JOHANNESBURG: The Professional Hunters’ Association of SA (Phasa) has lashed out at the SA Predator Association (Sapa) for “refusing to join” the worldwide movement to can captive-bred hunting.

Phasa president Stan Burger said yesterday while many of the association’s international peer organisations had expressed relief that his organisation had distanced itself from captive-bred hunting – a practice regarded as embarrassing by many hunters – there were still other unresolved issues.

Amid growing support for Phasa’s stance against captive-bred lion hunting, Sapa, which represents the lion breeding and hunting industry, is yet to join the worldwide move to reform the industry

Phasa said Sapa was trying to preserve its captive-bred hunting component.

“Phasa tried to work with Sapa for a number of years in an attempt to introduce generally accepted standards for lion breeding and hunting, and it was only when it became clear that this attempt would continue to fail in the face of Sapa’s persistent recalcitrance that we dissociated ourselves from them,” said Burger.

He said Sapa claimed that Phasa had “buckled before (an) onslaught of uninformed social activists”.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Burger, whose association was guided by a number of major industry roleplayers in arriving at this carefully considered decision.

They are all of the opinion that captive-bred lion hunting is “ethically repugnant” and poses a real threat to the future of the entire trophy hunting industry.

In a recent statement posted on the Blood Lions website, Sapa said: “The hunting of ranch lions in South Africa is open and will continue as usual in the 2016 hunting season.”

Sapa said it realised the entire hunting industry was under severe pressure and that it would stay under pressure for as long as the perceptions of the public were exploited and manipulated by the animal rights organisations.

“Winning the hearts and the minds of the people for hunting as a legitimate and ecologically responsible human activity is a battle all hunters and conservation-minded people must be prepared to fight together.

“Sapa has and will continue to stand up against these ongoing onslaughts on hunting.”

Sapa said it firmly believed in the integrity and sustainability of the ranch lion industry in South Africa. “Lion hunting is legal and constitutes an important sector of the trophy hunting industry in South Africa.”

But Burger countered the claim that Sapa was seriously committed to the conservation of lions in the wild. “Sapa describes captive-bred lion hunting as ‘an important node of resistance against the opponents of all forms of hunting’. In Phasa’s view, this practice is the industry’s Achilles heel.

“We therefore hope that Sapa will come to realise that the long-term sustainability of the industry is more important than the short-term profits of its members.”