Blood Lions, a new documentary film, delivers a damning verdict on the rapidly growing South African industry that breeds, hunts and trades lions in captivity.
The hard-hitting, locally produced movie, which premièred at the Durban International Film Festival last week, presents a comprehensive behind-the-scenes investigation sure to shock anyone concerned about wildlife conservation and animal welfare.
The film follows South African conservationist, Ian Michler, as he visits some of the 200-odd facilities estimated to house approximately 6 000 to 8 000 captive-bred lions throughout the country.
Most of the owners claim to be involved in conservation, research, education and tourism, but Michler reveals the true motivation behind the business: supplying lions for the lucrative hunting industry. “It’s just about the money,” he explains. “It’s about breeding wildlife as intensively as they can, as quickly as they can, to make as much money as they can!”
While government continues to insist that there is no such thing as canned hunting in South Africa, they are involved in little more than semantic chicanery, arguing that commercial hunting of captive-bred lions is acceptable even if the lions in question are simply mass produced under appalling conditions with no other purpose than to fall to the bullets of wealthy trophy hunters.
‘Blood Lions’ exposes a number of additional revenue streams of the captive-lion industry: a booming trade in lion bones to practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, well-meaning volunteers who pay thousands of rands to work on lion farms but are unaware that most of the cubs they help to raise are destined for the trophy hunting market and similarly uninformed tourists who visit facilities where they can pet and walk with lions.
The South African government has actively promoted this industrialisation of lion breeding, hunting and trading through laws and regulations that elevate market mechanisms and profits to a position of prime motivators in the name of conservation.
‘Blood Lions’ is a must-see film that does a sterling job of debunking the fairy tales peddled by the captive lion lobby and makes a strong call for a ban on captive breeding and trophy hunting to stop us from straying any further down this dangerous road.