Bred for the bullet and blood money

The highly controversial canned lion award winning documentary Blood Lions will be broadcast from Sunday August 12 at 6.30pm on SABC 3.

Blood Lions follows internationally acclaimed environmental journalist and safari operator Ian Michler onto the breeding farms to witness the results of battery farmed lions a stark contrast to their wild cousins.

Aggressive farmers resent his questioning, but the highly profitable commercialization of lions is plain to see – cub petting, volunteer recruitment, lion walking, hunting and the new lion bone trade are on the increase, and all are being justified under the guise of conservation and research.

In parallel, we follow Rick Swazey, an American hunter who volunteered his services after seeing footage of canned hunts. Swazey purchases a lioness online from his home in Hawaii and then travels to SA to follow the path canned hunters do.

Annually, more than 800 captive, hand reared lions are shot in SA – mostly by international hunters – fueling a multi-million dollar industry. In SA, there are currently between 6,000 and 8,000 predators in captivity, the vast majority of them lions. Most live in appalling conditions with inadequate protocols in place to protect them or regulate either their welfare or the genetic integrity of their bloodlines. The breeders of these animals claim they are involved in conservation, educational and research initiatives and that the captive bred population will be the saviour of wild lions.

Viewers then hear from recognised lion ecologists, conservationists and animal welfare experts that almost all these claims are in fact far from the truth. Cubs are taken away from their mothers just days after birth to force the lionesses into intensely repetitive reproductive cycles. And the cubs that get churned out are then used in a variety of income streams from petting and “walking with lions” facilities to luring unsuspecting volunteers, who pay large sums of money as workers at the facilities.

Once they reach adulthood, many lionesses are shot for their bones to be shipped to Asia as supplements to the rapidly burgeoning “tiger wine” and “tiger cake” industries.

Almost all the male lions be come victims of the “canned” or “captive” hunting industry. Viewers witness in detail how lucrative it is to breed lions for the bullet, how the authorities and most professional hunting bodies have become complicit and how simple it is to set up a canned hunt.

But there is also hope in the story as viewers cover the very latest developments with the Australian government announcing a complete ban on the importation of all African lion trophies into Australia.

The film is a compelling call to action and shows how viewers can become involved in a global campaign to stop lions being bred for the bullet.