'Canned hunting' of captive lions banned in South Africa
Published: 7:29PM BST 12 Jun 2009
The controversial sport of "canned hunting", in which trophy hunter tourists pay to shoot specially-bred captive lions, has been banned in South Africa. The South African government welcomed the move, which followed attempts by lion breeders to block the banning of their trade. "We need a clean hunting industry, free from unacceptable behaviour which could damage the country's image," said Albi Modise, a spokesman for South Africa's forestry department.
Until its ban, South Africa was one of the world's canned hunting capitals, with more than 1,000 lions killed every year by foreign hunters. Around 120 lion breeders are active in the country, supplying animals for tourists arriving from across the globe in an industry worth almost £1 million a year. But government proposals put forward in 2007 threatened to crush the industry by ruling that lions bred in captivity could not be hunted until 24 months after they were released into the wild. Angry breeders challenged the crackdown in court and argued that the regulations should allow captive animals to be shot within a few days of being released from their breeding cages. But on Friday Bloemfontein High Court judge Ian van der Merwe rejected their claim.
Delivering his verdict, he said biodiversity must be protected and that the breeding of lions in captivity with the sole purpose of canned hunting did not aid their protection. He added that he believed the breeders only cared about making money.
Animal welfare groups welcomed the judgment. Animal Rights Africa spokesman Steve Smit said: "Canned hunting is barbaric and South Africa has been shamed by it. We now hope the government provides adequate provision to insure the new rules are followed. "New laws mean nothing unless they are backed by resources to ensure they are not broken."
Speaking after the verdict, Carel van Heerden, a spokesman for South African Predator Breeders Association, claimed the ruling meant most of the country's 3,000 captive lions would now be humanely destroyed.
She said: "It feels like someone has kicked me in the stomach. "The practical implications of the verdict are devastating to our industry and to all the people involved in the industry. "It means that 5,000 breadwinners will soon lose their jobs, and about 3 000 (semi-tame) lions will have to be put down."
The lion breeders have now threatened to sue the government over the decision.
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