Ruling on canned hunting welcomed

A court ruling that could spell the end of trophy hunting of captive bred lions in South Africa was welcomed by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) on Friday.

EWT spokesperson Yolan Friedmann said the finding by the Free State High Court, which upholds the provision of the Threatened or Protected Species (ToPS) regulations, could effectively put an end to canned lion hunting in the country.

“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.”

The case involved a court challenge by a group of South African lion breeders to the validity of certain provisions of ToPS regulations, drafted in terms of the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act.

The regulations that were challenged dealt with trophy hunting of captive bred lions—commonly called “canned lion hunting”.

The lion breeders wanted the provision requiring captive bred lions to be set free 24 months before being hunted to be removed.

Friedman said the high court ruling supported a widely held view that the hunting of lions bred and raised in captivity was “abhorrent and repulsive”.

The judgment held that on the facts of the case there was no procedural unfairness in the development of ToPS regulations.

The court also found it was practically and physically possible to comply with the provision requiring captive bred lions to be set free 24 months before being hunted.

The argument by the lion breeders that the financial implications of this provision were too onerous were not relevant to the matter.

The breeders’ application was dismissed with costs.

Friedman urged the South African government to immediately look into the fate of the estimated 4 000 lions currently in captive breeding facilities across the country.

“We urge the government to immediately begin a process of addressing this situation, to avert a welfare crisis in which these animals could fall prey to neglect and further cruel treatment if they have now lost their economic value to the breeders.”

Reacting to the judgment, the Department of Environmental Affairs indicated it would get rid of canned lion hunting and clean up the hunting industry.

“It must be free of unacceptable conduct,” spokesperson Albi Modise said in a statement.

“Hunting is an important industry, but we must manage it in accordance with defensible standards.”—Sapa

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