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CANNED hunting is fake hunting for people who choose their victim online, pay a lot of money to execute it and then boast about their ‘achievement’.”

These are the words of environmental attorney Cormac Cullinan after the recent decision by the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa Phasa to permit the killing of captivebred lions as a legitimate form of hunting. Members of the association voted to reverse the organisation’s policy against the hunting of captivebred lions at its annual meeting which was held on November 22.

“There seems to be a continuum between hunting through a chainlinked fence and shooting in the wild. Both end in the death of one of the world’s top predators. The fact that the canned hunter’s cousins, those that want to kill in the wild, don’t significantly divorce themselves from this practice places all hunting in the same category” said Dereck Joubert, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and founder of the Big Cats Initiative.

However, it is a move that has seen several hunting operators resign from the association and others criticising its legitimacy. Stewart Dorrington, who served for three years as president of Phasa, summarised hunters’ concerns about the decision. “We, as a concerned group of professional hunters, distance ourselves completely from such acceptance and no longer view Phasa as the legitimate mouthpiece for professional hunting in South Africa. A new association will be formed in the very near future,” Dorrington said.

The African Professional Hunter’s Association APHA in Tanzania also issued a statement saying it was “appalled by the decision made by the Phasa to condone the reprehensible practice of captive bred lion hunting,” and that its members, “strongly condemn, and vigorously oppose any form of captive bredcanned lion hunting”.

The Operators and Professsional Hunting Associations of Africa OPHAA said it was also deeply troubled by the decision and had accordingly indefinitely suspended Phasa’s membership in OPHAA. “Phasa’s actions completely disregard one of the fundamental concepts of hunting, namely fairchase, and will without doubt, jeopardise not only conservation efforts, but also the livelihoods of those who rely on wellmanaged and ethical hunting practices,” OPHAA said.

It’s not just lion hunting that conservationists find problematic with the industry, but the practices that lead to it. This includes removing cubs from their mothers at just a few weeks for the cub petting industry, ill management of sub adult lions for walking with lion experiences and a shady sideline industry laundering lion bones. “In a canned situation the despicable practice of actual breeding those lions for slaughter is a deeply disturbing indictment of who we are as a species,” Joubert said.

Ian Michler, creator of the film Blood Lions, which played a big part in exposing the industry behind canned hunting, said he was deeply concerned by the resolution. “Their stance is a combination of ludicrously archaic thinking that seems to have no ethical or ecological grounding, as well as pure greed,” Michler said.

Cullinan agreed and called for a renewed fight against canned hunting. “Canned hunting finances an abominable industry based on the confinement and cruel exploitation of magnificent wild animals by unethical people. This decision makes it even more important to step up the pressure to ban canned hunting and the sale of lion bones,” Cullinan said.