Hunting is a practice as old as mankind. Originally hunting was a method of survival, a rite of passage. Thanks to advancements in society, most of us are able to get our food from grocery stores. In modern society those who practice hunting do so primarily for sport. Many hunters practice the sport to obtain their own food, and in turn this can help control certain animal populations. This type of hunting differs greatly from trophy hunting. No matter your stance, the debate around the ethics of sport hunting is nothing new. The focus of this article is to bring light to a lesser known form of hunting called “canned hunting”, specifically, canned hunting of lions in South Africa.
Canned hunting is a type of trophy hunt where an animal is kept in a confined area so that the hunter is more easily able to obtain a kill. Imagine a confused, tamed lion being released from its cage into a closed area where it is almost immediately shot by a paying customer. It is sad to say that this isn’t a rare practice in South Africa. Lion breeders in the country have a very profitable business dealing in the lives of these captive animals.
Lion cubs are taken from their mothers and used as tourist attractions where people can pay to play with lion cubs. Once the tamed lions age, they are used in the canned hunts.
The demand for these lions comes mostly from overseas. Importing lion carcasses to Great Britain is still legal, and in Asia there is a soaring demand for lion bones to be used in traditional medicines. Wild lions are already extinct in many African countries and their species is on the decline in many more. Canned lion hunts put pressure on the wild population and condone raising these animals in captivity for slaughter.
Back in 2007, rules were put into place to restrict captive hunts. Animals were to be set free for a minimum of 2 years before they could be hunted. In 2010 a South African court overturned the 2 year roaming rule, stating that the decision to release captive lions into the wild to fend for themselves for 2 years before being hunted was an irrational decision. Perhaps the most rational decision would have been to completely ban raising animals for hunting purposes. This ruling provides a loophole in South African law that allows lion breeders to sell their animals for hunts. Essentially, a canned hunt is classified as a hunt that occurs in an enclosure. The lions are instead released onto a farm where they are hunted in accordance with South African law. Unfortunately, due to this ruling canned lion hunting is a thriving industry in South Africa.
Canned hunting is still happening today. These breeders offer tourists a chance to visit and see lions up close, and even pet lion cubs. As a result, tourists are often unknowingly supporting canned lion hunts by participating in this cycle. The cubs they pet often end up as the lions used in canned hunts when they become too old to be a tourist attraction.