End of line for canned hunting

2009-06-15 00:00

VANDERBIJLPARK — It is the end of the road for South Africa’s 123 lion breeders and 3 000 canned lions.

This follows a verdict in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on Thursday that these semi-tame animals may be hunted only 24 months after being set free from their breeding cages.

Judge Ian van der Merwe concurred with the government that bio-diversity must be protected and that the breeding of lions in captivity with the sole purpose of canned hunting does not aid their protection.

The lion breeders’ request that the period of 24 months in the regulations be changed to “a few days” was dismissed with costs.

Albi Modise, a spokesman for the Water Affairs and Environment Department, said the government welcomes the verdict.

“This means that the reprehensible practice of canned hunting has most certainly come to an end.”

Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) spokesman Yolan Friedmann concurred.

“We welcome this judgment and believe that the principles of ethical, humane treatment of all species should never be compromised for the economic enrichment of a few, as has been the case with canned hunting practices in South Africa.”

But Carel van Heerden, chair of the South African Predator Breeders’ Association, which took the government to court, said it is a tragic verdict. “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 financial implications for members of the association and the damage it will cause to the hunting and tourism industry are incalculable, said Van Heerden. “We operate a perfectly legal business and will continue to seek justice.”

Some of the farmers have reportedly threatened to sue the government for loss of income.

Van der Merwe said in his verdict that lion farmers are simply worried about the economic losses they will suffer if the semi-tame lions must first spend two years roaming free in nature before they can be hunted.

When they took former Environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk to court two years ago, the breeders argued the regulations would “crush” their business.

According to the regulations, a lion which has been bred in captivity must be able to support itself for 24 months (in other words, hunt for prey), before it can be hunted.

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