Canned Hunting, or captive-bred hunting, is the shooting down of tamed lions. Lions are raised by humans for the sole purpose of being shot.
They are raised in enclosures of varying sizes, crammed full of lions, and then foreigners are let in to shoot them, or the lions are released as little as 48 hours before being hunted into a larger, but still small and finite, area. Often when this happens the lions are drugged so they are easier to find and the hunters can ensure they'll find them quickly. A hunt also becomes a canned hunt when lions are shot adjacent to other lions in captivity. The lions are raised by people, and so are not frightened by their approach. Canned Hunting is legal in South Africa.
Before I go on, Canned Hunting is barbaric. It's the laziest form of hunting I can think of, and people will pay vast amounts of money to feel good about themselves, but in reality there is nothing to feel good about. It's an easy hunt; a coward's hunt and an unfair match.
Another message before I continue.. A lot of sanctuaries in South Africa practise Canned Hunting. Where I was, Felidae Centre, does not. This is one of the reasons I chose it. It showed to me that their hearts were in the right place and they were an ethical sanctuary, who put their animal's well-being first.
Canned Lion Hunting was exposed by the media quite some time ago. There was international outrage. People took to the internet and all manner of things to express their anger and frustration, and then there was a feeling as if a lot had been achieved. The buzz died down and people went back to their lives. Blood Lions was a film that came out in 2015 which a lot of people saw, and it educated people on the issue. So that's great, lots of people now knew about it. Sadly, little actually changed, and Canned Lion Hunting is still going on all over South Africa. Now, different provinces and areas have different rules and regulations regarding Canned Hunting, but it is legal to do in South Africa. A lot of people try to argue that is it illegal, however there is no legal definition of canned hunting, and so the lines are blurred and hunting practises that are canned hunts, are called something else and are permitted. The international attention has died down, but this doesn't mean it's over.
A male lion on a canned hunt can fetch R250,000, which is roughly £12,500 or $16,666 (US). Therefore, the market is fairly lucrative and inviting. Sanctuaries are expensive to own and run, and so adopting Canned Hunting is an easy way to make money. I struggle with this because I can't imagine raising a lion for slaughter. These are beautiful, strong, social animals. To raise them by hand is a lot of work and a huge emotional investment. It must take a particularly cruel and greedy person to raise a lion with no emotional attachment, and then sit back and watch it be killed, in exchange for money.
Lion hunting in the bush can take days, weeks even. Canned Hunting was invented as a way to speed up the process; a guaranteed kill. Canned hunts are set up so the animal cannot evade the hunter.
It goes without saying that animal welfare does not take a front seat position when it comes to Canned Hunting. The conditions at a lot of the farms who practise Canned Hunting are inferior to farms that don't, and lots of lions can be kept in small enclosures, forced together in artificial prides. A lot of people working, or volunteering at these farms might not even know they practise Canned Hunting.
A lot of conservationists who have attempted to out the farms who practise Canned Hunting comment on the number of volunteers who go and look after the cubs and think they are making a difference. A lot of the time these cubs were taken from their mothers at young ages, before they are ready. This means the mothers can have more cubs faster and helps keep a constant supply of baby lions. The international volunteers will look after the latest lot of babies. But what happens when the volunteers have gone and those babies are too big now for interaction? They become eligible for hunts.
If you want to volunteer on a lion farm, do your research! Make sure they do not practise Canned Hunting. If it is unclear, be sceptical. A lot of places against Canned Hunting are vocal about it, and a lot of places practising it try to keep quiet when it comes to attracting volunteers.
Canned Hunting does not mean there is a decrease in the poaching of wild lions, despite what some say, which is a main reason why, despite any other argument, I could never support it. Firstly, cubs are often snatched from the wild to be raised for Canned Hunting. The adults are shot, purely so the cubs can be kidnapped. Wild lions are constantly being taken to help prevent inbreeding amongst the lions kept in captivity. Therefore, a ban on Canned Hunting would lead to a decrease in wild lion hunting.
Secondly, a reasonable majority of what I would call trophy hunters, who hunt wild lions and other game, would not go canned hunting because they do not see it as a "fair chase." They would be right of course, it is not a fair chase. Every canned hunt is rigged so that the lion dies and the hunter gets his kill. However a lot of trophy hunters enjoy hunting for the chase and the challenge. They like a more level playing field. Therefore, canned hunting is appealing to certain people, who want their 'trophy' but without the hard work. They are less likely to hunt wild lions and so canned hunting is an industry created to suit these people, who would not be killing lions if it did not exist. Hence, canned hunting is not helping to protect wild lions.
The situation is pretty bleak. Although banning Canned Hunting in South Africa is unlikely, particularly as President Zuma stated that "Compassion for animals is un-African"; it is not impossible.
Public awareness is SO important. I say this all the time, and will continue to say it. Whatever you feel about trophy hunting, understanding the difference between trophy/commercial hunting of wild animals, and canned hunting, is of the upmost importance. Public opinion has the power to make a difference (e.g. sea world) BUT make sure you have your facts right; go after the right people. Trophy hunters and Canned hunters are not the same.
Education is also always important. Do your research. If you want to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary, make sure that is where you're going, and not a lion farm that practices canned hunting which is posing as a sanctuary. Where I was, is completely against canned hunting, and has saved a number of lions from canned hunting. Volunteering somewhere amazing like that helps with rescuing future lions.
*disclaimer: all photos in the post were taken by me of happy, healthy lions who are living their lives in safety, and will never be used for canned hunting*