Why South Africa's commercial captive lion industry should end

The commercial lion farming industry in South Africa is a cause for concern due to unclear regulations and weak enforcement. This puts animal welfare at risk and threatens the country's reputation.

Despite the government's announcement to phase out the industry in 2021, commercial lion breeding remains legal, and there are disturbing practices at closed-access facilities, allowing the illegal international trade to continue. 

The disturbing practices of ‘secret’ lion farms

World Animal Protection was provided evidence from anonymous sources who shared insights into how some closed-access (i.e., not open to the public) lion farms actually operate. These sources described how some lions are being deliberately starved during the low-hunting season to save money and how some lions are being released for canned trophy hunting while still sedated. 

South Africa Captive Lion report

The Report: Putting a stop to cruelty: why South Africa's commercial captive lion industry should be shut down for good

Canned trophy hunting

Canned trophy hunting involves killing captive-bred, often tame and confined animals within a controlled environment, solely for the purpose of obtaining trophies such as heads or skins.

Hunting occurs legally in a purpose-built enclosure on the facility's premises. Still, illegal and cruel hunting practices also happen, including hunting within an hour of release and using sedation drugs. 

Sick and overwhelmed tiger cub

In the photo: Cub that looks weak and with sickness in direct contact with visitors, generating concern in terms of public safety. Credit: World Animal Protection/Roberto Vieto

The illegal international bone trade

The skin, paws, and skill of lions are often prize trophies to hunters, while the bones are often kept by facilities for the big cat bone trade, some bones are transported illegally to be used in traditional asian medicine.

The bones are packed into boxes or left as complete carcasses to certify authenticity and prevent tracking device insertion.

The Report: Why South Africa's commercial captive lion industry should end

Uncover this industry's disturbing impact on innocent wildlife and society as we shine a light on the heart-wrenching accounts of cruelty and illicit practices that persist in this grim trade. 

Inhumane practices in commercial captive lion breeding facilities - infographic

While the government may be considering a voluntary exit strategy for this industry, this evidence demonstrates why the government of South Africa must stop this this inhumane industry and end the suffering once and for all. Financial gain cannot be above crucial matters such as animal welfare, public health safety, and ethical responsibility.

Read the full report