Canned Lion Hunting in South Africa
The Nature Conservation authorities in South Africa have finally after considerable pressure from the animal welfare community published in the Government Gazette 25090, Notice 874 of 13 June 2003 the "Norms and standards for the sustainable use for large predators." This ex post facto concession to democracy is welcomed but the fact remains that the policy was prepared in secret, adopted at the September MINMEC meeting last year and is already being implemented in the provinces.
Canned hunting as understood by the general public is the hunting of tame, captive bred animals. The pretence of fair chase and skill is abandoned, and the "hunt" is reduced to a mere execution. What the South African public wants is to see this despicable form of hunting banned. This policy does not ban canned lion hunting. Nor does it even restrict the practice. Instead, the policy legitimizes it - and extends it to other predators. This policy on canned lion hunting is an eloquent testimonial to everything that is wrong with conservation in South Africa and proves beyond doubt that the South African nature conservation authorities are nothing more or less than a hunting club. Misjudging the public mood completely, (because of the failure to consult with the public openly and transparently) the draftsmen of the policy have sought to impose a few restrictions on the size of predator hunting camps and how long the animal should have been there before the hunt takes place. However, fiddling about with hectares and introduction times fails dismally to meet public concerns.
Some of the policy terms which will be challenged include:
- The definition of "canned hunting," which has been carefully gerrymandered to allow the hunting of captive bred lions so long as they are not actually in captivity at the time they are shot by the hunter.
- The hunting of large predators by bow and arrow. Arrows kill by causing bleeding, and so most animals shot with arrows will take a long time to die. Some websites reveal that tame lions are routinely hunted with dogs - and then killed by bow and arrow while cornered by the dog pack.
- The power to certify that the target animal has been "rehabilitated to wild status" is given not to skilled rehabilitators, as one would expect, but to notoriously incompetent and hunting-orientated provincial nature conservation officials who have no knowledge of, or training in, the science of wildlife rehabilitation. Presumably any animal that does not jump up onto the official's lap and lick his face will automatically be certified "wild."
- The extension of captive breeding and hunting not only to lions but also to other large predators, including endangered species such as wild dogs.
- Wildlife sanctuaries will continue to be prohibited. This means that cruelty to animals is permitted, but kindness is not. This is not conservation. It is grotesque. There are no regulations whatsoever on the minimum size of cages or any other aspect of the welfare of captive animals. For example, everyone knows of the terrible practice of captive breeders in taking the cubs away from the mother to bring her back into oestrus quicker so that she breeds faster. This is both cruel and unnatural and one witnesses lionesses, mouths bleeding from biting at the sharp wire fencing, trying to get to their crying cubs in a pitiful and pathetic attempt to obey their natural protective instincts.
The policy is defective in too many respects to cover in this release but a complete clause by clause critique is being prepared by members of the animal welfare community. Once the pretences have been stripped away, the public will be able to see this policy for what it is: a license to cruel soldiers of fortune to entrench and expand the most despicable hunting practices. "Whack 'em and stack 'em" is the moral basis of this poisonous policy.
Look where all this institutionalized cruelty leads to. Five years ago there were thought to be 300 lions in captivity. Now there are more than 2,500. Conservation used to mean preservation. How can the same word be used to encompass commercial exploitation of the cruelest imaginable kind? Those who see animals only through the cross hairs of a telescopic sight seek to create in South Africa a nightmare parody of conservation where the natural world is smashed up and factory farms breed wildlife in cages like battery chickens or like pigs in crates, to be grown out into living targets.
South Africa is a hunter's paradise. But for the animals, South Africa is Hell on Earth.
For the sake of our wildlife heritage and our own humanity we must reject this policy as well as any sly variations or "concessions" and settle for nothing less than an outright ban on all trophy hunting, on the captive breeding of animals for hunting purposes as well as on the export of animal trophies. We the public must fight to transform the existing conservation regime from a protection racket for the hunting industry to a democratic and caring public institution dedicated to the preservation of our national wildlife heritage.
Saturday, August 2, 2003