On Saturday, people around the world in more than 50 countries marched in protest against the merciless killing of white lions in so-called "canned hunts". The hope is that this united global action will convince South African President Jacob Zuma to put an end to this barbaric and nasty "sport".
Canned hunts are nothing more than pre-packaged slaughters. Lions are confined to fenced areas so that they can easily be cornered, with no chance of escape. Most of them will have been bred in captivity and then taken from their mothers to be hand-reared by the cub-petting industry. When they get too big, they may be drugged before they are released into a "hunting" enclosure.
It takes no skill or strength for "trophy" hunters — what a ghastly term! — to track down and kill these beautiful animals. Having been hand-reared by humans, they are accustomed to our presence.
Heartbreakingly, it's not uncommon for animals to trot trustingly toward canned hunters for a handout of food.
Because these animals are usually kept in fenced enclosures (ranging in size from just a few square yards to thousands of acres), they never stand a chance of escaping, fighting back or surviving, and many endure prolonged, painful deaths.
Canned hunts are big business in Africa, where large private landowners allow hunters to pay thousands of pounds to kill not just white lions but also elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, giraffes, zebra, hippos, deer, antelope — you name it. Most hunting occurs on private land, where laws that protect wildlife don't apply or are difficult to enforce. Many of these for-profit ranches operate on a "no-kill, no-pay" policy, so it's in the owners' financial interests to ensure that clients get what they came for.
Although it may have been part of humans' survival 100,000 years ago, hunting is now nothing more than a violent form of recreation for wealthy, bored individuals. It has contributed to the extinction of animal species all over the world, including the Tasmanian tiger and the great auk.
Who can forget the ear-to-ear smile of serial animal killer Melissa Bachman, which incited outrage around the world from people who could not comprehend how anyone could feel joy, much less pride, from deliberately snuffing out a life? But that's little consolation to the dead lion and other animals who are just trying to go about their business before being blasted to bits with high-calibre weapons with infrared sights.
Well into the 21st century, it's reprehensible that some people still think we have the right to force animals into corners to be shot and killed for a fleeting diversion. How does mounting a glassy-eyed dead head on the wall prove that a person is brave and strong? (Hint: It doesn't.) Real strength lies in protecting those who are weaker.
A lesser-known connection to canned-hunt ranches is that many zoos sell "surplus" animals, even endangered species, to private buyers. They conveniently ignore the fact that many of these animals are then sold to game ranches.
So the next time you think about visiting a zoo, keep in mind that the animals bred and incarcerated behind those walls may end their short, miserable lives with a bullet through the brain, just to satisfy someone's sick sense of "amusement".
In any case, no captive-bred lion, white or orange, will ever be released into the wild. The large sums of money wasted on breeding in zoos would be more responsibly directed toward legitimate conservation groups working to end canned hunts and to address other factors contributing to the decline of lions in the wild.
- The Independent