South Africa’s captive lion industry is massive and exploitative, and mercilessly turns lions into profit in a number of ways. Almost anyone can open a lion breeding farm, and there are no requirements in regards to animal husbandry or welfare knowledge. Borrowing from the tactics of the meat industry’s factory farms, lionesses are subjected to constant pregnancy, with their babies often taken away after mere days, and the animals are housed in small, overcrowded spaces. These captively-bred big cats are then monetized in various ways: hunters pay to kill them and bring their trophies back home; tourists pay for “lion experiences” where they pet, walk with, or take selfies with the lions; and now their bones are also ending up in China, where they are labelled as tiger bones and sold as a Chinese medicine ingredient.
The award-winning 2015 documentary Blood Lions offered an unflinching and thorough look at this industry. It remains one of the most informative overviews of this issue, and along with the larger Blood Lion campaign of which it is a part, it has significantly increased awareness of this cruel and secretive industry. In an interview with the Blood Lions team, we discussed the issue beyond the film.
Dylan Forest: This is a really powerful film, and was very well received when it was released in 2015. The Blood Lions campaign has gone on since then. What have you been working on regarding the captive lion issue since the film’s release? What has changed in the 4 years since then?
Blood Lions team: The Blood Lions campaign was launched to create global awareness around the captive predator breeding, canned hunting and lion bone trade industries, as well as related exploitative wildlife interactive tourism practices. The campaign is anchored by the Blood Lions® film, a strong and active digital media platform, and various specific campaigns with key international partners. The campaign encourages viewers of the film, visitors to Africa and followers on social media to make responsible choices about visiting or supporting wildlife interactive tourism facilities and activities. Through awareness and by reducing demand for exploitative products, the campaign aims to bring an end to the exploitation of captive-bred wild animals.
Blood Lions has worked extensively with tourism, conservation, welfare and legal groups and has made great strides in our efforts to raise global awareness around the captive lion breeding and ‘canned’ (captive) hunting industries, as well as associated tourism activities. The Blood Lions ‘Born to Live Wild’ Tourism Campaign and Pledge has been signed by over 170 tourism operators around the world, representing close to 3,000 member organisations, who all have aligned themselves with the Blood Lions goal.
The Blood Lions® film and campaign has received over 53.6 million South African rand worth of pro bono media coverage in 4 years (approximately 3.8 million United States dollars) and the Blood Lions Facebook page reached over 3.3 million people in 2018. In addition, it has been estimated that canned lion hunting has decreased by over 50% since the film was released in 2015, which is considered a great success.
For more information on these achievements, please visit the Blood Lions campaign milestones webpage.