘hunting’ stories and show off their photographs taken next to the dead body, perhaps get a wallet or something made out of their skin, and/or take body parts, or the whole body back with them for stuffing and installing in their trophy or gun room.
Lion farming is not confined to Africa, and in the UK for example The Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire charges £250 per person to pet one of teir white lion cubs. As does the West Midland Safari & Leisure Park. As white lions are not an actual sub-species, those same white lions are known to suffer from various problems such as a high rates of both minor and serious birth defects due to in-breeding,
Inbreeding of captive lions is causing serious problems so there is a much higher percentage of cubs being born with birth defects than would occur in the wild. These lions also suffer many nervous and other problems due to being frequently handled by tourists which is not natural for them.
The practice of hand-rearing captive lions comprises the health of the lions who are prone to suffer far more diseases and various health conditions than if they were raised by their mothers. This makes them susceptible to illnesses such as tuberculosis which makes the threat of total extinction that much more of a realistic possibility.
These lions do not live a natural or pleasant life and this has been observed to have a profound effect on the lions, so that they are emotionally disturbed, as a human child would be. There are accounts of people who have worked in lion breeding outfits or farms who have been very distressed at what they have witnessed there, such as the account on the Sanwild Lion Rescue site.
South Africa has an appalling wildlife protection record in recent years fueled by corruption, lack of political will and pure out and out greed. Professor Pieter Potgieter, chairperson of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association, defended the industry saying there is little difference between breeding lions and any other mammal. “Chickens are killed by humans. How are lions different from them?” he asked.
“In principle a lion is not more or less than a crocodile, an ostrich or a butterfly. It’s a form of life. Breeding animals for human exploitation is a natural human process,” he said. Potgieter said that breeding and hunting lions was only deplorable in the eyes of the public because a “sympathetic myth has been created about the lion as the king of the animals”.
He justified the practice, saying the export of lion bones is a legal trade authorised by the department of environmental affairs and denied that South Africa’s approach to captive breeding and canned lion hunting was feeding into the Asian demand for lion bones. “I don’t think that market is being created by the South African situation. That would happen anyhow and the more the Asian tiger gets extinct, the more people will try to get hold of lion bones as a substitute,” he said.
The extinction risk for lions is now even greater than rhino.
The following is from an article by Faranaaz Parker in the South African newsapaper, Mail & Guardian:
“Conservationists have warned that captive breeding and canned hunting programmes in South Africa are providing a source for the lion bone trade. Canned lion hunting is legal in South Africa, as is the exporting of lion carcasses. Lion populations across Africa have been reduced by 90% over the past 50 years, but lion breeders say their operations have nothing to do with the continent’s wild populations.
Breeders can benefit financially a number of times from the same lion. Cubs are often rented as tourist attractions and visitors pay to pet and interact with them. The fee paid by visitors is then fed back into captive breeding programmes. As adults, the lions are sold to hunters in canned hunting arrangements.
Farmers and hunting operators charge in the region of about $20 000 (R160 000) as a “trophy price” and hunters can expect to pay around $18 000 (R145 000) for other services, excluding taxidermy.
But the hunters are only interested in the head and skin of the lion, and often leave the bones with the breeder, who can then sell the bones, with a government permit, to Asian buyers for use in making lion bone wine.
It’s estimated that a complete lion skeleton can sell for as much as R80 000. Last year it emerged that over 1400 lion and leopard trophies were legally exported from the country in 2009 and 2010. [Most are exported illegally.]