31 July 2020
The Honourable Mr Justice Koen has dismissed the Ukutula application against BLOOD LIONS, and instructed Ukutula to pay BLOOD LIONS’s legal costs.
On 20 September 2019, Jacobs Safaris CC trading as Ukutula Lodge (“Ukutula”) launched an application for injunctive relief against, inter alia, the producer of the documentary feature film, ‘BLOOD LIONS’.
Ukutula submitted that it was defamed because, given the central message of BLOOD LIONS that lions are bred in captivity, with the subscript ‘Bred for the bullet’, Ukutula was included in the documentary feature film because the producer wanted to tell the public, absent supporting evidence, not to visit Ukutula, because in doing so they are fuelling the trade in lions ‘for the bullet’.
Accordingly, Ukutula sought to, inter alia, have all depictions, references and images of Ukutula removed from the documentary feature film and that the producer provide Ukutula with a formal written statement confirming that there is no evidence that Ukutula is involved or associated with the canned lion hunting trade and/or the lion bone trade and/or the breeding of lions for the canned hunting trade and/or lion bone trade and/or the raising of cubs for the canned lion hunting trade and/or the lion bone trade together with a formal written apology for the alleged false depiction of Ukutula as being involved with those activities.
BLOOD LION’S legal team of Advocate AJ Dickson SC and Peter Whelan, Alan Wright and Michaela Kritzinger of Bowmans raised non-joinder and prescription points. It was also argued on behalf of BLOOD LIONS that any reference to Ukutula was not defamatory and that it had failed to make out a case for injunctive relief.
Ukutula conceded that the documentary feature film does not contain any express statement that Ukutula is involved in the canned hunting trade or lion bone trade. The issue, as accepted by Ukutula, was whether the documentary necessarily implied that Ukutula is involved in the canned lion hunting and the lion bone trade.
The application was heard in the High Court of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Division, Pietermaritzburg by the Honourable Mr Justice Koen on Friday, 19 June 2020.
On 30 July 2020, Koen J handed down judgment dismissing the application in its entirety together with costs. In handing down the judgment Koen J commented that he had viewed the footage.
Koen J held that the documentary is not defamatory of Ukutula. He went on further to state that “[b]ut even if I was wrong in that regard, I am not persuaded that any such defamation would be wrongful. What was shown in the film would be justified by the defences of media privilege and fair comment.”
The Blood Lions team welcome this outcome, and will continue their efforts to raise global awareness and to bring an end to the practices associated with captive lion breeding and canned hunting in South Africa, as well as the export of lion body parts and products to Asia for the medicine market.
We would like to thank our lawyers at Bowman Gilfillan, Advocate AJ Dickson SC, our supporters and partners, and the millions of concerned citizens around the world who are united in their determination to bring an end to these practices.
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