The lions share: NO to captive predator breeding and hunting

IFAW has been campaigning for over 15 years to end the canned lion hunting industry.One of the most important outcomes of the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC) in Hawaii is a motion to end the hunting and breeding of captive bred lions and other predators in South Africa

IFAW has been campaigning for over 15 years to end the cruel and exploitative canned lion hunting industry in South Africa.  While there were hints of progress a while back, sparked mainly by public outrage, where the South African Government attempted to ban the industry outright, the South African High Court ruled on constitutional grounds that a ban would negatively impact the livelihoods of the breeders, however uncanny this might seem. 

We have seen a similar ruling more recently in favour of rhino breeders/ranchers, again where appeals against Government protection measures have been successful. 

Now, with this recent IUCN motion, the South African Government is going to have to start looking at these issues through a totally different lens.  While the South African Constitution has been billed as one of the most progressive in the world, its application has most definitely not benefited conservation and/or animal welfare. 

Article 24 of the Constitution may well provide a broad basis for environmental protection, but, at the end of the day, a lot is left open to interpretation. 

The only way to have a positive impact for animals is to influence that interpretation to ultimately benefit individual animals, conservation and environmental justice.  The IUCN motion seeks to do that for the approximately 7000 predators caught up in 180 captive breeding facilities in South Africa. 

Besides the fact that the IUCN motion questions the conservation benefits of the captive predator breeding industry, it also works, perhaps inadvertently, to align conservation and animal welfare ideals.  The captive breeding of lions and associated canned lion hunting industry has, in fact, got very little to do with conservation, but a lot more to do with individual animal cruelty. 

This has been exposed time and time again and recent initiatives such as the documentary, “Blood Lions,” have highlighted this inextricable link.  The notion that animal welfare and conservation aren’t at all linked is fast becoming a thing of the past, especially as we are constantly reminded by the graphic imagery in the media of the individual animal cruelty inherent in such conservation dilemmas as rhino and elephant poaching. 

As IFAW’s CEO, Azzedine Downes, points out, “In this day and age when oversimplification is the norm and the nuances of our complex value systems are overshadowed by a trend toward polarization, we must embrace every chance we can to discuss and ultimately understand the different perspectives we take in the noble journey to protect humans, other animals, and nature.”   

For IFAW, we maintain that there is a space under the conservation umbrella for individual animals, populations, their habitats, as well as the communities who live with wildlife.  With the world watching, the South African Government has sound ammunition through the IUCN motion to do the right thing.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime